manchester evening news

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.

(more…)

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:

(more…)

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

DSC_2287

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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

FOIFRIDAYLOGO

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.

(more…)

FOI Friday: Saying sorry to dodge court, parents smacking children, arsonists wanting to work in schools and the safety of bail hostels

FOIFRIDAYLOGO

Saying sorry to get away with violent crimes < Eastern Daily Press

Fears over the misuse of restorative justice measures have been raised after the revelation that Norfolk Police have used informal agreements to deal with more than 7,000 crimes since 2010 – including almost 3,000 violent offences.

The measures can be used by officers instead of prosecutions and can include an apology or compensation to the victim. The resolutions were introduced in order to cut down on police red tape, and prevent the criminalisation of young people.

Figures gained following a Freedom of Information request by the EDP show “community resolutions” – which involve the victims of crime – have been used in 4,362 cases since 2010, and “extended professional judgement” – which are settled just by officers – 3,205 times in the same period.

People reported to the police for smacking their own children < Exeter Express and Echo

More than 100 parents across Devon and Cornwall have been reported to the police for smacking their child over the last five years.

Figures released following a Freedom of Information Act request reveal a dramatic rise in the number of smacking reports last year, up from 17 in 2012 to 43 in 2013.

Devon and Cornwall Police say this spike could be due to “enhanced awareness” of the issues surrounding smacking.

A search of the force’s database revealed 108 crime logs relating to a biological parent smacking a child aged 17 or under between January 2009 and February 2014.

Thieves and arsonists caught applying for jobs in schools < The Lincolnite

Theft, assault on a child, arson and assault with bodily harm were among the crimes flagged up by Disclosure and Barring Service checks (DBS) on people applying to work in Lincoln schools.

According to data obtained through a Freedom of Information Request by The Lincolnite, a total of 85 convictions, cautions, warnings and reprimands were highlighted by DBS checks requested by Lincoln schools in the last four years.

The crimes recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC) were released on certificates where individuals applied for jobs at educational institutions in the postal areas LN1 to LN6.

(more…)

FOI Friday: Teachers ignoring FGM advice, fines for school parking, food shoplifting and hospital repairs backlogs

FOIFRIDAYLOGO

Teachers ignoring FGM guidance < London Evening Standard

Less than half of headteachers in London have read official guidance on stopping female genital mutilation, new figures revealed today.
The guidance, which tells teachers how to identify girls who are at risk or who have suffered mutilation, was emailed to every school in the country. But data from the Department for Education shows that only 56 per cent of heads in the capital even opened the email after it was sent to them by Education Secretary Michael Gove last month. An even lower proportion — 45 per cent — then “clicked through” to read the guidance , meaning that headteachers in 1,724 London schools have ignored the effort to prevent the abuse.

Parents targeted with fines for bad parking near schools < Birmingham Mail

Birmingham City Council has declared war on selfish parents blocking roads around schools by handing out almost £140,000 in fines in a year. The major crackdown saw increasing numbers of mums and dads caught flouting parking laws after the council deployed surveillance camera vans. Last year 1,974 penalty charge notices (PCNs) were dished out – a 25 per cent rise on the previous 12 months. The crackdown followed concerns about the rising tide of potentially dangerous parking around school times. Some areas are brought to a standstill by the huge numbers of parents leaving their vehicles on verges, blocking drives and even parking over zigzag road lines next to school gates.

Compensation claims for wrongful arrests and other things < Plymouth Herald

DEVON and Cornwall Police has paid out more than £1.3 million in compensation to members of the public over the last four years. Since 2009 a total of 460 claims have been made following incidents including collisions involving police vehicles, unlawful detention, wrongful arrest, negligence and bites by police dogs. The force has also had to pay out for successful claims for harassment, bullying, damage to property, defamation, use of excessive force and unlawful seizure. There was also one successful claim, resulting in a £500 payout, for ‘misfeasance in public office’.

(more…)

Turning journalism from an art into a science … and then back again

WARNING: Long read! Summary as follows: Journalism has always been about gut instinct and hunches. Those who did best were those who guessed what audiences wanted. Digital audience data, however, means that journalism is much a science as an art now

Journalism: Craft, trade or profession? It’s a debate which comes around periodically, normally when the merits of user generated content are being considered. I’d like to throw in a fourth option.

