FOI Friday: Babies missing from care homes, absent pupil fines, stalking laws and sexting complaints

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Schools starting to make use of fines for absent pupils < Harrogate Advertiser

An investigation by the Advertiser series has found that nearly eight times more fines were issued in North Yorkshire, year on year, in the first quarter of the new rules.

Countywide, there were 95 fines issued from September to December, compared to 12 the previous year.

And for the Harrogate district there were 18 fines issued – compared to zero the previous year.

A spokesman for North Yorkshire County Council said: “From last September, schools have not been able by law to allow pupils to be absent from school during term time unless they receive an application in advance from a parent that the child lives with, and there are exceptional circumstances relating to the application. It is completely at the headteacher’s discretion to decide what are exceptional circumstances.”

Are the police making use of new stalking laws? < WalesOnline

The number of suspected stalkers detained by police in South Wales is “disappointing”, a leading charity has said.

The Paladin National Stalking Advocacy Service said the nine arrests made by South Wales Police since stalking became a crime in November 2012 should be much higher.

The data, released under Freedom of Information laws, reveal that the force made seven arrests between April 2013 and March this year on suspicion of a stalking offence.

Since April, two people have been arrested.

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Social media: How knowing how Jeff effs gives you a competitive advantage on social media

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Using social media properly means that a last minute dash to the story won’t happen to you.

Swearing. Your parents might have told it’s not big or clever … but when it comes to getting the most out of Twitter, a tactical use of f***, f***ing or s**t could take you a very long way. Joanna Geary, head of news partnerships at Twitter, proved two things when she spoke at the Revival of Local Journalism conference in MediaCity on Wednesday. The first was that the best way to keep a conference audience awake as they enter their post-lunch sleepy phase is to say the thing they least expect. The second was that to get the most out of Twitter, you have to understand the people you are following and how they use Twitter. Which is why a clever Tweetdeck column with a selection of choice words set up as the filter can be the difference between you spotting that first reference to a big story, and just being part of the pack: (more…)

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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FOI Friday: Most frequent ambulance callout addresses, affordable homes, benefits families moved hundreds of miles, and fire crews freeing kids from cars

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52 visits to one address by ambulances … and just two patients taken to hospital < Dundee Telegraph

Ambulances were called out to a Dundee property a staggering 52 times in just ONE year it has been revealed.

And on just two of those occasions somebody was taken to hospital by paramedics.

The figures, from a Freedom of Information request, also showed crews spent 31 hours and 43 minutes going back and forward between the property between April 2013 and April 2014. In Arbroath, the Scottish Ambulance Service attended one single property 36 times, with only four of those occasions ending in someone being driven to hospital. The statistics don’t include nursing or care homes.

Numbers of affordable homes falling in the North East <  The Northern Echo

HOUSEBUILDING has collapsed in most of the region, The Northern Echo can reveal – despite Government claims of a “success story”.

The number of ‘affordable homes’ being built has fallen in 13 of 17 areas since the Coalition came to power, after housing programmes were axed.

And it has plunged sharply in many areas, including in Hartlepool (down 62.5 per cent), Middlesbrough (down 59.1 per cent) and Stockton-on-Tees (down 54.5 per cent).

Fire crews freeing children from cars once a week < Wolverhampton Express and Star

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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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FOI Friday: Food thefts, fights at weddings, the impact of Jimmy Savile, noise abatement notices and the 15-year-old with over 12 speeding points

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4,000 crimes involving food theft in Dundee < Dundee Evening Telegraph

Nearly 4,000 crimes involving food and drink theft have been recorded in Dundee over the last five years.

Figures released through Freedom of Information legislation revealed that there were 3,979 unique cases of stolen food and drink between April 2009 and April 2014 in the city.

An incredible 958 — or almost a quarter — of the crimes involved alcohol being stolen.

The next most common items nicked were meat and confectionery, with 869 and 389 crimes respectively.

Fights and crimes at weddings <Torquay Herald Express

POLICE in Devon and Cornwall were called to tackle violence at SIXTEEN weddings and wakes last year after fighting broke out between guests.

They were called to wakes and weddings in Newton Abbot, Totnes and South Brent among other places.

The most serious incident in Devon and Cornwall happened in Exeter where one person was charged with “wounding with intent” after a fight at a wake.

At another funeral in Barnstaple, two people were arrested and one charged with “assault occasioning actual bodily harm”.

Arrests were also made at a wake in Newton Abbot and a wedding in Totnes although no charges were brought.

Noise abatement notices target the strangest places < Manchester Evening News

A Conservative club and two supermarkets were among 1,000 premises served with noise orders telling them to keep it down.

Little Lever Conservative Club, where regulars go for a game of bowls or bingo, was served a noise abatement notice by Bolton Council last year.

The club, which prides itself on its “fabulous bowling green” and “regular bingo nights”, landed itself in trouble last year for being too loud.

Meanwhile, Manchester council issued an order to Sainsbury’s supermarket, on Whitworth Street, and Salford council issued another to Morrisons, on Trafford Road, after neighbours complained about the noise.

Nearly 1,000 noise abatement notices have been served by Greater Manchester’s councils over the last three years.

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