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

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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.

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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…….http://www.sarahhartley.me.uk/2010/04/19/no-skinny-for-manchester/

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.

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Written by sarahhartley

January 1st, 2013 at 10:12 am

Media ‘ignorant about the north’

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Martin Wainwright

Martin Wainwright


A career spent supporting and highlighting the interests of the north is how The Guardian’s Northern editor described his work to aspiring journalists.

Martin Wainwright, who joined The Guardian in 1975, was talking to Leeds Trinity University College students at the community news hub and gave a wide-ranging overview of the industry and the many changes which he’s seen.

Taking pains to point out that he wasn’t making an “anti-London” statement, he said the problem was a metropolitan focus by the national media.

“My life purpose has been to explain the north of England through the national media. There is tremendous ignorance about life here.”

He gave examples including the coverage of the Shannon Matthews case, where the Dewsbury estate the family lived had even been compared to Beirut by some tabloid papers – a far different picture from the town Martin knows well.

The talk, in which Martin’s passion for the region (and refreshing lack of powerpoint presentation) swept the audience along, concluded with a warm welcome for the BBC’s move to Salford – a “spring of hope” in changing the media landscape for the north.

* The next speaker at the community news hub will be The Guardian’s data editor Simon Rogers. Updates and details about all the activities at the hub can be followed here.

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Regular readers of The Guardian will be familiar with Martin’s regular updates at The Northerner – an online and email subscription round-up of news snippets from across the north of England. I was very pleased to be able to produce the digest this week for the first time (you can read that here). Martin is introducing other authors to contribute as well as inviting reader input on how it should develop in future.

If you have any opinions or comments to make on the subject, please feel free to add them in the comments below and I’ll pass them on.

Written by sarahhartley

January 13th, 2011 at 8:12 am