Happy New Year

Hello 2012: 21 great blogs by journalists to kick off the new year

Happy New Year

Happy New Year (This picture wasn't taken on New Year's Day but at dawn, about two years ago in mid January, as the sun rose above the Nile in Luxor. A great thing to do on New Year's Day, I would imagine)

Happy new year! Here’s a list to kick off 2012.

It’s a list I’ve been mulling over for a while – a list of blogs by journalists which i enjoy, and which I think will be of interest to other journalists, or which could provide inspiration for journalists to start blogging themselves.

It’s not meant as a ‘top 21 best blogs’ – just a list, in alphabetical order, of blogs I think are worth checking out. I know many of the authors on the list, and I work with some of them too, although I’ve tried to make sure it doesn’t just become a list of blogs about journalism, or blogs by people who work for the same company as me.

Blogging, for journalists, can be an onerous task on top of all the other day-to-day duties in the newsroom, but hopefully this list helps to prove that it can be worth the effort. Likewise, simply finding blogs to follow via a reader can be a task in itself, but again, hopefully this list can provide a start.

Suggestions, of course, welcome on other blogs by journalists which should be shouted about…

1. Peter Barron: Peter Barron blog

Peter Barron, the editor of the Northern Echo, is one of just a small handful of editors to blog on a regular basis. Through his blog, he shines a light on what is going on in the newsroom, and his take on the big issues in the Echo’s part of the North East is an insightful addition to the Echo’s website. If I was web editor in Darlington, I’d be giving his blog a bigger show on the site. And, at the risk of being controversial, I’d go so far as to say a blog like this is proof that a daily ‘editor’s letter/column’ is a more valuable use of space in the print edition than the out-dated leader column.

2.David Bartlett: Dale Street Associates

David is city editor at the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo and has a political blog with a difference. Many political journalists have blogs, but few go beyond just pushing out extra opinion (I should know, I have one like that!) But David’s is much more than that. It’s gone from providing additional commentary and local political exclusives to being a hub for many in Liverpool’s vocal political community, and now has a cast of bloggers including MPs, councillors and political activists. Proof of its success lies in the fact that, for a while, it was blocked on Liverpool City Council computers.

Proof, if it were needed, that you can get out of blogging what you put in, if you’re prepared to do the putting in first.

3. David Bentley: The Geek Files

David Bentley, who is part of the Trinity Mirror web team in the Midlands, does this blog because he has a passion for the subject: anything sci-fi and cult. Ok, so you might argue that the web was invented for these sorts of blogs, but it’s an incredibly competitive subject matter too, and David has built up a heck of a niche of his own within this niche. Having seen the traffic he generates, it’s clear he has a big following on both sides of the Atlantic, and he regularly gets exclusives to break on the site from inside sources within related industries. A big success, and fun to read even if you’re not (like me) a huge fan of sci-fi.

4. Paul Bradshaw: Online Journalism Blog

I’ve known Paul for several years now, and his blog has been an inspiration for various projects I’ve embarked on, as well as a good source of challenging commentary. Over recent months, it has more of an emphasis on data journalism, so if that’s a field you’re planning to get into, Paul’s blog is a must.

5. Steve Buttry: The Buttry Diary

Steve is Director of Community Engagement & Social Media, Digital First Media, part of the Journal Register Company, an American print and online news business which is pretty cutting edge. There are a lot of people talking about the idea of ‘digital first’ at the moment – as opposed to web first. What’s the difference? To me, web first was all about getting people to think ‘let’s get that online’ whereas digital first is getting people put digital at the centre of all thinking around content creation. The Guardian, for example, has been talking about Digital First. Steve is already doing it – and his blog is a great insight into that.

6. Garry Cook: Long Lens Blog

I’ve known Garry for a few years now and he’s one of the most versatile journalists I know: sub, writer, photographer, storyteller. I think photography is his big passion, and this blog showcases the different stuff he gets up to behind the lens. I’ve blogged about Garry’s diversification before – such as his range of documentary Christmas cards – and his blog goes into some depth about the trials and challenges he faces. The blog about his new childrens book series – Albert the Pug – is also worth having a look at

7. Paul Delplanque: Remember When

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, or so goes the old newsroom joke. In the case of Paul’s blog, that joke is true – because it’s better. Nostalgia-type coverage has long been part and parcel of the newspaper mix, but Paul’s blog shows just what a success it can be online too. This isn’t a re-purpose-the-print-content-online idea, it’s all about building a community, sharing new content and asking people to get involved. The time, effort and dedication of Paul on his blog results in a blog about a subject which some would describe as niche appearing in the top three Trinity Mirror blogs list.

8. Andy Dickinson: Andydickinson.net

I can point you in the direction of many journalism lecturers who fulfill the criteria of ‘those who can’t, teach’ but Andy Dickinson isn’t one of them. I learn something every time I get so much as a direct message on Twitter from Andy and his blog is a brilliant mix of opinion and useful how-to stuff, with a particular emphasis on video.

9. Alison Gow: Headlines and Deadlines

There are few editors that blog effectively, and even fewer who do so in a way which really invites people into their world, not just their corporate environment. That’s what makes Alison’s blog great – and it’s also proof that it’s possible to be passionate about digital and still passionate about ‘traditional’ news.

