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“You southern scoundrel” – trolling from a pre-internet age

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You southern scoundrel……..I don’t know how you have the nerve to show your treacherous smarmy two faced southern face up here at all.

While officially bowing out today, the Guardian’s former northern editor Martin Wainwright has made public a letter in which he is roundly abused by an anonymous critic of his work.

Picture 11 in this gallery.

It was sent in 1999. It’s an example of the pre-internet communication with readers which just about every journalist will be familiar with but which sometimes gets forgotten in the rush to denigrate online commenters and cry ‘troll’ at every opportunity.

Being on the receiving end of such vitriol could lead you to reject the views of those who spew them, but Martin’s approach – as can be seen by turning out to meet the author in this occasion – has been to attempt to understand the other person’s viewpoint.

Martin makes the point in his farewell gallery that The Northerner blog which he has steered for the past two years has been a place for “discussions we are able to have as equals.”

It’s a point well made. By taking that approach of equals, rather than experts, to the comments and having the authors regularly joining in the discussions ‘below the line’, the civility present on the blog has been a hallmark since the initial team of four of us started it in 2010.

So, as the one “they call Martin” heads off for a well-earned retirement, here’s hoping The Northerner continues to be the place for healthy, but reasoned, debate he worked so tirelessly to establish.

Written by sarahhartley

March 31st, 2013 at 11:19 am

Posted in Journalism

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Manchester Evening News goes more local and The Guardian counts Manchester footie fans

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 MEN goes ‘more local’

The Manchester Evening News has changed its edition structure to offer readers two editions for the vast Greater Machester region – north and south.

Explaining the changes, a short posting on Monday says the change will give readers ‘a greater focus on the area where you live.’

This includes a front page dedicated to your area and specific pages inside with all the latest local news and information for where you live.

And it helpfully provided these two screen grabs showing the difference.

Readers were, as ever, quick to comment on the changes and raise the issue of localness.

 Ecclescake noting:

 Theoretically, a brilliant idea and one to be commended. It’s great to see the MEN thinking of new ways to survive.

That said, it seems to me that the only way to really get into the heart of communities is to be there. Properly immerse yourself in the communities. I know that’s easier said than done, particularly with the industry in the pickle it is and the lack of resources available to you.

But if this change means anything, then allow your reporters the time and space to work their patches!

The changes announced yesterday also include a revamp of CityLife, a new column on matters of faith and the old favourite – ‘a trip down memory lane every Monday and Tuesday with pages of photos from yesteryear.’


Talking of Manchester…..

The Guardian has released a new way of looking at its ‘most interesting’ content – using algorithms to  measure interestingness by “a number of social signals including; incoming links, shares around social media, view count, editorial selection, number of comments and positive deviation from the norm for an article in its particular section.”

You may well expect the Guardianista’s would be most interested in social issues, Leveson or press freedom but it’s interesting to note just how often northern football stories – particularly both Manchester clubs – pop up in the ‘most interesting’.

Football fans’ online promiscuity is well-known but does that entirely explain what’s happening there?

Now the the once Manchester-based national’s staffing has reduced to just one full time northern based journalist (the newly appointed, hard-working editor Helen Pidd) it’s hard to know what conclusion to draw from that. Does the location of those producing the news actually matter much? Would those figures be even higher with a northern based news and sports desk pounding the beat?

Leeds’ Richard Horsman considers this question in a radio context where news ‘hubs’ have become commonplace over boots on the ground.

Writing at The CultureVulture, ‘So what is ‘Local’ news anyway’  he says:

 The flip side is local knowledge, which tends to dilute across a bigger patch. Woe betide anyone talking to Bradford who pronounces Keighley as ‘keely’ or Allerton as anything other than ‘ollerton’. Old time district reporters are also more likely to recognise the names on the New Year honours list and have some clue why they’ve earned a gong beyond ‘services to education’ or ‘the arts’


What do you think? Can maths get the job done or is all this talk of hubs and centralisation doing reader a disservice? Love to hear your views.

Written by sarahhartley

January 8th, 2013 at 8:23 am

2013: What’s on the cards for media in the north


Starting the year with a look at what could be in store for the media in the north during 2013.

Picture from last month’s Bradford Animation Festival by the National Media Museum on Flickr.



Good news for Media City?
Of course it was too much to hope for. I had thought we might get all the way into the new year without a knocking story about Media City appearing in the nationals but then this arrived from The Telegraph.

Now I don’t have any problem with the investigation into costs – although I personally don’t see why a single penny needs to be paid out to persuade people to move north when there’s so much talent already here – it’s a fair enough question to ask on behalf of us licence fee payers.

But what I did find startling was the quote attributed to the Angie Bray, a Conservative member of the Culture, Media and Sport select committee (bolding mine):

I can’t help feeling that Salford is an expensive box- ticking exercise. I absolutely understand that the BBC feels the need to demonstrate that they are not entirely London-centric but the fact is the programming from Salford is not as good and it is costing an awful lot of money.