Journalism, particularly regional journalism, actually needs to become a science. And, as a result of the rise of digital journalism, it will do.

In short, that means the end of the journalist’s hunch on what makes a good story, replaced with evidential proof of what makes a good story in the eyes of the audience.

For 150 years newspapers have been assembled based on what journalists assume will sell newspapers. That assumption is often based on the closest thing newspaper newsrooms had to audience data – print sales reports.

We all know that readers, when polled in research, claim their is too much crime reported in the paper. But we also know that nothing shifts newspapers more than a big crime story. How newsrooms have interpreted that data is where the hunch has come in. Are readers really complaining about too much crime, or just the wrong sort of crime? Do they like gangsters but not run-of-the-mill crime? I’ve read of extreme examples of crime being banned from front pages as a result.

Those hunches, those gut instincts, which all journalists making story decisions have, are based on experience. Experiences based on talking to real people. Experiences of the pat-on-the-back from the editor on a great story well done. Experience of a smile from newspaper sales.

It’s now time to reboot that gut instinct, and turn it into a gut instinct which is driven by scientific analysis of audience data. I’ve discussed this with a number of people over the last few months, and on one level it’s a scary thought. The most successful people in print journalism have been those who can tap into a sense of what drives readers to their brands, often with very little real data to hand to back up their hunch or argument. It’s a skill, a talent, an art.

Now, however, it’s possible to work out how to build an audience really easily. It doesn’t take years of practice in a newsroom, it just takes access to WordPress and Google Analytics.

(more…)

FOI Friday: Suspects released by mistake, crimes in hospitals, careless coppers and big pay outs for teachers

FOIFRIDAYLOGOWrongly-released offenders < Manchester Evening News

A sex offender, violent thugs and burglars are among a long list of charged suspects released without trial because of blunders by Greater Manchester Police.

Dozens of charged suspects walked free over the last six years before they reached trial – with more this year than any of the previous five – after officers breached their own rules.

Officers must follow the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) after making an arrest – a code they are taught during their basic training.

PACE covers police powers and procedures, including instructions on how to treat suspects once they have been charged with an offence.

But on 55 occasions, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) officers failed to follow PACE, leading to a suspected sex offender, 15 alleged violent thugs, and 39 other would-be criminals getting off without a trial between 2008 and 2013.

Universities disclosing student info to police < Carlisle News and Star

The University of Cumbria has passed on the personal details of more than 20 students to police over the last three academic years, new figures reveal.

The latest available information shows that the university disclosed details of 25 of its students to officers carrying out formal investigations between 2010 and 2013.

Four related to investigations relating to theft or damage, eight for sexual or violent crimes and 10 where a student was a potential witness or victim of crime.

Three did not have sufficient details to be categorised, according to a Freedom of Information request.

Crimes in hospitals < Brighton Argus

Assaults, racial abuse, criminal damage and arson are among scores of crimes reported at hospitals across Sussex.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed Sussex Police were called to investigate 241 incidents in one year.

Other allegations included sexual assault and possession of a weapon.

The most common call outs were for theft, public order offences and common assault.

(more…)

Five reasons UGC has made the regional Press better

WARNING: This is a very long piece, written over several periods of time, looking at the power of UGC. In summary, its sets out why I think UGC has been good for the regional Press.

As Time magazine pointed out, the audience now controls the flow of information. UGC is part of that

* * *

The other week, former editor and Holdthefrontpage blogger Steve Dyson turned his critical (often very critical!) eye to the Pocklington Post, a Johnston Press newspaper which is at the centre of the project to increase the volume of user generated content in the title to around 75% of total content.

It’s a project which has drawn criticism from journalism traditionalists ever since it was launched in Bourne, a tiny town in the Lincolnshire which is home to the Bourne Local newspaper, and which was predictably dubbed ‘the Bourne Experiment’ as a result.

Steve kicked off his blog post by drawing on an old stereotype of UGC:

Surely, my darker side whispered, all this UGC palaver means it’s going to be full of badly-written tat, blurry cat pictures and superlative PR masquerading as news.

And he’s right, that’s the perception many have of UGC. But Steve was quick to note he liked what he found in the Pocklington Post. And, as he notes, readers seem to love it. That’s surely the most important thing – and often the most discomforting thing for journalists, that what we consider to be important, often isn’t as important to our readers.

(more…)