10: Peter Guy: Getintothis

It’s probably a little self-indulgent to include this blog, because I worked with Peter and helped him launch it, but that’s where my involvement ended. This is a brilliant example of a blog which grew thanks to the author’s passion for the subject. In Peter’s case, it’s a love of undiscovered and up-and-coming indie music. Over the four years it has been growing, Peter’s reputation, and that of the blog, has grown to such an extent that it’s not uncommon to see his review being pushed out by PRs.

The blog has also spawned an award for those involved in the Liverpool music scene. The blog was also one of the earliest examples I saw of an author adopting a collaborative approach and opening up the blog to anyone with a similar passion for music

11. Colin Horne: Path to Ensightenment

I know Colin from working with him at the Lancashire Evening Telegraph. This Tumblr blog basically showcases the stuff he’s been shooting both for the Telegraph and in other parts of his photographic life. There’s such a wealth of talent among regional press photographers, and it’s great to see Colin doing his work justice and giving an insight into the life of regional press photographer.

12. Mandy Jenkins: Zombiejournalism

Mandy is social news editor for the Huffington Post in America, and was heavily involved in the groundbreaking tbd.com. She describes her blog ‘Creating hope for the future of journalism and dropping some knowledge on journalists everywhere’ and she achieves both, with a particular interest at the moment in the evolution of Facebook for journalists.

13. Vicki Kellaway: Bananaskinflipflops

Travel blogs can be so self-indulgent, but mix in a journalist with an eye for detail and the ability to write, and you have a brilliant blog. Vicki, a former Liverpool ECHO reporter, went travelling in South America and fell in love with Bogotá, Colombia. Her blog is funny, moving, insightful, fascinating, addictive – a must read. No wonder it’s won awards.

14. Martin Rosenbaum: Open Secrets

Martin Rosenbaum is the BBC’s FOI expert, and will know more about FOI than I ever will. His blog provides an interesting insight into different aspects of FOI at the BBC, and his analysis of the Beeb’s battle for Hillsborough information during 2011 was particularly fascinating, even if I didn’t agree with the ultimate decision to agree a compromise with the Cabinet Office. Excellent blog for anyone who deals in FOI on a regular basis.

15. Dan Slee: The Dan Slee Blog

Dan works in PR for Walsall Council, but is a journalist by trade, and that comes through in his blog effectively. Constantly alive to what social media and internet tools in general can do for public sector communications, Dan’s blog has been inspiration for ideas I’ve worked on on several occasions.

16. Dan Smith: Weird Science

Dan Smith works in sport for Trinity Mirror newspapers in the Midlands. Normally, if I see anything with the word science in the title, I run a mile – I hated it at school, and I’ve hated it ever since. But Dan, who is clearly passionate about science, blogs brilliantly about the stuff which makes science fun, such as Sprinters are built like cheetahs, Velociraptor’s claw ‘trapped prey’, UFOs over Glastonbury and How to get a hit record. Science can be fun, thanks to talented writers like Dan.

17. Various: Journalism.co.uk editor’s blog

Regular readers of my blog will remember my annoyance at a churlish ‘opinion’ piece written by journalism.co.uk in relation to the Birmingham Mail’s excellent coverage of the riots on its website. I still remain of the opinion that it was short-sighted, borderline offensive and demonstrated a lack of knowledge at how news organisations operate in a regional setting, but we’re all allowed an off day, and the blog remains at source of great tips for journalists, as well as a showcase for handy new online tools for journalists to use.

18. Various: Guardian Datablog

There are a lot of things I don’t like about the Guardian, but also a lot of things I do (oddly, given its determination to do down the printed newspaper industry as often as possible – or so it seems – I’m really enjoying it’s print edition every day at the moment). And the thing I enjoy the most about the Guardian online is the datablog. It’s a great gateway to the world of data, digging out, presenting and analysing data from all sorts of sources. In some respects, it’s make open data really useful to people in a format they can understand without data-mashing expertise, and for regional newsroom journalists, that makes it very useful indeed.

19. Various: 10,000 Words

I was a little sad when blog author Mark S Luckie sold his blog to become part of the Mediabistro family, as I was concerned some of what made his blog great – ie him and his ability to show how we should be working online – would be lost. There’s no doubt that the blog has become more commercial since, but given the number of ideas it reveals each week, that’s certainly a price worth paying.

20. Ed Walker: Edwalker.net

Ed is someone we’re fortunate to have on the team at Trinity Mirror, but I was aware of his work long before he joined the company in Cardiff, as he is the brains behind Blog Preston, a hyperlocal site which has stood the test of time and – rarely – been handed from one pair of safe hands to another over several years. Ed’s knowledge and ideas go way beyond hyperlocal, and it’s his ability to spot new opportunities online and make them work in mainstream newsrooms and on mainstream websites which makes his personal blog a must read.

21: Kerry Wilkinson: Blog

Like Garry Cook (above), Kerry Wilkinson is someone I worked with on and off for a few years. His blog is part of a site set up to promote his series of detective books based on the character Jessica Daniel – but the blog is much more than that. Kerry is enjoying considerable success as a self-published author – his first book has shifted 100,000 copies, most of which I think are digital – so his most recent posts are updating fans of the series on how the books are doing. But Kerry is very much an accidental author, he set out to prove he could write and book and things went on from there. His ‘journey’ – to use a Simon Cowell cliché – is set out in the blog posts, and is fascinating … not least the recent one where he was blackmailed for a good review of someone else’s book.

14 comments

  1. I’ve updated my feed reader courtesy of this round-up, Dave, to include some blogs you’ve name checked that I wasn’t following and really should have been. (And a humble thank you for the inclusion – the cheque is in the post…)

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