Tag Archives: BJTC

Hyperlocal Voices: Cathy Watson, Uckfield News

Hyperlocal voices - Uckfield News

Cathy Watson, an experienced journalist, first set up the Uckfield News 3 and a half years ago to promote her PR business, which it has since outgrown. The site is “reactive”, says Cathy, both in the directions that it has grown, and in many of the stories that it covers: “Where I see people hunting for information, perhaps on Twitter or Facebook, about traffic hold ups or fires I make the calls to find and post answers but I don’t make the traditional daily calls.”

This is part of the ongoing Hyperlocal Voices series of interviews.

Who were the people behind the blog, and what were their backgrounds?

I set up the blog but my husband, Paul Watson, now helps with it. We are both journalists.

I have worked as reporter, news editor, sub-editor, deputy editor and acting editor moving, within one company, between the Bury Free Press, Newmarket Journal and Lynn News and Advertiser. After moving to Sussex I worked as a freelance for the Sussex Express.

Paul too worked in all jobs across the newsroom before becoming an editor. He edited free newspapers in King’s Lynn and Wisbech before moving to edit the Middy, (the Mid Sussex Times at Haywards Heath) and then the Sussex Express.

Most recently he has been looking at the future training of journalists in managing a project led by the National Council for the Training of Journalists supported by the Broadcast Journalism Training Council, the Periodicals Training Council and the Society of Editors.

The project has included a survey of employers of journalists, relevant education providers and new entrants to the profession.

He continues to work as an editorial consultant for the NCTJ.

What made you decide to set up the blog?

I started a PR business, wanted to attract the attention of local businesses and thought it would help to have an Uckfield News page on my website. I updated it daily with nibs (news in brief).

When did you set up the blog and how did you go about it?

I started the news page three-and-a-half years ago using the free Microsoft Office Live platform. After about 18 months I altered the focus of the site to Uckfield News and a year ago had a bespoke site built.

What other blogs, bloggers or websites influenced you?

None. I didn’t know people were setting up ‘hyperlocal’ sites. Everything I have done has been reactive, people liked the news so I added more of it, I tested a shopping feature and it led to the listings, the listings are now leading to more features and people who pay to list (so supporting the site) are, where possible, sources for stories.

How did – and do – you see yourself in relation to a traditional news operation?

Uckfield is on the edge of circulation areas of three paid-for newspapers. They cover the town well but can’t pick up the ‘nitty gritty’ because of commitments to other towns.

I’m particularly interested in planning applications, change within the town, shopping and business news. I concentrate on reporting facts, leaving people to add their views in the comment sections at the end of stories, and on Uckfield News Twitter and Facebook pages.

I also mix paid-for ad features in with the news.

Where I see people hunting for information, perhaps on Twitter or Facebook, about traffic hold ups or fires I make the calls to find and post answers but I don’t make the traditional daily calls and tend to avoid “shock, horror, probe”.

What have been the key moments in the blog’s development editorially?

Adding shopping, business and history features. They are a good way of bringing people back to the site on a regular basis.

What sort of traffic do you get and how has that changed over time?

It doesn’t seem long since I was pleased to have four or five visitors a day! Growth has been slow but by the time we launched the new site a year ago we were getting about 1,000 unique visitors a month.

In our most recent peak we hit about 4,500 unique visitors, 9,000 visitors and 25,000 page views. The figures have settled again to about 3,000 unique visitors, 5,000 visits and 14,000 page views a month but the trend is upwards.

Paul and I have the desire to cover everything that moves because old habits die hard! But I am reining back because I don’t want to do this without advertising support. I have just had the site altered to accommodate advertising and hope to start building that side of the business.

What news employers want and what they get – research on the journalism skills gap

I recorded this at the Society of Editors conference in November, so forgive my tardiness. This is Donald Martin, a representative of UK training organisation NCTJ talking about the results of a survey they and partners PTC, BJTC and Skillset conducted into employer and university perceptions of skills needed by journalists:

Gap between what news recruiters get and what they want from Paul Bradshaw on Vimeo.

More about the panel this was part of on the Society of Editors website.

Journalism training orgs combine to form Shovelware Alliance

The UK’s three leading journalism training bodies have finally announced that they are to work together as part of a new ‘Joint journalism training council’.

The National Council for the Training of Journalists, the Broadcasting Journalism Training Council and the Periodicals Training Council – who have traditionally provided training for regional newspapers, broadcast journalists, and magazines respectively – have been encroaching on each others’ territories for a while as the industries converged.

It’s early days yet, but the statement doesn’t make encouraging reading for anyone with an interest in the potential of online journalism as a separate medium: the three “new skills and awareness that are and will be required of journalists aiming to work in multi platform news organisations” include:

“b.    Developing ideas for repurposing and adding to print or broadcast news material for use on websites including the use of links, background material, writing for the website, the basics of search engine optimisation and use of basic content management systems. [my emphasis]

“c.     Using video and audio equipment to produce content for websites and other platforms and publishing it.”

In other words, treating the website as a place to shovel – and possibly add to – content produced for another medium.

The statement does go on to say “It is recognised that this is not an exhaustive list”, but it’s not a promising start.

What online skills should broadcast journalists learn?

A couple months ago I was leafing through the Broadcast Journalism Training Council guidelines. Drawn up a few years ago (well, 2005), they look worryingly similar to those ‘web journalism’ courses that simply consist of teaching journalists to design webpages. In their guidelines [PDF - page 21] they say students should produce: Continue reading