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Mapped: Front pages inspired by the Tour de France in England

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THE Tour De France’s Grand Depart was big news last week – showing off parts of the UK at their very best to a global audience of millions.

Once in a lifetime events are the sort of challenges newsrooms everywhere love rising to, so, a week after the Tour, he’s a selection of the front pages the Tour generated as it passed through Yorkshire, spent moments in Greater Manchester, and an afternoon between Cambridge and London.

You can either view them on the maps below by clicking the icons, or look at a gallery at the foot of this post.

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What Staffordshire County Council’s breakdown of FOI applicants tells us about the authority

The Staffordshire Hoard was a huge find in a field near Lichfield. Staffordshire County Council is less keen on the information treasure hunters daring to use FOI to hold it to account

Staffordshire County Council’s decision to ‘name and shame’ organisations costing it money through Freedom of Information requests has prompted a lot of criticism.

My main bugbear is that, in the scheme of council spending, the cost of handling FOI requests remains tiny, as illustrated brilliantly by the Daily Mirror’s Ampp3d data journalism website here.

Staffordshire County Council’s actions have also concerned the Information Commissioner, with fears that the ‘name and shame’ approach is designed to put people off applying for information this way in the future. Well, that’s one way to reduce council service costs – how long until children receiving free school meals can expect their picture pinned up outside the canteen? An outrageous suggestion of course, but the principle is the same.

Paul Bradshaw makes a very good point that the roll of dishonour published by Staffordshire prompts many questions, and also fails to reveal what people were asking for. In other words, why they were having to use FOI.

Staffordshire argues the list – which appears to be based on the assumption that the minimum FOI cost is £50, which is a flaky position to start from – is designed to show ‘wrongful’ use of FOI. That’s a very subjective position for a publicly-funded authority to take.

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Removing all trace of appearing in a vox pop … or why using the ‘right to be forgotten’ is an own goal

You can hide in Google …. but you can still be found

What sort of person contacts Google to make the most of the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling which entitles people to demand the search engine remove any results about themselves which they think are ‘outdated’ or ‘irrelevant.’?

This week, publishers began to find out who was making the most of the opportunity served up by a European court ruling. According to the Guardian, 70,000 such requests have been received so far, and whether they are are true, accurate or fair articles doesn’t enter into the equation thanks to the Google ruling.

Google has notified websites of links it will no longer be able to show ‘for certain searches’ on its European search pages – and the first bunch of links I’ve seen this week make cover a wide range of issues – and where more than one person is involved in a story, we don’t know who has triggered the complaint.

Not surprisingly, there were a whole bunch of links to stories of people who were either on the wrong side of the law, or being exposed as being such by the newspaper.

The most random one, though, was the story of ‘parking rage’ being a regular occurrence in a Buckinghamshire village. No-one’s court appearance was reported, no-one’s embarrassing exploits shared with the world. Just the concerns of people who didn’t like the way people were falling out over parking. It appears to be a

There has been a lot of concern about this ruling, and I saw one comment which likened it to ‘burning the books in the library.’ That’s not quite the case, because there is nothing in the ruling compelling publishers to remove stories people want to disappeared off the internet.

Many of the newsrooms I work with have had calls from people demanding content be removed from online archives ‘because I now have a right to be forgotten.’ That’s wishful thinking on their part … they have a right to be removed from Google in Europe, that’s all.

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More local people visited local news websites in local election week than voted. What does that mean for local journalism and accountability?

Labour celebrates a near red-wash in Manchester. But with more people reading a local news websites in a week than turning out to vote, is anyone really winning? Picture: Manchester Evening News

In Manchester at the local elections, 115,000 turned out to vote. In the 10 days around the election, more people than that within Manchester visited the Manchester Evening News website.

In Birmingham, it was a similar story on the Birmingham Mail website – more people from within Birmingham visited the Mail website than appear to have turned out to vote.

I mention this for two reasons. It debunks the myth the detractors of the regional press put about that brands that have served their communities for over 100 years are irrelevant in the digital age.

But perhaps more importantly, it shows the power returning to journalists to hold public authorities to account for the greater good.

Many of my colleagues were pleasantly surprised by the level of interest in the local elections on the websites I work with. There could be a number of reasons for this. It could be that the determination by the Westminster parties to run the elections as a referendum on current national party politics performance meant fewer outlets focused on local matters. The predicted rise of UKIP could have been a factor.

Or it could be more  mundane – most councils now release the results of their elections the day after voting closes, rather than overnight. Websites in towns and cities with next day counts saw, in my experience, more people viewing the results than those that didn’t.

At the Revival of Local Journalism conference, held by the BBC at MediaCity last week, the importance of public authorities being held to account was raised time and again.

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If he looks like Luis Suarez and bites like Luis Suarez … a CCTV still destined to go viral

 

Luis Suarez ‘copycat’ incidents have been all over the national press today, perhaps blowing the ‘footballers aren’t paid to be role models’ argument out of the water once and for all.