Apart from showing a lack of understanding of long-term costs, where does the evidence for this ‘fact’ come from? How is the quality of programming gauged exactly? Whatever your view on the BBC’s new home, having MPs of any party making unexplained judgements of opinion on the quality of programming and presenting them as fact is something we should all be wary of.

Although I haven’t written so much about Media City recently, I remain an avid follower of all that happens there and I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling a little rush of pride when the announcers say ‘produced in Salford’ or ‘going over to our Salford studio’. Now the site itself looks more established, as well as the general public being more aware thanks to the regular credits, here’s hoping the knocking stage of its evolution is now over.

New look websites and apps for many northern newspapers
Trinity Mirror, which runs the websites for many big city titles including the Manchester Evening News and The Journal is rolling out a new look and new functionality after a launch in Birmingham in October. The new versions reportedly include built-in live blog technology, better presentation of picture galleries and video, and a new hyperlocal section called In Your Area – more on that here.

Meanwhile, Johnston Press gets app-y with titles including The Yorkshire Post, The Sheffield Star and The Sunderland Echo. Developed by Pagesuite Ltd, all 18 titles will also launch Android versions which will work on devices including the new Amazon Kindle Fire, the Google Nexus 7 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab.Alex Gubbay, Director Digital Platforms, said: “The range of more affordable tablet devices now available is expanding rapidly. Our new iPad and Android apps allow us to tap into this growing trend and learn how best to offer users the best from their local title in a more dynamic, convenient way.

The Skinny on its way to the north west
The crowded cultural sector of Manchester and Liverpool is just about to get even busier as Scottish publisher The Skinny prepares to set up shop. Currently seeking various editorial positions (including editor) the magazine will hope the independent stance which has made it a must-read for Edinburgh will travel across the border. Longtime followers of this blog might remember that we’ve been here before…….

High praise for north east weekly paper
The Teesdale Mercury, ‘the voice of Teesdale since 1854′, newspaper found itself in line for praise by MPs discussing the future of he local press. It reports that Helen Goodman, Shadow Minister for Media and Communications, said: “Notwithstanding whatever marvellous local newspapers honourable members have, none could be better than the inestimable Teesdale Mercury.”

All change for The Guardian in the north
The irrepressible Martin Wainwright is today replaced by new Northern Editor Helen Pidd who takes on the mammoth task of walking in the outgoing Northern editor’s shoes. As anyone who has had the pleasure of working with, or even just following his writing knows, Martin will be a hard act to follow as a tireless champion of the north against the increasing London-centricity of the national media. He writes more here:

For most of my time, and during my 37 years at the Guardian which will finish at the end of March, my method has been to get as much about the north into the paper as possible. In recent years, that has changed with the move to digital-first and the chance to try new ways of coverage such as the Northerner. I have loved this, as a way of using the resources of the north to describe and discuss the north; more than 200 people have contributed posts in the 22 months since we changed from a weekly email to daily blogging.

A fond farewell to Martin – and a warm welcome to Helen for 2013.


Written by sarahhartley

January 1st, 2013 at 10:12 am

BBC’s Salford leaflets: Your views?

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As I reported on The Guardian’s Organ Grinder blog today, the newsletter exercise to inform Salford residents about the BBC move to MediaCityUK is set to cost almost £10,000 over the year.

Is that value for money?

So far the comments have been from people who aren’t in receipt of the newsletters from BBC Outreach. I’d like to hear from anyone who has had one delivered to their door – did you find it useful? What do you hope to see in future issues?

Please feel free to contact me below or via email to sarahMancunianWay AT

Written by sarahhartley

November 22nd, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Beatblogging – what is it?


There’s been some interesting reaction to the job advertisements put out this week by The Guardian for the project I’m involved in.

Beatblogger isn’t a job title used much here in the UK as yet, and it’s prompted some common questions in the comments section of the initial news story about Guardian local, and elsewhere, which I thought I’d pick up here.

In addition, any potential applicants are invited to put their questions during a forum I’m taking part in about developing journalism roles which will be held next Thursday, October 22 between 1pm and 4pm at

Back to those points;

* Firstly, pay.
Although it’s normal practice for The Guardian not to state pay grades in its job ads (in common with many other news organisations), these are full-time paid positions.

* Are these bloggers, journalists?
All Media Scotland
was one of those which asked if the term “beatblogger” was a new word for journalist. This is a role which has specific attributes and skills used to create a beat blog, a good definition of which is provided here by New York’s Prof Jay Rosen an extract from which states:

“Content-wise, a beat blog presents a regular flow of reporting and commentary in a focused area the beat covers; it provides links and online resources in that area, and it tracks the subject over time.”

For anyone interested in the specifics of what will be entailed, there’s detailed descriptions at the links at the bottom of the ads – this is the one for the Cardiff post, but the descriptions for Leeds and Edinburgh are just the same.

* What about experience?
This job could well appeal to experienced reporters with great contacts from traditional backgrounds but is just as likely to attract people who’ve set up community websites or blogs and have a passion for their locality. Rather than be too prescriptive about background, we’re asking people to demonstrate why they believe they would be successful in the role and how they feel equipped to cover the city.

