Tag Archives: lichfield blog

Hyperlocal Voices: Jamie Summerfield, A Little Bit of Stone

It’s been a little while since we had a new entry in our Hyperlocal Voices series (where we interview hyperlocal practitioners about their experiences). To kick off our efforts for 2014, Damian Radcliffe touches base with Jamie Summerfield, to talk about A Little Bit of Stone, a community news website for Stone in Staffordshire.

Who were the people behind the blog?

I set up A Little Bit of Stone in August 2010 and was joined a month later by Jon Cook.

We quickly set up a partnership, me doing editorial and Jon looking after web and technical matters. Continue reading

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Hyperlocal Voices: Richard Gurner, Caerphilly Observer

For the fourth in our new series of Hyperlocal Voices we head back to Wales. Launched by Richard Gurner in July 2009, the Caerphilly Observer acts as a local news and information website for Caerphilly County Borough.

The site is one of a small, but growing, number of financially viable hyperlocal websites. Richard, who remains the Editor of the site, told Damian Radcliffe a little bit about his journey over the last three years. Continue reading

Hyperlocal Voices: Phyllis Stephen, Edinburgh Reporter

Edinburgh Reporter

Yessi Bello continues the Hyperlocal Voices series of interviews, talking to the Edinburgh Reporter‘s Phyllis Stephen.

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

I am the person behind it. I had just graduated with a Masters in Journalism and needed to find an outlet for my work based here in Edinburgh. It seemed to me – particularly after attending the News Re:Wired conference in January 2010 – that hyperlocal is the new buzzword and that I could do it right here on my own doorstep.

I had loads of new multimedia skills desperately needing to be used and practiced. Prior to that I had been a solicitor for a number of years but took a career swerve in 2008 when I decided to go back to university. Same skills – different result! Continue reading

From journalist to blogger: the experience of The Lichfield Blog’s Ross Hawkes

Although I’ve already published an interview with The Lichfield Blog’s Philip John (as part of the Hyperlocal Voices series) I recently returned to ask the site’s editor, Ross Hawkes, about how his own approach as a professional journalist has been changed through running the site. I thought it worth publishing his response in full – here it is:

My background has been in regional journalism in Staffordshire and the West Midlands. I began at the Lichfield Post as a fresh-faced 16-year-old, so it’s quite ironic that I’ve pretty much gone full circle in the space of 12 or 13 years, yet have never been happier. I started off as a sports reporter, then branched out into page design, edited a weekly paper in Coventry before making the move to the dailies at the Birmingham Mail as a page planner and sub-editor. So I’ve had a fairly varied career even though it hasn’t taken me a million miles from my own doorstep. It also skilled me for The Lichfield Blog because I got to see some patch reporters in the greatest sense of the word – people who lived and breathed a community. My integration into the online landscape came after the opportunity arose to take on their web operation.

My time in this role saw me eventually become Senior Multimedia Editor for the Midlands. I’ve been lucky as a journalist in changing times – I’ve been able to spend time learning about the positives and negatives of online work, what works and what doesn’t etc, while many of my colleagues in the industry have had a timescale imposed on them.

But for a variety of reasons the chance to teach online journalism at Staffordshire University came up and here I am today. One of the things I’m keen to stress to students is that I’m not a geek (I leave that to Phil!) but a journalist who has found practical uses for technology etc. During my time at Trinity Mirror I saw plenty of great things, but in a busy newsroom only so much of it could really be of benefit. So that’s what I try to get across to my guys and girls here.

Anyway, back to journalism. Coming to Staffordshire I was really keen that I didn’t want to become rusty – but at the same time I didn’t want to burden myself with freelance concerns, especially in a market which didn’t offer many opportunities anyway. I was also mindful that there were plenty of out-of-work journalists who needed paid employment more than I did. So I decided that I’d write about what I know – basically, where I live. It astonished me to discover that for a city (albeit a small one) there was nowhere to get a regular taste of life here online. Even the newspapers were struggling to fill the void for anyone interested in ye olde city. Although the early versions of The Lichfield Blog were crap, with nothing more than me trying to provoke a response, I soon found that there was a desire for somewhere to discuss Lichfield. Crucially, there was an audience.

