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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#farefail and the cost of rail travel in Britain: a snapshot of life for Folkestone commuters

The story of dramatic rail fare rises in Britain is one of the great annual journalistic staples, along with pretty girls jumping for joy at their exam results around August and the inevitable autumn warnings that a big freeze is on its way.

Today the MailOnline reports, screaming headline and all, that manual workers in Birmingham are paying more than a fifth of their wages on commuting. Pretty shocking to some I’m sure, but surely not the worst of it by any stretch. As I tweeted earlier:

https://twitter.com/#!/rhysdgriffiths/status/154233619798441984

This prompted me to do a little light digging. Was my hunch right, or are the working people of Birmingham really experiencing the nation’s worst #farefail?

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In praise of… nibs

It’s hard, as a former local newspaper reporter, not to have rather conflicting emotions when it comes to the humble nib*.

Those whose job it has been to scrape together the damn things minutes from deadline as the subs cry out for more copy would happily never hear the dreaded word again, least of all from the mouth of a news ed desperate to get that last page away.

But deep down I’ve got a lot of love for the nib. Although often inconsequential, sometimes little more than a stream of parish notices racked up the side of the page for the sake of style and story count, these small items of news – rarely more than three sentences long – can sometimes contain the magical amongst the mundane.

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Googies and Chambers come out on top

Last Sunday I started a poll on my Facebook page asking people to vote for their favourite place to eat in Kent. It came about because the day before I’d been down to Folkestone harbour to take a look at Mark Sargeant’s new restaurant Rocksalt.

It is hoped this new venture, complimented by the soon-to-open fish and chip shop The Smokehouse, will help attract diners into the old town – the centre of Folkestone’s ongoing arts-led regeneration – but I wanted to know what other restaurants people are passionate about.

Asking questions on Facebook is such a simple thing to do, and I didn’t really expect I would get a massive response to this enquiry. Maybe a few friends would chip in, but that would probably be that. How wrong I was.

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Folkestone’s Creative Quarter: Why so negative?

Another month, another set of negative headlines about life for businesses down in the epicentre of Folkestone’s ongoing regeneration, the Creative Quarter.

There was disappointment earlier in March when it emerged the team behind the planned restaurant at the former Earl Grey pub, Max’s House, were pulling out. Reported in the local press as a ‘major setback’, it seems the truth may be rather more banal: that those behind the venture were simply a little too keen to trumpet the news of their plans, Facebook page and all, before pen had even been put to paper on the deal.

I imagine the Creative Foundation, the body behind the multimillion-pound regeneration of Folkestone’s old town, would have preferred the potential tenants to have kept a lower profile and a lid on their ambitious plans until the deal was actually done.

The fact the site in the Old High Street, which has been renovated to a high standard by Thanet-based contractors DJ Ellis, has not now opened as a bar and restaurant is of course a real shame for everyone associated with the area – 0ther businesses in the neighbourhood are keen to create a critical mass of venues and shops to draw in the punters – but it still seems there are some who are worryingly keen to talk the area down.

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Damian Collins says ‘nein’ to electoral reform

It turns out Folkestone and Hythe MP Damian Collins is a big fan of 1980s TV classic Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. Well, at least he is when it appears to offer easy-to-understand evidence in support of his political stance.

On his blog the Tory has drawn on a scene from the comedy to explain to his readers why they should vote against electoral reform and the alternative vote in May.

The lesson Mr Collins has taken from the plot of this particular episode, which involves the lads voting on the colour they want to use to redecorate their hut, is that under AV it is possible that ‘everybody gets what nobody wants’.

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That Were The Week That Were: February 13, 2011

Welcome to the second installment of my weekly round-up of things I’ve seen while stumbling around on the internet in the last seven days.

The concept really is as simple as that (and barely more exciting, the more critical among you may opine) but who knows, maybe you might just find something informative or entertaining contained herein.

So, without dilly-dallying a second longer, here…we…go…

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