Try It Tuesday:

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. 


What? is social networking at its most hyperlocal. Those behind it have been busy writing to millions of homes across the UK urging people to sign up and share local information. Those receiving a letter get a code which automatically selects an area for them to be added to, with the option to opt in to some nearby ones too.

Why? For journalists, especially those with a district beat or patch, Streetlife has the potential to be a great source of stories. I’ve tried it for a few areas and the quality of comment and debate does vary, but in some cases is exceptional. I know of editors in London active on it in their communities, with the most successful ones being the journalists who add to conversations in a way which helps people, rather than just using it to source stories.

The daily update email has become something I read every day. If I’m doing that as a local resident, surely it’s useful to journalists?

Other Try It Tuesday ideas can be found here

FOI Friday: Children at risk, data lost in the post, unsolved murders and the not-so-smart motorways

FOIFRIDAYLOGOCriminals avoid jail despite dozens of crimes < Get WestLondon

Criminals in London are escaping jail sentences for serious crimes, despite dozens of previous convictions for similar offences.

A burglar in London was not given a custodial sentence at a court appearance in June 2014, despite 33 previous burglary offences and 58 total previous convictions, making them the most prolific burglar in the region to avoid jail for an offence last year.

Another criminal who avoided jail for drug offences last year had 26 previous drug convictions, as part of a total 37 previous convictions, according to figures released following a Freedom of Information Act request to the Ministry of Justice.

The not-so-smart motorways < Wolverhampton Express and Star

The fourth lane of the M6 was shut to Midlands motorists on more than 70 days last year because of technology faults, it has emerged.

The extra lane opens up at busy times to ease congestion between junctions eight at West Bromwich and 10a at Essington.

But from January 1 to December 31 there were 74 days where it was out of action, ranging from up to nine hours to less than a minute.

The figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show there were 141 technology faults reported, with the most being in May.

Community service on the up  < Edinburgh Evening News

The number of community service orders dished out by courts in Edinburgh has doubled in the last two years, with crooks carrying out almost 84,000 hours of unpaid work last year alone – the equivalent of nine and a half years.

But official figures revealed almost half of all payback orders – handed out as an alternative to prison – are never completed, landing many offenders back in court if they fail to explain themselves.

Edinburgh City Council has spent more than £7 million in the last three years carrying out and supervising the orders, but a spokeswoman today insisted the majority of the cost – which is pumped into staffing and tools – would be covered by a government justice grant.

Figures obtained by the News through a Freedom of Information request show 839 unpaid work orders were handed out by city courts in 2014, compared to just 420 two years earlier.


18 tools for journalists covering elections

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1. Yatterbox

A great tool originally designed for marketing folk to keep up to date with what is being said about their brand. Select the people or places (eg constituencies) you want to be alerted about when they are referenced, and it’s job done. Works with several social networks but is at its best on Twitter.


2. Facebook interests

Facebook Interests are essentially like Twitter lists, allowing you to build up a list of pages around a particular theme which you can then find very quickly. Once an interests list is created, it should be easy to access on the left-hand side of your desktop page. All activity from the pages you add to an interest list then appear in the same way other posts do on your feed. Given Facebook’s feed generally tries to serve you what it thinks you want, rather than just everything (like Twitter), Facebook Interests ensures you have an easy way to see everything from pages which are important for the election, such as candidates or campaign groups. More details on interests here.


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


FOI: Thinking beyond the obvious when asking for data

Last week, many newspapers and other media outlets carried stories triggered by and FOI which asked for details of the crimes committed by children.

Nothing unusual in that, given how common the ‘x number of 10 year olds arrested for x’ which have been made possible by FOI over the years.

But this particular FOI – a product of a partnership between security firm ADT and the Victim Support charity – tackled the subject differently, and there’s a handy tip for all journalists in the way they did it.

The FOI request asked for the number of burglaries committed in an area, and the number which could be traced back to young people under 18.

The result was an eye-catching headline for the partnership, which is seeking to raise attention to the issue of burglaries committed by young people.

The Victim Support press release states:

Nottinghamshire, Greater Manchester and London had the highest proportion of burglaries committed by juvenile offenders. Where an offender had been identified those police forces found under-18s were involved in 43 per cent, 41 per cent and 37 per cent of break-ins respectively.

The police force area with the lowest percentage of burglaries by under-18s was Wiltshire, at just three per cent, followed by Norfolk (9.8 per cent), Thames Valley (13.9 per cent) and Durham (14 per cent).

A great example of looking beyond the obvious headline possibilities when thinking up what to ask for when submitting an FOI. An absolute number can carry a great headline, but a well-crafted comparison can take a story in an entirely different direction.

The perils of automation: Inadvertently asking readers if they want to buy a graphic on a sex offenders story

Ah, the joys of automation. Those who boldly predicted the future years ago said everything would be done by robots by now.

Luckily, we’re not there yet, although when it comes to journalism, some companies are giving it a jolly good try. As as the example on the link shows, it will have a place within journalism in the years ahead.

But there’s no denying that automation of process is often heralded as a good thing. And it can be. And I’m sure when the Leamington Observer decided it was important to promote its buy a photo service under every picture online, it did so with the best of intentions … driving picture sales revenue.

But automation also runs the risk of this: