Tag Archives: Mike Rawlins

Hyperlocal voices: Mike Rawlins, Pits N Pots (Stoke)

The Hyperlocal Voices series continues with a look at Pits n Pots, a site with its own Wikipedia entry. The site – set up in frustration at the lack of an opeb public forum in the local media – is frequently given as an example of the best of hyperlocal blogging.

Who were the people behind the blog?

Tony Walley & Mike Rawlins, we don’t have interesting ‘job’ titles, we are simply Mike & Tony.

Tony Walley is a company director & broadcaster. Tony has run a successful aluminium stockholding firm in Staffordshire for around 20 years and is politically active. He has worked as a local radio broadcaster mainly covering sport, off and on for around 10 years.

Mike Rawlins is a serial web meddler who had been working in Transport & Logistics for around 18 years. He decided to leave the rat race and to live the dream of being a photographer and a full time serial web meddler 2008.

We have 3 other casual writers who cover various subjects for us.

What made you decide to set up the blog?

The coverage of local politics in the local media at the time was poor to say the least. Commenting on anything that was published in the local media was subject to a policy of censorship rather than moderation. Tony decided that there needed to be a forum where people could discuss local politics in an adult manner without being censored.

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

Tony Walley and I founded the site in September 2008.

What other blogs, bloggers or websites influenced you?

Pits n Pots was one of the first sites in the political scrutiny forum so it is difficult to name other sites as being influencers.

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

We like to think we have the same ethos as traditional news operations, wanting to provide news and views to interested parties, but without the need to sex up or sensationalise stories.

We don’t carry any significant advertising and don’t need to sell papers.

We research and write our articles because we feel there is a gap in the market.

How are we different? We run very light and are able to react to stories very quickly where the local press can only really publish once a day even on their website. We are able to be far more experimental with new platforms and technologies than the traditional media.

How are we the same? – We are the same in so far as we have a desire to put news in to the public domain.

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

The article about the Polish Spitfire being used by the BNP was quite a big one that made all the national press.

Our coverage of the EDL rally in Stoke-on-Trent was another key moment. This was the first time we really worked closely with the police. Our YouTube channel was the second most viewed news channel for 2 days after the rally.

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

Depending on the stories on the day we can get anywhere between 3000 & 5000 unique visitors each day.

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Presentation: Law for bloggers and journalists (UK)

Yesterday I hosted a session on law for my MA Online Journalism students, which I thought I would embed below.

Some background: I teach all my sessions in a coffee shop in central Birmingham – anyone can drop in. This week I specifically invited local bloggers, and so the shape of the presentation was very much flavoured by contributions from The Lichfield Blog‘s Philip John; Nick Booth from Podnosh and BeVocal; Talk About Local‘s Nicky Getgood; Hannah Waldram of the Bournville Village BlogGavin Wray, Matthew Mark, and Mike Rawlins of Stoke’s Pits N Pots. The editor of the Birmingham Post Marc Reeves also came for an hour to share his own experiences in the regional press.

Two things occurred to me during the process of preparation and delivery of the session. The first is that law in this context is much broader: as well as the classic areas for journalists such as defamation, you have to take into account online publishing issues such as terms and conditions, data protection and user generated content.

Secondly, I’ve long been an advocate of conversational teaching styles (one of the reasons I teach in a coffee lounge) and this was a great example of that in practice. The presentation below is just a series of signposts – the actual session lasted 4 hours and included various tangents (some of which I’ve incorporated into this published version). Experiences in the group of students and guests ranged across broadcasting, print, photography, online publishing, academic study, and international law, and I came out of the session having learned a lot too.

I hope you can add some more points, examples, or anything I’ve missed. Here it is: