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


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:


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


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.


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


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


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.


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


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.


Heidi the horse … and 11 other animals seemingly obsessed with football

Remember this fella? He’s long gone now, but back in 2010 Paul the Octopus became one of the most famous faces of the South Africa World Cup without even leaving Germany.

For those of us who followed England in that tournament, Paul the Octopus is probably the only thing we want to remember from that tournament.

And, unlike England coach then Fabio Capello, Paul has certainly left a legacy. Youtube’s been awash with tails – sorry, tales – of animals getting in the mood for the World Cup.

From predicting the results (how 2010!) to fielding guinea pigs against each other, here are 10 Youtube videos which will have you saying ‘ahhhhh’ and ‘argh’ in equal measure:


Ever wondered how an FOI officer reacts to your FOI request? One man just did…

We’ve all been there. At least, I know I have. You get an email. You’re either infuriated by the contents or by the author – or both – and you decide to let off some steam.

You write, you click send, you realise … you’ve replied to the person who sent the email, rather than forwarding it on to that friendly ear you’d been aiming for.

A quick apology is in order, normally. Fingers crossed the person receiving it calms down quite quickly. The more brazen among us might even try to suggest it was all some sort of wind up, assuming your reply wasn’t too personal.

Yes, it’s awkward, but it could be so much worse … as the FOI officer at the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service found out to his cost this week when dealing with an FOI submitted through Whatdotheyknow?

It all began so well, with an interesting question posed by a member of the public:


The council which expects staff to ask for details about their pay review under FOI and then, well, just read on….

One of the unintended consequences of the Freedom of Information Act is the ability it gives authorities to kick issues into the long grass.

Reporters regularly tell me about asking for information from a press office and being told to file it as an FOI request. I know of councillors who have had to FOI their own authorities for information. And council officers having to do the same.

But this is the first time I’ve heard of a council expecting its staff to submit FOI requests for details relating to themselves  - and then telling journalists to do the same when they ask why the council hasn’t replied to the FOI request from council staff.

Derby City Council argues its nothing to hide, but it appears to be doing a jolly good job of creating the impression it has.



We’ve had the man who went for the mask to try and dodge photographers outside court and became a social media sensation after his mask became the story.

Then there was the man who thought the best way to blend in with the crowd was to wrap a copy of the newspaper he was likely to appear in around his head as he left court.

And if we need proof that trying to dodge the cameras only tends to make the story even bigger, here’s perhaps the best case yet.

Step forward Janet Curtis, a benefits cheat: