Sarah Booker

12/06/2014

Student journalists scoop Brighton traveller stand-off

Last night (June 11-12) I burnt the midnight oil with three Journalist Works students who went into a hostile situation for a breaking news story.

Travellers evicted from Wild Park in Lewes Road, Brighton, had moved onto a community playing field in at he suburb of Patcham.

Angry neighbours blocked the field with a car and a four-hour stand off with travellers began.

Walking into a hostile situation takes gumption but Georgina Townshend, Lisa Meakin and Federica Bedendo did just that.

The story they put together had strong quotes from both sides.

People in Patcham and across Brighton and Hove are frustrated at repeated incursions on public parks and playing fields.

Equally travellers need to park up for the night and lack transit camps.

Their article gave a voice to both sides of the argument.

As a nursing mum I’m often up at unearthly hours so could advise on a copy edit to tighten up the story and keep it in Argus style.

The stand off finished at 10.30pm and the first draft was completed at 1.30am with pictures.

It was an excellent piece of work and read for The Argus website first thing in the morning.

03/05/2010

Confessions of an election geek

The first election I remember was in 1979.  It was when Mr Callahan stopped being Prime Minister and Mrs Thatcher took over. It was exciting to see a woman in charge, and amused by people chanting “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, out out out”, within days of her arrival.

I recall with fondness the Spitting Image election special of 1987, and, I think, the 1992 election night with Armondo Ianucci with a choir performing television news theme tunes. Or was it 1997? That was the  last election I watched on TV . I kept promising myself I would go to bed, but it was just too interesting.

The last two general elections I have been at the count. It was a childhood dream. I always enjoyed going along to the polling station with my parents, and have always voted with enthusiasm. However, this count will be different because this is the social media election.

Five years ago the newspaper I worked on didn’t have a website. Now, as digital editor for the Worthing Herald series I have encouraged reporters to use Scribblelive during hustings, giving readers the chance to watch from home, and participate.

A few of the candidates standing in the four constituencies the group covers have Twitter accounts. All bar one have a website, blog and Facebook presence.  All four seats are pretty safe Conservative ones.

This is where I’m lucky. I live in Brighton Pavilion, a constituency where Labour have been in power since 1997, taking over from the Conservatives, with a council where the Greens are the biggest group. All three parties are fighting to take the seat. It’s the Green’s number 1 target, hence Green leader and MEP Caroline Lucas is standing.

I can watch Tweets from the three main candidates throughout the day, every day.

The bulk of election literature we have received has been Green and Labour. The occasional bit of Conservative has arrived and one general piece of Liberal Democrat. Brighton Blogger and Labour Party activist Dan Wilson has written an interesting blog about Brighton politics, What does the LibDem surge mean in Brighton Pavilion? Brighton ought to be a Lib Dem stronghold, but it seems Lewes and Eastbourne have greater potential on that front.

Back to the point. I have uploaded photographs of leaflets to The Straight Choice.org. The majority have been either Labour or Green.  I started uploading after the Brighton Future of News Group meeting with Richard Pope, one of the founders of The Straight Choice, spoke to Brighton Future of News Group. Comparing party leaflets in different post code areas, across the country, and at varying times during the campaign.

Inspired by Richard’s presentation, I promoted the idea on the Worthing Herald website resulting in the first leaflets uploaded for the constituencies.

During this bank holiday weekend I’ve taken the process one step further by taking photographs of every campaign poster I’ve seen while walking around Brighton. I had planned to do it once when I walked to visit friends in Hove, before meeting another friend in the city centre. It was a circular walk back home. The number of Green Party posters I saw was astounding. The idea was inspired by a Tweet from @mockduck to @jowadsworth

This exercise prompted me to walk around where I live and map the photographs.  The resulting mass of green makes Thursday’s result an interesting prospect.

I’ll be spending Thursday night and the early hours of Friday morning at Lancing Leisure Centre, waiting for the results of the East Worthing and Shoreham and Worthing West constituencies, but at least this time I can keep track of everywhere else online.

I’ll be using Scribblelive and Qik to bring live text and video from the count, and publicising the result online as it happens.

14/03/2010

Brighton Future of News election special #bfong

Brighton Future of News Group has an election theme for the second meeting on Monday, March 22.

Web developer Richard Pope will be talking about his work with Democracy Club, The Straight Choice and My Society.

I am an election geek living in a constituency where a three-horse race is developing between Nancy Platts (Labour), Caroline Lucas (Green) and Charlotte Vere (Conservative).

Sorry Bernadette Millam (Liberal Democrat) and Nigel Carter (UKIP), but it’s true.

All three have been campaigning. As a resident I’ve been aware of Nancy Platts beavering away in the background for a year or so now.  Charlotte Vere seems to have taken up a Saturday morning residency in London Road and Caroline Lucas has also been spotted.

One of the ideas suggested at the first Brighton Future of News Group was a candidate tracking Google map. Jo Wadsworth, web editor of the Brighton Argus had the Brighton Pavilion map up within a few days.

This is the sort of innovative idea that can come out of an event where journalists, bloggers and technical wizards can get together.

