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Council coverage in The Bolton News

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As part of Sarah Hartley’s investigation on Help Me Investigate into how much local newspaper coverage is dedicated to local councils, I looked at my local paper, The

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The Bolton News

Bolton News over a four-day period.

I analysed the editions between Wednesday January 6 and Weekend Edition January 9 2010. The number of pages ranged from 60 on the Wednesday to just 31 on the weekend with the number of pages devoted to news coverage ranging between 10 and 13. The number of pages devoted to local council coverage ranged from 1.75 to 3.25, as per the calculation method set out by Sarah Hartley.

Weds Jan 6 Thurs Jan 7 Fri Jan 8 Weekend Edition Jan 9 Average
Splash Snow causes chaos Grit levels Bin collections Yobs target estate N/A
Number of pages 36 (60 inc. supplement) 48 40 31 39
Number of news pages 13 13 10 12 12
Number of pages containing local council coverage 1.75 3.25 2.75 3 2.68
Percentage of local council coverage in the news section 7% 25% 27.5% 25% 21%

The editions that I analysed were somewhat skewed in their news values by the snow and ice that covered the UK, with the weather making the front page on three of the four days. On two occasions, what I believe to be strong page leads were bumped down to filler status – money from Icelandic banks to be recovered by Bolton Council, and that Bolton schools are £2.6m in debt. Instead, snow was the favoured lead story, with at least four solid pages devoted to pictures of snowmen, igloos, snowbathers etc. over the four days. The majority of the council coverage centred on the council’s response to the weather, and to The Bolton News’ credit, although the coverage was light, the depth and position from which it was reported from – the average Boltonian’s worries (e.g. Bin collections, road gritting, school opening etc.) must be commended.

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Written by bjobbo

January 18, 2010 at 9:15 pm

The problem with Twitter

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Swine flu has been the splash on most papers today and this weekend. Although Twitter can be used to spread information effectively, it also has a tendency to create hysteria where there shouldn’t be any. Swine flu is currently the top trend, and yet how many cases have there been in the UK and US? As of last night, 20. Out of 360m, 20 people contracted the virus, one of which was hospitalised. Yet everybody is talking and twittering about it, and for the moment, I think it’s needless and pointless.

Here’s a screengrab of Philip De Franco’s (American blogger) tweets.

phillyd

Until swine flu reaches the UK, or there are more serious causes for concern, I don’t see the point of twittering about it. Getting swine flu to the top of the trends is like running into a cafe and shouting that there’s a small building fire down the road – not many people will care, and it won’t affect many people. But there will be people who will want to rubberneck. As PhillyD states, twitter spreads panic easily through the sheer amount of tweets a topic gets. I guess it’s a blessing and a curse. Twitter can disperse news faster than any other outlet, but as there is no context, meaning can be lost.

Written by bjobbo

April 27, 2009 at 10:23 am

Posted in Journalism

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Paula Murray

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I should be reading about ethics now or typing up notes for a future of journalism presentation, but I’m so incensed

Paula Murray

Paula Murray

right now I can’t concentrate on it. I’ve just read the Paula Murray story she wrote for the Sunday Express in Scotland (text here, page PDFs here and here). Firstly, let’s start with the Dunblane Massacre. On the 13th March 1996, 43 year old Thomas Hamilton walked into a school in Dunblane, Scotland, with four guns and more than 700 cartridges. He shot sixteen children and one teacher, before killing himself at the scene.

Sunday Express headline: ANNIVERSARY SHAME OF DUNBLANE SURVIVORS

It makes me so angry to be classed as a journalist when crap like this makes the front page. It’s terrible journalism. Worst examples include:

“A number of the youngsters, now 18, have posted shocking blogs and photographs of themselves on the Internet, 13 years after being sheltered from public view in the aftermath of the atrocity.”

“His pictures include images of him gesturing with one finger, and posing in London as a “Scottish terrorist” with a scarf around his face. It is a far cry from the image of the smiling boy in the back row of …’s class.”

The worst: “On his page, … – who was shot twice and described as “extremely lucky” to survive – says he enjoys playing the guitar. He has posted pictures of his eighteenth birthday celebrations but makes no mention of the tragedy thirteen years ago.”

What the f*ck does that have to do with anything? So, they don’t want to publicly display their memories or experiences one of the most horrific moments of history over the past 50 years. Is that strange? Of course it isn’t. Funnily enough, these people want to try and move on, but are being chastised for it by a very, very poor journalist who brings shame to our profession. Who thought this was a good story?

This is terrible, terrible journalism and makes me feel so ashamed to be tarred with the same brush.

I found out about the story through Dave Gorman and through Bloggerheads, Tygerland and The Pickards.

What do you think of the story?

Written by bjobbo

March 16, 2009 at 9:55 pm

Multi-media north-west

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The Manchester Evening News has a separate digital channel, also available online, Channel M. Footage is used from the channel on the site, and maybe due to the size, the MEN isn’t the best example to use for multi-media journalism. None of the print journalists I spoke to knew much about multi-media content or gave it much emphasis. Despite the fact that the Channel M news team and the MEN reporters were within spitting distance of each other, there was very little conversation between the two groups. God knows how stories were broken effectively through print, online and TV. They seemed very separate, very distant, very particular and protective of the medium they were working on. I spent a day with Kevin Duffy (see mid-way down the page) who was covering some of the build-up to the congestion charge vote. He had a career in newspapers, was offered a role in Channel M, and took it with both hands whilst it was still in its formative state. He hasn’t looked back. He said that as long as you can write then you’ve got a future. He seemed happy in his job, and although he loved newspapers, I don’t think that he would go back to papers. Maybe TV is the way forward for jobs in journalism?

So onto the Bolton News, which had a much bigger emphasis on the journalists using technology to add to their stories. I heard “Can you take the camera out with you (to take some footage)?” a few times from the news editor, which I think is fantastic. The Bolton News took the North West Newspaper Award for Daily Newspaper of the Year last year, and I think the idea of “Could we take some footage/audio/pictures from event X” is only useful. Rather than think “Let’s employ specialist video journalists,” the Bolton News journalists edit footage themselves, and the mind-set of “How many angles can we take with this story” is the way forward and is the mind-set that I feel is promoted by Andy Dickinson. This is definitely the future for local newspapers who want to expand online who do not have the resources of the MEN.

The Lancashire Telegraph…Well, not much multi-media there. In fact if there was any going on there I didn’t see it. The print journalists were too busy finding five NIBS per day to bother with any kind of multi-media. Is it a coincidence that they weren’t nominated for any regional awards?

What do you think?

Written by bjobbo

January 15, 2009 at 12:40 am

Future of journalism

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As part of my course, I had to organise some work placements at newspapers. I booked three one-week placements at the Manchester Evening News, the Bolton News and the Lancashire Telegraph. After my time there, my passion for journalism has waned.

My week at the MEN didn’t start well. I drove into Manchester (don’t ever do this at rush hour) and parked at this car park. My coat fell out of my car. Into the mud. 15 minutes before I was meant to start. So I cleaned myself up as best as I could and headed for the office. Shaking hands with your news editor while trying to maintain as much eye contact as possible so that they don’t notice how filthy your hands are isn’t the best way to introduce yourself. I think you know it’s not going to be a good week when it starts like that.

As far as I could tell, the reporter who seemed to do the most work didn’t leave the office once in the week that I was there. At university, we are encouraged to carry out as many face-to-face interviews as possible. I think that is the right way to go, but there just isn’t enough time for journalists to do so. Much better information is gathered face-to-face interviews, the interviewee feels much more comfortable and body language is a major part of conversation, and is severely missed in telephone conversations.

So, onto problem number one with the industry – journalists don’t have enough time to do…erm…journalism. When I was at the Lancashire Telegraph, the news editor was very keen for the journalists to do around five NIBs (news in briefs) a day. Finding and writing these takes a hell of a lot of a journalist’s day. These mainly consist of press releases. Not news.

I think for the future of the local press there should be a distinction between “news” and “community affairs”, which make up a large number of the press releases that journalists receive. These consist of tea dances, council meetings etc. They aren’t news, they are more like notices.

This is a pretty simplistic idea, but I think that there should be a change in the mindset of newspaper design, where NIBS are given much less weighting. If NIBS were confined to one page of the newspaper per day, more of what the journalists have written can be printed and less cut out. The resulting design would be something similar to nationals e.g. one/two stories per page.  If NIBS were cut out, more space could be placed in more prominent areas of the newspaper, which would generate more revenue.

Anyway, this is just the first of a series of ideas about the future of journalism, and my experiences as a student journo. In the meantime, check out Andy Dickinson’s predictions for the year.

What do you think?

Written by bjobbo

January 14, 2009 at 11:38 pm