Trainee reporters are losing out if they can’t learn the trade in a proper newsroom

I still remember the moment I realised – beyond doubt – that I wanted to be a journalist. It was the autumn of 2006 and Leo Whitlock, then editor of the Kentish Express in Ashford, had invited me into his newsroom for a week of work experience.

The work was the usual fare assigned to the eager but inexperienced: bashing out a bit of filler and the chance to grab a byline or two with some safe human interest tales. But what I remember to this day was my disbelief that this was actually considered work. Here was a room full of clever people, being nosy and argumentative, drinking tea and cracking jokes – all while producing something that thousands of people would read each and every week.

I knew immediately that this was the kind of life I wanted to experience for myself.

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Are staffing levels a barrier to digital innovation in local newsrooms?

As a former local newspaper hack I follow lots of people on Twitter who are still involved in the industry, so yesterday I saw plenty of the #localjournalism hashtag in my feed.

This tweet from Hilary Scott really stood out for me as it chimes with some thoughts I’ve been having recently about the evolution of digital journalism and my time working on a weekly newspaper in Kent.

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That Were The Week That Were: March 6, 2011

Welcome to my weekly review of some of the things I’ve found interesting or entertaining while trawling around on the web during the past seven days.

This week’s highlights include a new way of looking at some literary classics and an examination of the effect of anonymity on internet discourse. A warning though before we proceed, there ain’t going to be too much in the way of additional comment from me this week, primarily because I’ve just finished a big lunch and there’s half a bottle of wine in the fridge with my name on it.

So, without any further ado, here…we…go…

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Dover’s AWS: Discrimination disguised as progress?

Today the Dover Express reports that the Labour National Executive Committee has decided the Dover and Deal constituency party will choose its next parliamentary candidate from an all-women shortlist.

The decision will be a bitter blow to those long-serving members of the old guard who may have hoped, after former MP Gwyn Prosser was booted out by the voters last time around, that this would be their chance for a shot at the Westminster prize.

But for the likes of Gordon Cowan, who leads the opposition Labour group on Dover District Council, and his colleague Mike Eddy, who speaks on finance for the party at Whitfield, it looks like any ambitions for a tilt at their Tory foe Charlie Elphicke will have to be put aside.

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The Dover People’s Port Trust is launched

The bid by the Dover People’s Port Trust to buy the Port of Dover was officially launched yesterday – but in reality we learnt little more about the scheme itself.

Around 150 people gathered at the Dover Sea Sports Centre for the event and among the guests was Dame Vera Lynn, the one-time forces’ sweetheart who through accident of history will always be associated with the town of Dover and its iconic coastline.

Also present were representatives of the ferry companies, Robin Wilkins for SeaFrance and Sue Mackenzie for P&O Ferries. Both expressed their belief that Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke’s vision of a people’s port, seen as a prime example of the big society in action, would be beneficial for their organisations and their relationship with the port authority.

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Let them eat cake?

This week we revealed Dover District Council spends thousands of pounds every year on catering, including £220 a time on buffets for councillors before meetings.

The details of the spending, obtained by the Express under Freedom of Information laws, were exposed shortly after our report detailing council expenditure on providing bottled and filtered water for its staff.

In both cases the amounts of money involved are admittedly small when stood alongside the authority’s budget as a whole. This has led some members of the online community to brand our report as, variously, a “sad silly season story” and “cheap journalism”. It seems a lot of people are quite happy for councillors to be fed and watered at the expense of the man in the street, even at a time when the public sector is facing deep and painful cuts.

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Tough times at P&O Ferries

This week we exclusively revealed the financial difficulties facing P&O Ferries, the market leader on the English Channel and one of the area’s biggest employers.

We obtained an internal staff notice, circulated to employees of the Dover-based company on July 27, in which chief executive Helen Deeble outlined in frank terms the very immediate challenges facing the business.

A combination of “strong recessionary pressures” and the effects of a price war launched by its competitors, both on the Channel and underneath it, have left the company with no choice but to find ways of cutting costs.

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