Personally, I’m very interested in The Straight Choice, and have started collecting up the few election leaflets my partner hasn’t thrown straight into the recycling.

Once this election is over it will be interesting to see the stories arising from the literature targeting our votes.

Join in the discussion at The Skiff at 7.30pm for a prompt start.

Your hosts are Judith Townend from Journalism.co.uk and me.

Brighton Future of News Group is open to all with an interest in news and journalism, from broadcasters to bloggers, PRs to podcasters, programmers, students, writers, journalists and all media folk.

09/02/2010

Brighton Future of News Group first meeting #bfong

The first Brighton Future of News Group took place yesterday (Monday, February 8), attracting a variety of journalists, writers, bloggers and techy folk, all interested in telling stories and relaying facts in new and interesting ways.

Jo Wadsworth

Our first speaker was Jo Wadsworth, web editor at the Brighton Argus, who spoke about building a community of bloggers writing on specific themes or hyperlocally, the sort of news that might not make it into the newspaper, but will be of wider interest.

Examples included the Bevendean Bulletin, which uses the Argus in lieu of its own website. Student reporters from the Journalist Works gaining experience by writing patch blogs, and others are aspiring writers dipping their toes in the water.

Jo was keen to point out the bloggers aren’t considered a replacement for reporters, but rather augmenting the newspaper’s website.

After all, as Jo explained, these people will be blogging anyway why not utilise their enthusiasm and talent for the paper?

The bloggers benefit from a ready-made audience and technical support, the paper gets street-level coverage.

Jo cited the pothole paradox hypothesized by Steven Berlin Johnston ie. extremely local, small-scale news is interesting to people living in a certain street with pot holes but not to those living a few streets away.

When it comes to looking after a paper’s bloggers, Jo advised giving constructive but honest feedback and never be afraid to turn people down.

I was pretty pleased to hear there was a high turnover of bloggers and some who didn’t even start, as I’ve had similar situations with a number of ex and failed-to-starters.

Simon Willison

The second speaker Simon Willison initially talked about his work creating the  software and database for The Guardian’s MPs’ expenses crowd-sourcing project, where more than 200,000 documents were studied in the search for interesting information.

The structure was put together in a week before 450,000 documents were dumped into the public domain during this act of government “transparency”.

It was a steep learning curve for the team behind the project, but it was developed on for the second release of MPs’ expenses information for 2008/9 and the first quarter of 2009/10.

A few thousand documents were torn through by the crowd. Simon and the team created a wider variety of tags for each page, such as food or soft furnishings.

Hand-written pages were often particularly interesting, such as a lengthy note from Jack Straw.

My personal favourite site Simon has created is Wildlifenearyou.com where people can share their pictures of wildlife, both wild and captive. It’s an amazing site where people can vote for their favourite pictures of animals, add their own, find creatures geographically. It really is imaginative.

A spin off site is Owlsnearyou.com which has had friends/fans hijacking the American Superbowl hashtag #superbowlday superb-owl-day, geddit…

Simon also showed impressive crowd-sourced maps, particularly a post-earthquake map of Haiti, created by users of OpenStreetmap.org

It was pretty impressive to see what could be created by people with the imagination and skills to make something happen and not just draw ideas out on paper.

Break away

Both talks definitely fired the imaginations of everyone involved who took part in the break-away sessions at the end of the evening.

The four groups came up with multimedia ways to cover Brighton Pride, this year’s general election and transport issues.

A particular favourite of mine was creating a spot the candidate Google map. Now that’s an idea with legs.

Other blogs/posts about Brighton Future of News Group:

A document of all the event’s tweets featuring the hashtag #bfong.

Laura Oliver, editor of Journalism.co.uk also blogged about Jo Wadsworth’s and Simon Willison’s presentations, as did John Keenan.

Judith Townend, from Journalism.co.uk organised the event at The Skiff and put together a summary linked with the first Future of News Group West Midlands meeting, which took place on the same evening.

The original UK Future of News Group was set up by Adam Westbrook.

24/01/2010

The Future of News in Brighton

Journalists and new media folk in Brighton and Sussex are invited to join the UK Future of News Group Brighton nest.

It’s an opportunity to discuss new ideas within the news industry with like-minded people.

The first meeting on Monday, February 8, is at The Skiff in Brighton from 7.15pm.

Speakers are:

Simon Willison the man behind Wildlifenearyou.com and the Guardian’s MPs’ expenses crowdsourcing project and many other projects.

Jo Wadsworth web editor at Brighton’s Argus newspaper. Jo will be talking about building an online community and blogging.

The original UK Future of News Group set up by Adam Westbrook has held two meetings in London, with interesting speakers and great networking opportunities.

I couldn’t make it to January’s meet and felt extremely jealous reading the #fong and #futureofnews tweets.

After joining the London group I started a thread on the message board asking if any Brighton-based media folk would be interested in setting up a ‘nest’.

Withing 24 hours of my post Judith Townend of Journalism.co.uk was ready to run with the idea.

My contribution? Well, I’ve invited many  Johnston Press journalists from across Sussex.

Fingers crossed this will be a great regular event.

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

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