FOI Friday: Full cemeteries, unsolved crimes, snooping coppers and accidents at theme parks


The social care crisis for councils < The Herald

Councils face a mounting crisis with thousands of disabled people unable to meet their bills for social and personal care.

According to figures obtained by The Herald, more than 14,000 people facing bills for personal and social care are in arrears.

Campaigners say the levels struggling to pay now rival those when the organised campaign of Poll Tax non-payment was at its height.

The problem for councils is how they can begin to claw back money from some of the most vulnerable people in society.

The police warnings to people who could be at risk of death < Daily Record

POLICE warned 439 people in Scotland that they were at risk of murder over the last two years.

Figures obtained under freedom of information laws revealed the number of Threat to Life Warning Notices – known as Osman letters.

The warnings are issued to potential targets when police officers discover that someone wants to harm them but do not have enough evidence to make an arrest.

Accidents at theme parks < Burton Mail

A TOTAL of 32 accidents have been logged at Alton Towers in the last three years.

A woman was taken to hospital for checks after hearing her “neck crack” while riding the 60mph Rita ride in May 2013.

Other incidents saw a 13-year-old taken to hospital after hitting her head in the ‘scare maze’ when she was surprised by a performer.

She was “pushed into a wall by friends” after the shock, which resulted in her being taken to hospital with a cut in April 2013.

The Health and Safety Executive released details of 32 incidents logged over the three years, covering accidents and “dangerous occurrences”.

Animals used in experiments < Evening Times, Glasgow

MORE than 55,000 animals have been used in experiments at universities in Glasgow in a year, according to new figures.

The details were revealed in a Freedom of Information request this month which showed the vast proportion were used at Glasgow University in medical testing and research.

The university stressed the animals – including 50,488 rodents, 3,272 fish and 763 birds – were used only when there was no other alternative.

Children in care moved miles away from their communities < Manchester Evening News (via Children’s Society)

Hundreds of children in care in Greater Manchester are being moved to new homes up to 30 miles away from their local communities.

In a report, the Children’s Society, says young people have been left isolated, with some forced to switch schools after being uprooted from family and friends.

More than a fifth of those moved were only told the day before, according to the charity.

Some are moved for their own safety, as they are at risk of abuse or neglect, but in other cases their local councils are unable to find places closer to home.

Out of 5,122 children in care in the region in September 2014, almost 2,000 – nearly four in ten – had been placed outside their local authority area, according to figures released to the charity under Freedom of Information requests.


Try It Tuesday: TinyLetter

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. 


try it tuesday


What: Tinyletter is an effortlessly simple tool to use if you want to start sending email newsletters to your readers. And it’s free.

Why: The growth of mobile has led to a rebirth for email. Long predicted to die at the hands of social media, the truth is quite the opposite.

And for journalists, that provides a chance to connect directly with readers. Many publishers already do this very well – the Daily Telegraph’s daily politics email is a great example of an email which is personal in tone, but reaching a wide audience.

TinyLetter offers a simple way to produce stylish newsletters, and offers up a basic, but very good, sign up screen. It provides basic metric to monitor who opens it and what gets clicked on.

In short, a great way for journalists to attract people to content around their beat or specialism through a regular, hand-crafted digest.

Why journalists everywhere should be paying attention to #tellali

Monday morning brought with it one of the most interesting newspaper front pages of recent times:


A blank front page, save for hashtag which was explained inside. Editor in chief (and colleague) Alastair Machray is leading a project to revamp the Echo, which, perhaps more than many other regional news brands, has an audience never backward in coming forward to tell him what they think of the Echo.

It’s prompted a lot of debate – including two radio phone ins and hundreds of Tweets discussing it. And, in a sure sign that it’s a good idea, the grumpy brigade on Holdthefrontpage have been quick to condemn it.

But it’s not because I work with Ali that I think it’s a good idea. Or rather not just because I work with Ali. The front page, and the ethos behind it, sums up the change journalism is undergoing, a change every journalist needs to understand and adapt to if they are to enjoy the attention of an audience in the future.

Readers, viewers, listeners, commenters … they expect to be heard these days. In many ways, it’s remarkable that for so many years the audience was content with just receiving their news, selected by journalists, and restricted to joining in via a call to the newsdesk, or a letter to the editor which might be considered for publication.


The police and crime commissioner who wants to turn whistleblowers into criminals


When police and crime commissioners were first proposed by the coalition government, the idea was that they would make police forces more accountable.

According to the Association of Police and Crime Commisioners:

The role of the PCCs is to be the voice of the people and hold the police to account. They are responsible for the totality of policing.

PCCs aim to cut crime and deliver an effective and efficient police service within their force area.

PCCs have been elected by the public to hold Chief Constables and the force to account, effectively making the police answerable to the communities they serve.

So how’s that thing about holding the police force to account going down in Grimsby, Humberside?


Try it Tuesday: Loci

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. 

13. Loci



Infographic: How to create great journalism online

Feeling inspired (and not a little hungry) as a I left the Regional Press Awards last Friday, I did what any sane person in that situation would do: Head to Upper Crust at Euston for a sandwich, before turning my thoughts into a Venn Diagram.

The result of a two-hour train journey on a packed Virgin Train was this: A recipe for great digital journalism?


FOI Friday: 34 years on the run, social media at councils, snooping councils and overtime for detectives


The burglar on the run for 34 years < Belfast Telegraph

Thousands of suspected criminals are dodging justice after disappearing while on bail in Northern Ireland, it can be revealed.

Some of them are still on the run more than three decades after they vanished.

The suspects are linked to almost 13,000 crimes, including dozens of sex offences.

Nearly 1,500 individuals have been at large for at least a decade.

The figures have been branded “embarrassing”, with justice officials accused of allowing people to vanish into thin air.

Social media leads to demotion < Daily Post

Public service workers in North Wales have landed themselves in hot water over inappropriate use of the internet and posts on social media.

A Freedom of Information request by the Daily Post reveals nearly 60 council employees, health workers and fire service staff have either been sacked, suspended, disciplined or demoted since 2013.

Thousands of local authority, police, fire, health and university employees have access to the internet at work, with varying levels of personal use allowed.


Try it Tuesday: Recenttraintimes

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? Recenttraintimes makes use of the Network Rail API to record details of how reliable train services across the country are.

Why? Stories about train cancellations and associated problems are always talking points for readers, but freely-available data is often only available at operator level, making it almost useless for any publication not covering an entire region.

This tool lets you pick the train journeys you are interested in and see, amongst other things, what % are more than five minutes late, the average arrival time of the service in relation to when it was due to arrive, and how late it has run recently. It will also tell you how often services are cancelled and, for real data geeks, give you the choice of averages to focus on.

A great example of what open data can achieve – and a mine of stories waiting to be discovered.

General Election 2015: Learning from hyperlocal sites across the UK


Last week, I blogged that the General Election seemed to be the moment the regional press came of age online, such was the confidence, ability and familiarity demonstrated by many newsrooms online.

And if a five-year gap between elections creates a good check point for the regional press, the same too can be said for hyperlocal journalism.

There are many reasons why people embark on hyperlocal websites, with many relying on volunteers propelled by a sense of social and community commitment to keep going. Damian Radcliffe, writing on the Online Journalism Blog, made the point that there remains a degree of snobbery in ‘mainstream journalism’ towards hyperlocal journalism. If that is the case (and I suspect there continues to be an element of that), then hopefully this post might help towards conquering that.

Because many hyperlocal websites had a very good general election, and here are 10 ideas for journalists elsewhere to consider: