Try It Tuesday: Ground Signal


The aim of Try It Tuesday – if it can be as bold as an aim – is to share a tool a week which might be useful to journalists. It might be new, it might be old but forgotten, or it might be somewhere inbetween. It’ll be something I’ve found useful though and one I’d suggest spending 10 minutes getting to know. 

10. Ground Signal


What? Ground Signal is a mapping tool which allows you track all social media activity which is geo-located within an area you define

Why? There are a variety of tools on the market which allow you to do this, but some come at significant cost. Ground Signal stands out because  it has a free option, and a pro option which is a matter of dollars a month.

Once you’ve set out the area you want to monitor, you can watch it live – so great for a breaking news story – or you can receive updates daily or weekly on email, making it very handy for beat reporters, for example, council reporters wanting to keep an eye on anything around the local town hall.

Local media election diary: Holding power to account, putting sex in politics, an election without candidates and a bizarre endorsement

So how can the local press find a voice during elections while remaining neutral? At Trinity Mirror, the company I work for, we turned to readers and asked them to help shape local manifestos which have run in 24 of our titles.

The idea was simple: Get issues which matter to local readers heard. And while in this diary I’ve been rather critical of the efforts of Prime Minister David Cameron to engage with the local press, there’s no denying that’s exactly what he did when he visited Teesside earlier this week.

The local title there, the Teesside Gazette, co-opted both Boris Johnson and Ed Miliband into supporting their call for people to take part in the manifesto survey – and got the PM to answer each manifesto demand point by point on his trip to the southern end of the North East earlier this week.


The would-be MP who puts every other candidate to shame

If elections were won and lost based on the quality of the pitch a candidate made to the electorate, then Will Straw, a Labour candidate in Lancashire, would probably be home and dry by now.

Will, son of former foreign secretary Jack (probably the most famous person* in my contacts book thanks to a spell at the Lancashire Telegraph), is standing in the Rossendale and Darwen constituency, which is where I live.

It’s a swing seat of sorts. In previous general elections, it was flagged up as the one the Tories needed to win to get into Number 10. They won it off Labour in 2010, but still didn’t make it into Number 10. And as a result, it’s had less attention this time – until this week.

Thanks to Lord Ashcroft and his independent polling, Rossendale and Darwen appears to be one of the closest to call seats going:

ashcroft poll

Clearly Will’s presence for the last 18 months is doing something – he’s closed a 2010 gap from 10% to nothing, largely at the expense of the Lib Dems.

Will he win? I have no idea – but he’s certainly trying harder than the local Labour Party on the council, who (in my ward at least) have failed to deliver any sort of presence on the ground for the last three elections).


But what makes Will stand out for me is this: his manifesto. Not just one manifesto, but two – one for Darwen, a small mill town which sits in the shadow of Blackburn in a different borough to a large part of Rossendale, a largely rural collection of towns which, in parts, look far more towards Manchester than they do into Lancashire.

In my experience, politicians tend to deliver top-line messages very well. They’ll do this, they’ll do that. But rarely do their share their workings out in such detail as Will has done here.

Elections might be won and lost on national issues, but putting them in local context is something many politicians fails to do other than in the ‘insert name of town here and smile’ sort of way.

The manifesto, running to almost 40 pages, draws on ONS data to show how issues are affecting Rossendale, such as how pay has dropped far more dramatically in the constituency than it has nationally. It reflects on what he has heard on the doorstep and puts it into context. It doesn’t constantly wave an angry fist at other parties, but does highlight where things aren’t working, and produces evidence to back that up.


Local Media election diary: The shy PM, peculiar headlines and the candidates living 150 miles away

spruce-image (2)

More tales of David Cameron’s determination emerge from the regional press – and it’s hard not to see his behaviour in Belfast as anything other than an insulting snub to local journalists.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, Cameron found less than five minutes to speak to the press during a whistle-stop visit to Northern Ireland … but did find time to do a Game of Thrones tour:


Why is David Cameron treating the local press with contempt?