Any potential applicants with further questions can log on to the forum debate next Thursday, October 22 between 1pm and 4pm at and it would be great to hear from any beatbloggers out there who want to share their experiences or offer any advice to potential applicants.

Written by sarahhartley

October 16th, 2009 at 11:52 am

Join me at 1pm for questions about online journalism


Later today I shall be joining a live Q&A session about online journalism at the Guardian’s careers website.

It starts at 1pm and we’ve put a few hours aside to offer advice to anyone starting out on a career online.

Because of the never-ending diet of stories about newspaper cuts, closures and lay-offs (in fact I nearly headlined this brief signpost “So you still want to be a journalist?”) many people seem to think it’s time to turn tail and look for a different (more lucrative) career.

But I hope that isn’t the case.

Being a journalist is still, imho, one of the best jobs on the planet and there are a whole raft of opportunities opening up in the world of the web.

So, less of the doom and gloom. I’m looking forward to contributing to a discussion which focuses on the future.

If you have a question for me, or one of the other panellists (see the full list here) , please do join us later.

Written by sarahhartley

August 21st, 2009 at 11:45 am

links for 2009-07-28

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  • What’s Social Journalism? It’s what you do when you gather information in social media channels and then report it to your readers. Watching a Twitter #hashtag for posts related to a critical local issue or big event, then publishing them in a roundup or sidebar on your news site? That’s Social Journalism. Scanning YouTube for the latest video from a protest, county fair, or city council meeting? That’s Social Journalism.
  • We remember when having a telephone meant that mum used her special phone voice and said our own telephone number when she picked up the receiver. Calling after 6pm was cheaper and calling abroad was prohibitively expensive. We used to phone up other people’s houses and just hope they were in. Yes, really.
  • The BBC is providing a limited range of video news content to Mail Online,, and, which will supplement the newspaper websites’ own material, in four areas – UK politics, business, health and science and technology.
  • You might think a 20-page strategy a bit over the top for a tool like Twitter.

    After all, microblogging is a low-barrier to entry, low-risk and low-resource channel relative to other corporate communications overheads like a blog or printed newsletter. And the pioneers in corporate use of Twitter by central government (see No 10, CLG and FCO) all started as low-profile experiments and grew organically into what they are today.

Written by sarahhartley

July 28th, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Digg it like The Telegraph for news success

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Digg – a sometimes fun, but essentially useless, way to spike your site with foreign traffic or an essential tool for SEO? North Yorkshire based search expert Patrick Altoft urged journalists to think again about the American giant during a session on integrating social media into news operations at yesterday’s Digital Editor’s Network.

Patrick has often been faced with the argument that there’s little point for newspaper editors in working to get their content on the front page of Digg to receive a flood of traffic which can not be monetised with local advertisers in the UK but he put forward a different way of looking at it.

“A lot of newspaper editors believe there’s no real value in Digg because they are foreigners, they are not even going to see the ads and most people from Digg leave within three seconds.

“The key thing to remember is that you will, on average, get 300 links every day – that’s a lot of links to get every month”.

Yes it’s all about link love.

The hundreds of links which succeeding in Digg will create, will boost search engine positioning and could ultimately result in that audience which can be monetised hitting your site. And he revealed how The Telegraph is putting Digg right at the heart of its strategy to build audience by having an SEO expert working alongside journalists in the newsroom – even before the story is created – and ensuring every possible optimisation before it’s published and that all important one-hit-only Google spidering takes place.

“The Telegraph has SEO and social media people in the newsroom. There needs to be somebody involved from the social media team before the content is created, research exactly what people are talking about. After creation, it’s back to the SEO team to find out whether it’s been optimised.”

And promotion of the story after publication is also vital, he said. “Journalists at The Telegraph are encouraged to submit stories to Digg. “How many journalists, after the story is written, work on promoting that story? This is where bloggers are different.” He recommends setting up an automated promotion network which involves TSS, Twitter, email subscriptions and Google news pings within 30mins of publication to get the first-mover advantage on any story.

It was a fascinating and useful presentation for anyone concerned with gaining social media relevance in a news org and the full slide set is here and you can Digg this here.

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View more presentations from guest38a088

Of course, Digg isn’t the only game in town and earlier in the afternoon those attending the sesssion At UCLAN in Preston heard how another mighty player, The Guardian, is reaping success with Twitter.

Robin Goard from Hitwise told the group that 54% of Twitter traffic is going downstream to what it classified as media sites – news, entertainments, blogs etc.

And The Guardian was winning out with not just the home page featuring in the top statistics, but also the technology and comment is free sections where personality journalists such as Charles Arthur and Jemima Kiss were credited with developing the networks to drive traffic.

Written by sarahhartley

May 13th, 2009 at 9:13 am

links for 2009-04-15

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Written by sarahhartley

April 15th, 2009 at 9:02 pm

Twits and the NUJ

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Written by sarahhartley

February 24th, 2009 at 8:01 pm