Admission time – I never got the value of Twitter as a full-time journalist. But in wanting to grow an audience for TLB I learned how to use it to my benefit. In effect it has been the driving force behind the site. It was at a Tweetup in the early days that I discovered the appetite for the site. It was also where I was able to hook up with my professional other-half – Phil. And herein lies the first journalistic lesson I picked up from The Lichfield Blog. I quickly acknowledged that I wasn’t an expert in everything and that other people held the key to the success of TLB. By working with people like Phil I’ve been able to pull ideas and take suggestions and feedback from a non-journalistic source. I suppose it was collaboration in its rawest form. And we’ve worked like that ever since. Phil has been invaluable and anyone thinking of going hyperlocal needs to find a Phil. With his expertise in the technical side of it, it has allowed me to concentrate on my strengths. So what did Phil get in return? Well, I recommended a good hairdresser once…

So what have I learned from my hyperlocal experience? The Lichfield Blog allows me to enjoy what I do. I’m my own boss, I can try random things, if it doesn’t work I don’t have a news editor kicking my backside. It’s allowed me to be experimental and enjoy the career I’ve got. I like to think I’ve gone back to the future in terms of how I operate. Yes, it’s a new platform and it’s new media, but the basic skills are more needed than ever. It’s about knowing your patch inside out, it’s about attending community meetings and knowing local decision-makers, it’s about getting away from deadline and target driven writing – it’s about being a journalist. I’ve always loved local journalism deep down, that ability to know what makes a community tick. The Lichfield Blog has allowed me to do that and more. It’s given me the opportunity to see that partnerships are the way forward. I’ve also re-evaluated what I think (and that’s the crucial bit – my thoughts) media should be doing. We try to combine news and info. We try and make advertising affordable to local businesses. We try to do exactly the sort of things local newspapers did once upon a time. It’s perhaps not the formula to get me rich, but I never got into journalism for the money, so why should I change that now?

Hyperlocal voices: Warren Free, Tamworth Blog

Hyperlocal blog: Tamworth Blog

In the latest in the hyperlocal voices series, Tamworth Blog‘s Warren Free talks about how the same frustration with lack of timely local coverage – and the example set by the nearby Lichfield Blog – led him to start publishing last year.

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

I started up the blog after seeing what was happening around the Midlands, primarily in Lichfield and saw the concept would give us something in Tamworth where we could communicate the news as it happened. At the time I was working from home, so in Tamworth the majority of the time.

My background though isn’t one which is littered with journalism experience. My only brush with journalism was during my GCSE’s where I studied Media Studies: we took part in a national newspaper competition, where we came in the top 20. That’s kind of where I left it, until Tamworth Blog was set up in 2009.

What made you decide to set up the blog?

I saw what was happening in Lichfield and suffered the same frustration: local news in Tamworth wasn’t accessible unless you purchased the weekly newspaper. Great if you wanted to find out what happened on Saturday a week later. So I endeavoured to try to provide this service to people in Tamworth. Continue reading

Hyperlocal Voices: Philip John (The Lichfield Blog)

Hyperlocal voices - Lichfield Blog

In another Hyperlocal Voices post, Philip John talks about how The Lichfield Blog was launched to address a gap in local news reporting. In less than 2 years it has taken on a less opinionated tone and more “proper reporting”, picking up national recognition and covering its costs along the way.

Who were the people behind Lichfield Blog, and what were their backgrounds before setting it up?

Ross Hawkes founded the blog in January. Ross is a senior lecturer in journalism at Staffs Uni and previously worked at BPM. He started his journalistic career at the now defunct Lichfield Post. There’s also Nick, a semi-professional photographer who helps out with the creative side of things and I look after the techy side of the web site as looking after WordPress is where I specialise. We also have a good group of contributors and a couple of advisors, many of whom are either current or former journalists at local newspapers.

What made you decide to set up the blog?

Ross’ wife heard sirens going past their house one day and was curious as to where they were going. Ross realised no-one was reporting those kind of low-level goings on and that with the beat reporter disappearing there was a gap for community-focused news. Continue reading

Come to the West Midlands Future of News Group February Meetup

The Future of News gathering first organised by Adam Westbrook has its first West Midlands meetup next week (organised by The Lichfield Blog‘s Philip John. I’ll be there, along with leading Portuguese blogger Alex Gamela, Brummie alpha blogger Jon Bounds, Andy Brightwell of Hashbrum and Grounds Birmingham; top journalism blogger Nigel Barlow and Pits n Pots‘ Mike Rawlins, among others.

It’s taking place from 6.45pm on Monday February 8 at Birmingham City University. Places are free but limited – book at http://www.meetup.com/The-West-Midlands-Future-of-News-Group/calendar/12461072/