“Local newspapers hold public authorities to account. They report on council meetings – and taxpayers know if their money is being spent wisely. They publish police appeals – and witnesses come forward.

“They cover court cases – and communities know when justice has been done. And they scrutinise local politicians – so voters know if their MP is working in their interests.

“Second, local papers continually fight for their communities, agitating for change, and, very often, succeeding. With their commitment to campaigning on local issues, local newspapers aren’t just breaking the news, they’re making it.”

The gushing words of praise prime minister David Cameron lavished on the regional press when he agreed to support the Newspaper Society’s Local Newspaper Week during 2014.

Sadly, he seems to have forgotten just how much he values the regional press, if actions of his party’s spin doctors in recent weeks are anything to go by.


Try It Tuesday: Democracy Club’s great tools for monitoring general election campaigning

The aim of Try It Tuesday – if it can be as bold as an aim – is to share a tool a week which might be useful to journalists. It might be new, it might be old but forgotten, or it might be somewhere inbetween. It’ll be something I’ve found useful though and one I’d suggest spending 10 minutes getting to know. To mark the start of the General Election campaign, here are three worth keeping an eye on, all from Democracy Club, a brilliant organisation which seeks to make politicians more accountable. The tools are ones I think journalists should contribute information too as well. 

3. Democracy Club CV


What? The aim of Democracy Club’s CV section is to publish the CVs of every candidate standing. It’s a genius idea – so many decisions are made based on someone’s CV, why shouldn’t politicians aspiring to represent us share their CV for everyone to see.

Why? It has potential to be a very useful tool for journalists – and a great source of information for the future.

The CVs can be found here



What? Yournextmp is a database of everyone standing in elections – or aims to be. It’s open source with more information being added all the time.

Why? Social media will be critical to this election, and this is a handy place to find the known social media presence of candidates, plus other information on candidates.



What? has been knocking around for a few years now and encourages people to share election leaflets which come through their doors.

Why? For journalists, it’s a great way of keeping an eye on what people are putting in their leaflets and shoving through doors. After all, the 2015 election wouldn’t be the first where a politician would have preferred election pledges and statements to be kept away from media scrutiny. Also worth digging back to 2010 to see what was promised, and what may not have been delivered.

The general election and local press: Is 2015 the dawn of a new era?


Comments made by Annabelle Dickson, the political editor of the Eastern Daily Press, that the local press could help decide 200 marginal seats at the General Election were met with the to-be-expected dose of scepticism/vitriol from commenters on Hold The Front Page last week.

But as the General Election campaign gets under way, I don’t think any local news organisation should shy away from setting itself the aim of helping decide the general election locally.

Over the last few general elections, there have been two schools of thought within political spin doctor circles about the local press. The more enlightened remember that someone who actively engages in local news daily is probably more likely to vote. The more cynical, and these tended to be in the majority, began to tell many local journalists that they could take their place in the queue, and hope to grab a question or two after everyone else. Scale of audience, in their minds, justified that.

The 2015 general election could, and should, be different.


A quote which brilliantly defines where journalism went wrong, and where it needs to get it right?

Good journalism, many would argue, is about getting information across using as few words as possible.

As statements about the future of journalism go, this one is one of the best I’ve seen, maybe ever:

“Print must not hinder our shift to digital, but we must cherish it while we choose to keep it.”

It was made by Katharine Viner, the new editor of the Guardian, and appeared in her statement to Guardian staff prepared ahead of an internal vote.


Since when was ‘politician wants to win votes’ a Tweet-worthy news story?

You know those ‘player hopes to score’ sports stories news editors always scoff at in editorial meetings?

Here’s a political version:


As statements of the bleeding obvious turned into headlines go, it’s up there with even the quietest day you’ll find on the back page of a newspaper….

Try it Tuesday: Nuzzel

The aim of Try It Tuesday – if it can be as bold as an aim – is to share a tool a week which might be useful to journalists. It might be new, it might be old but forgotten, or it might be somewhere inbetween. It’ll be something I’ve found useful though and one I’d suggest spending 10 minutes getting to know. 

2. Nuzzel