Caught on Camera: Grim Reaper spotted in hospital

The Grim Reaper....In a hospital

Blink and you’ll miss it – but here’s the Grim Reaper caught on camera at the Royal Liverpool Hospital. Sort of.

It’s a screengrab from the video below, which was recorded by staff at the hospital to try and encourage people to wash their hands more frequently when in hospital. I might be being sniffy (and not just because I have a cold) here, but I never quite understand why hospitals have to keep reminding their staff about washing their hands. Newsrooms don’t have signs (or videos) saying ‘reporter, pick up your pen,’ do they?


From sex toys to holidays in Merry Hill: A top 10 of Royal Wedding PR stunts

royalweddingcarAn email landed in my inbox last week from the hotel chain Jurys Inn. The firm wished to announce that it was so bowled over by the impression Pippa Middleton made at the wedding of her sister, Kate, to Prince William, that they wanted to do something to celebrate.

Their rather belated reaction to the wedding was this: Anyone could Philippa or Pippa could stay at a Jurys Inn hotel between now and the end of June and get 10% off. Just for being called Pippa. Really.

Should Pippa really be minded to switch from the Goring Hotel to a Jurys Inn, I suggest avoiding the ones in Newcastle (it’s in a horrible location and the steak on the restaurant menu has more in common with a wellington boot than it does a cow) and Birmingham  (Reminded me of a mental hospital from a horror film, and that was before I discovered just how expensive the car park was.) The one at Angel in London is pretty good though – and just a brief cab ride away from the Palace!

Joking aside, the Jurys Inn press release is probably the last in a long line of royal wedding-related PR stunts. So, to celebrate, I searched one of my favourite crowdsourcing tools – the Response Source newswire – to find 10 other barely plausible Wills ‘n’ Kate-related press releases:


Is this the most jaw-dropping CCTV still ever?

Do you remember the days when a police call which involved a promise of CCTV was pretty much always guaranteed to end up with a long battle with technology or a trip to the cop shop to pick up a grainy image which had more in common with Magic Eye pictures than it did with 20:20 sharp focus?

Friday’s first edition front page of the Manchester Evening News carries what I think is probably the most striking, and shocking CCTV still I’ve ever seen on a newspaper:

Manchester Evening News front page

Manchester Evening News front page

Police released the footage of Dale O’Malley being hurled through the air following a hit-and-run at the request of his parents in an attempt to catch whoever was responsible. (Full story here).

To me, it’s a good reminder of the power of a good CCTV still, often overlooked in the pursuit of CCTV video. And proof that a picture can still tell a thousand words.

The Benny Hill newspaper headline which proves it pays to keep it simple

Sometimes, a clever headline isn’t required. Sometimes, just telling the facts in the headline makes the newspaper leap out from the shelves. Here’s proof from the Loughborough Echo:

Loughborough Echo Front Page

Loughborough Echo front page

You can read the story in full here, remind yourself of the Benny Hill theme tune here, and see why Steve Dyson likes the Echo so much here.

The Royal Wedding: Front pages from the provinces [gallery]

The Royal Wedding.

The Royal Wedding.

So that was the big royal wedding then. While there has been a lot of coverage of how the TV did in covering the big day, and how the national press dealt with the celebrations (and how it will cover the honeymoon), there’s been little said about the regional press.

Juggling the balance between national and local news is always a tricky one on a big occasion (One website I work with had a glut of messages on its Facebook pages saying ‘We want local news from you, not royal wedding rubbish!’).

So I thought it might be interesting to get together as many front pages as I could from Saturday, and plot them on to a map. Most papers did splash on the wedding, with many packing pages full of street parties. A day most regional press photographers won’t forget, I suspect.

Here they are in a gallery below:


When words make for a great picture (or why we should still love the news bill)

North West Tonight

North West Tonight

If a picture can speak 1,000 words, what does the picture above tell us about the power of a good newspaper bill?

North West Tonight, the BBC regional news programme for the North West of England, used a photo of a bill from the Macclesfield Express to illustrate a story about a nursery which had closed suddenly.

It certainly tells the story better in the background more effectively than the alternative shot of a nursery building the vast majority of viewers would never have passed.

But it also illustrates, to me, the enduring power of a good news bill, and the impact it can have in a community. They remain powerful tools for local newspapers.

(For readers not in the North West, the answer to the question you’re asking about the picture is: Yes, that is Gordon Burns, ex of the Krypton Factor).


Journalist’s blog blocked after mousemat story proves the final straw

When I covered politics, a sage old hand once told me: “If you get to the point where Labour say you favour the Tories, the Tories claim you do too much for the Lib Dems and the Lib Dems claim you like Labour the most, then you’ve pretty much got the job nailed.”

So how does that work online? Liverpool Daily Post and Echo City Editor David Bartlett found out this week, when Liverpool Direct (LDL) – the £78million a year quasi-company set up by the council “to improve customer service” in 2001 – got its revenge on Bartlett after a series of articles which didn’t exactly shine a positive light on this organisation.

Things like the fact the city council had yet to receive a penny in profit for the work it had done, questions over the fact that the IT services it provided the council weren’t up to scratch, and, oh yes, the small matter of the council IT contract with LDL not actually covering the replacement of computers.


FOI Friday: Ten things uncovered thanks to the Freedom of Information Act this week

In the “about” page of this blog, I alluded to the fact I wanted to look at the Freedom of Information Act.

The main reason for this is that the FOI Act has been of massive use to me over the last few years – first as political reporter and chief reporter at the Lancashire Evening Telegraph and then while on the newsdesk at the Liverpool Daily Post.

I believe strongly that, for regional journalists, it is an incredibly powerful tool which journalists shouldn’t be afraid of using. And I also believe that may regional FOI requests can be replicated across the country.

Which is where FOI Friday comes in. Yes, it’s a lame name, but I hope (famous last words for any blogger) to spot stories generated by regional journalists (and I mean regional journalists in the most inclusive sense of the phrase) and highlight them here in a bit of a list each week (or as near to each week as I can).

Of course, if you’ve struck gold with an FOI request, feel free to contact me here and let me know.

So, to the ones I’ve spotted this week:


The X-Factor search experiment: Kandy Rain

On Thursday, in my first post on this blog, I explored the idea that by studying search trends you can pick an early winner of a a talent competition.

This was based on the book “Click” I have been reading, by Bill Tancer of Hitwise. He demonstrated how it was obvious Mark Ramprakash was going to win Strictly Come Dancing in 2006 several weeks before the final result based on search volumes.

I then applied this to the final 12 in X Factor, using Google Insights for Search. The result was that Kandy Rain were the most searched act over the last week  and concluded by saying:

So, following current search trends as listed by Google in the UK, the winner will be Kandy Rain, a group.

The same Kandy Rain who were the first to be booted off on tonight’s show. So while I’ve proved here that search engine popularity probably won’t ever become part of the process for someone selecting a winner at the bookies, has the theory that search engine popularity = votes on a show been proved wrong?

I’m tempted to argue that no, it hasn’t. At the end of the day, out of all of the acts, Kandy Rain had the back story most likely to be researched online – ex pole dancers and all that. And while there’s no doubt they were popular on Google, it’s certainly no substitute for  the ability to sing, as Kandy Rain proved tonight.

So, so far I’m tempted to say all I’ve proved is that it’s too early to rely on search popularity to pick a winner – which is why, later this week, I’m going to do it all over again and see what jumps out.

That might sound a bit indulgent, but I will be writing other stuff which might be of more interest, so please stick with me!