But spare a thought for the man police are seeking in relation to a biting incident in Manchester which occurred four months ago.

He has the misfortune to bare a passing resemblance to said biting footballer … and as a result, what should have been a bog standard police appeal has suddenly gained much more momentum:

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Spin doctors and social media: Can public bodies be trusted to tell it straight?

Harsh but true … but how many public bodies are getting social all wrong?

There’s a theory, normally floated by press officers at organisations who feel they get a raw deal from the the local Press that they don’t actually need the local press any more.

The theory goes that, well, no-one reads local newspapers any more so they don’t have much impact and, well, there’s social media. We’ll talk to people directly! We’re the council/police/hospital, people trust us. And so on.

Previously, that theory didn’t involve social media, it was the rationale for creating council newspapers, with the added benefit of being able to spend tens of thousands of pounds of council advertising budget on getting a one-sided message across.

Now, however, that theory is bust. Reporters who previously saw their stories read by a diminishing number of newspaper readers now know the number reading them online is going up by the day. A story which begins life in a local newsroom can go across the country within minutes. Tesco knows this – which is why its marketing director tells his teams to take queries from local journalists seriously.

Social media is a two-way street for journalists. It makes it easier to get past the myriad of press relation regulations local public organisations have in place,  but it also gives those public bodies the chance to speak to people directly.

The question I want to pose is this:  Is that access to the public being abused?

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The newspaper letter of complaint which became front page news

Criminals contacting their local newspaper to complain about accuracy of articles are the stuff of legend in newsrooms around the country.

In many cases, they might be on the wrong side of the law, but how they come across in the newspaper is very important.

In the case of on-the-run burglar Darrell Burbeary, the complaint centred around what the police were saying about him.

So cross was he about what the police put in an appeal which was published in the Sheffield Star, that he wrote to the Star:

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Revival of Local Journalism conference: 13 themes which matter for the future

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I spent yesterday at the Revival of Local  Journalism conference held by the BBC and the Society of Editors at MediaCity in Salford.

It brought together people from all forms of local media, and in that sense was rather unique. There were a lot of interesting views point across, and a few odd ones.

I’ll blog more on the themes which really struck a chord with me,  but here are 13 interesting points which got on to my notepad during the day:

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UGC brings a magic to publishers which other content can’t …. just ask Cbeebies

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At 6.43am yesterday I checked my alarm clock and hurtled downstairs to turn on Cbeebies. My three-year-old wasn’t even up at this point – the normal trigger for Cbeebies being allowed to beam into our house. Yesterday, however, was her birthday and my hurry to watch Cbeebies was less about not missing one of the new episodes of Pingu, and much more about seeing if her birthday card would appear on TV.

I was just in time. As the telly warmed up, the first thing I saw was my daughter’s face in the middle of our carefully stuck-together Octonauts card with a birthday message being read out by Cat (on the right of the picture above, obviously).

Hit Sky+, dash upstairs, grab my now-awake daughter, plonk her in front of the TV, repeat same pattern with my wife carrying our two-week-old youngest daughter, press play on TV and watch everyone smile, not least my three-year-old as it dawned on her that it was her the people on the TV were saying happy birthday to. She even stopped talking about her current favourite TV cartoon, the dreadful ‘Little Princess’ over on Channel 5′s Milkshake.

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Forget the recession – learning to love audience data is the thing which will define the regional media’s future

For a long time now, it’s been almost a sport to predict the demise of the regional Press. Ex-editors and former journalists hiding out in universities have often been the worst offenders, but few predictions were more memorable than the one by Enders Analysis back in 2009 that half of the country’s regional papers would be gone in five years.

For a late 20-something (as I was then) journalist hoping for a long career in the regional press, the headline from the analysis was a rather bleak prospect. As Paul Linford, editor of Holdthefrontpage, noted this week, it’s now 2014 and instead of around 650 titles going to the wall in that time, it’s nearer 100.

Not good for those working on those 100, of course, but nothing like the Doomsday scenario Enders predicted. Paul notes that the number of closures between 2009 and 2014 increased and declined as the recession got worse, then better, then worse and then better again. Looking at the list, many of the titles were free titles, the ones most likely to struggle when local firms reign in their spending and without the ability to easily tap into national advertising spend.

The big change during this time has been the realisation – finally – that the future for the regional media lies in being brilliant at digital content.

In some respects, Enders’ predictions summed up a mood which prevailed once the recession began. There was a sense of fear that this could be the recession which pushed many publications over the edge, and those skeptical about the potential of digital to be a long-term replacement for print found many prepared to listen that now wasn’t the time to start offering up more content for free online when readers should be paying for it.

Those who sought to blame the internet for falling ad revenues and print circulation revenue circled their wagons around print. Understandable, to a point, but in a world where the future depends on spotting future trends, a worry.

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