A reflective post: how not to blog

It’s always a good idea to mark your end result against what you intended to achieve when you initially set out.

You can actually learn a great deal from it. It helps to establish what worked well and perhaps more importantly what didn’t. It serves as a lesson to learn for the future.

When I began my niche blog I outlined the purpose and my reason behind it as follows:

“The purpose of my blog is to investigate how Father’s seem to get treated unfairly in Family Court cases – and how this has led to protest groups such as Fathers 4 Justice. I will look at the press they receive and explore what impact the media now being allowed to report on cases has had.

I am covering this area because having been a child that was part of a custody battle, I felt extremely let down by the system, and witnessed first hand how fathers and children are failed.

The point of my blog is to demonstrate that each case should be based on its own merits. “

Unfortunately on reflection it is clear to me that I did not achieve all I hoped to. Although this was a problem close to my heart and one which I felt needed more attention to help those concerned, I found it difficult to generate new content and focus on discussion areas on a regular basis.

Consequently one of my major failings comes from the low number of posts. I started off reasonably well posting every few days and then trailed off all together.

Therefore it stands to reason that I failed to achieve everything I set out to do.

I always had good intentions to get the blog up and running again and to make full use of it, but we all know the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so unless you act upon them, regrettably they do not count for much alone.

My very first blog post about Claire Wardle’s lecture which I believe remains my post with the biggest number of hits on any one day at 39 (I’m pretty sure I may have accounted for some of them) started with such enthusiasm for this new-found medium (new to me at least anyway).

I seemed clear, although rather intimidated by it all, that I needed to make sure I was using social tools to my advantage in order to reach those who desired content.

I discussed the importance of Twitter (again something which was completely new to me) and the fact that it shouldn’t be ignored.

I suppose I can take one thing away from it all at least … I now go on Twitter everyday, sometimes several times each day, and I often wonder what I did before this new-found love/addiction/whatever you want to call it.

But yet I failed to use the tools available to their full potential and this also contributes to my blog’s downfall.

In my first post on the niche blog I explored the issue of family courts being opened to the media. This was something that had caught my attention back in 2009 when the decision was made by Jack Straw.

I found it interesting both in terms of the perspective of a journalist but also from someone who had been through the family court system.

As a stand alone post it served as good background information to the subject matter, and could have served as a decent platform from which I should have properly launched my blog.

However, although it may have been reasonably informative, I do not feel it was particularly engaging.

Perhaps this was because I had consciously taken the decision to make sure the tone of the blog was more authoritative and less conversational compared to what I offered on here, my course blog.

My niche blog just never really had much going for it. I never got round to developing it into something which reached out to my niche target audience.

Surprisingly my course blog was far more successful despite its content being based on what I was learning in the online lectures, and therefore something which may have only made sense to those involved.

Yet my overall site visits on this blog well exceeded those of my niche. And I’m pretty sure we all got sick of reading pieces which covered the exact same topic as we were writing about so I doubt they all came from my fellow coursemates.

I do feel however that I did develop this blog better as time went on and I began including new aspects such as links, maps, photos, videos and even sound recordings, and this was something I failed to do with my niche.

I keep mentioning failing, which isn’t great to be honest, but there are some things I do think I managed to do well in my blogging career.

Personally I would rate my capture Cardiff project as my most successful post, even if it did not attract the biggest number of hits.

I incorporated many of the skills I had acquired since starting the course. The post certainly looked more interesting than most of the others.

I found it difficult to know how to attract people to my niche blog. I would share the link on both Facebook and Twitter and I know this was successful in getting site hits, but I didn’t know how to get more.

Many of the blogs I wanted to link my niche to, such as Fathers4Justice would not allow you to leave comments and this made it hard to interact with other people who potentially may have been interested in my work.

In the future I would like to do things differently to turn my blogging failure into a success. I often view words as my tool but I know I need to use more than just them.

Blog links:

Looking after the elderly – good example for using tools

Will family courts being open to the media improve standards? – good background info, but needed more to it

Mothers who fail to comply with court orders – my last niche blog (which received the most hits at 18) perhaps I was getting on to a good thing.

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Yes for Wales – Cardiff Campaign Launch

On Monday January 24 the Yes for Wales de facto lead organisation launched its Cardiff campaign at Cardiff University in an attempt to encourage people to vote Yes in the Referendum on March 3.

The referendum will be on the law-making powers of the National Assembly for Wales.

Over 100 people in the Large Shandon Lecture Theatre at the Cardiff Says Yes launch were addressed by representatives from three of the four main political parties. The Conservative guest was unable to make it.

Other guest speakers included Joy Kent, Abdul-Azim Ahmed, Mark Hinge and Aled Edwards.

Joy Kent of Cymorth Cymru said: “The current system is cumbersome, confusing and too time consuming. Decisions made in Wales and not Westminster is the way forward.”

The video below shows Joy Kent explaining why she thinks people should vote Yes in the referendum.

Abdul-Azim Ahmed, a Cardiff University student argued that voting Yes will ensure services can be delivered more effectively.

Mark Hinge, the founder and managing director of The Bay took the stance that the referendum is about the people and not politics.

He said: “Currently the people of Wales do not know how their laws are made. Even the Welsh Assembly Government doesn’t know. That is shameful.”

The Reverend Aled Edwards explained the weeks leading up to the referendum will be crucial to the history of Wales. He said: “The people of Wales are privileged to be at this point”

Rhodri Morgan AM, the first person to use the title First Minister for Wales, said: “We need to inject confidence in the Welsh people.”

Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru argued the referendum should already be in the bag, but people voting Yes is not a guarantee just yet. She said there was still work to be done to ensure the referendum gets the right outcome.

To vote in the referendum you must make sure you are registered by February 16.

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Looking after the elderly

With an aging population it is important to make sure we are looking after the elderly.

As Wales has the highest proportion of people who are state pension age, compared to any other UK nation, I decided to see how Cardiff are fairing up in supporting elderly people.

In particular I looked at Cardiff city centre’s mobility assistance scheme as the trial period is due to come to an end soon.

The following video shows the scheme’s project officer, Dan Lawrence, 25, talking about how many people the scheme has benefitted so far.

There is a demographic transformation taking place in Wales.

The older population age of 85 and over is set to double in size to 156,000 by 2031.

So the capital city really needs to make sure they are looking at such schemes to ensure older people still continue to have a  high quality of life for as long as they can.

Dan Lawrence also talks about how he would like the scheme to progress in the future. You can hear a clip of him below.

On Monday 11 October 2010 two electric buggies, similar to those found on a golf course, were introduced to the city centre to provide means of transportation for elderly and disabled passengers.

I went in to the city centre recently to see the buggies in action, and actually had a trip on one myself when a passenger who had difficultly walking hailed one down.

A few photos of the buggy appear below.

This scheme was introduced so those in need could be transported around the pedestrianised heart of the city centre for free.

The council had previously introduced a Free b bus service but this was unsuccessful and axed. It came under criticism for costing the tax payer too much and causing damage to the environment.

The redevelopment of the city centre has meant that the buses serve the outer areas of the shopping vicinity, but cannot access the main part.

This had a major effect on older people who cannot get around so well. The walk from one end of the high street to another can be rather long if you have difficulty moving as freely as the rest of us.

At the end of day on Tuesday 14th December 2010 the scheme had already been used by 3197 people.

The video below shows a passenger using the buggy for the very first time.

Before embarking on his journey, he told me he thought the scheme was a wonderful idea.

The trial period will be completed at the end of December and it looks as though the service is likely to stay.

Dan Lawrence said: “We are confident the scheme is going to continue after the trial period, but nothing is set in stone just yet. I cannot see any reason for us not carrying on with it though.”

Although the trial period has been relatively successful, there has been very little marketing and therefore many people in need probably do not know this service is available.

The trial itself cost £23,000 and has been solely funded by the Assembly Government. Other schemes are also being considered. Alongside tests of the electric vehicles, council officers have launched a consultation with Cardiff Access Group and Age Concern to find a more popular successor to the little-used Free b bus.

The trial has been monitoring what people want from the service and how they use it. The council will analyse the results to see what improvements need to be made if the trial comes to fruition in the new year.

If the scheme does stay, money will have to be invested into marketing in order to make sure those in need are aware the service is available.

Garry Nelson, 47, one of the buggy drivers, appears in the video below. He talks about the impact the scheme has had on those in need and some of the drawbacks of the current vehicles.

These electric buggies are environmentally friendly but can only hold three passengers at a time. Currently the drivers go in a circular route. People can either hail the buggy or pre-book it by calling the number which appears below.

The council hopes that the service can remain free but it is something that will need to be considered in the future.

The buggies form part of the second phase of the city’s Sustainable Travel City initiative over a two-year period. Executive member for transport Delme Bowen said he hoped the scheme would work with Shopmobility to provide better links in the city centre. He said:

“The electric vehicles are environmentally friendly and part of the council’s plan to keep Cardiff moving. We are committed to opening up the city centre for all and making accessibility as easy as possible.”

The buggies have however come under criticism from the blind community as the design of them makes it difficult for a guide dog owner to travel with their guide dog. Also the fact that the vehicles are virtually silent could mean blind people do not know they are coming.

As with most trials you can see the advantages and drawbacks of the scheme. The overall idea is a good one and appears to be benefitting people already, but the council definitely need to look in to ways of overcoming the current problems.

To pre-book the mobility assistance buggy passengers can call 02920873888

The buggies operate at the following times:

9.30 – 20.30 Monday to Friday

9.30 – 18.30 Saturday

8.30 – 15.30 Sunday

Here are some links to useful sites for those looking for extra support for elderly people:

The Welsh Assembly Government

Age Concern Cymru

The Relatives and Residents Association

Alzheimer’s Society Wales

Counsel and Care

Carers Wales

DirectGov

Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales

Care Forum Wales

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Being paid for content: every journalist’s dream

Let’s face it we all know you don’t go into journalism for the money. You go in to journalism because it’s what you love to do.

That’s not to say money cannot be made in journalism, but the pay gap between those at the top end and those just starting out is quite significant.

I’m already resigned to the fact that my starting salary will be rather low, but I will not be deterred by that thought.

However getting little money for your work is one thing but getting no money at all, well that’s something completely different.

Those of us who want to make it as a professional journalist are more than likely prepared to sacrifice as much of our time as necessary in order to get that first break.

We all know how vital work experience is, but today’s budding journalists are putting their work out there for free in more ways than ever before.

And that’s fair enough, as it’s going to be rather difficult making money before we have made a name for ourselves. It does seem somewhat of a vicious cycle though.

The debate of how to make money for online content is ongoing and gaining momentum. Even the big media organisations do not know the answer, but they are constantly trying to find it. Realistically they are probably searching for more than one.

Robert Andrews of paidContent:UK (The very name of the organisation sounds exciting for present and future journalists) spoke to us about the economics of digital content.

He told us the story of the founder Rafat Ali, and described him as a “One man publishing Empire.”

Entrepreneurial journalists are a growing trend and we were urged to give this path some serious thought.

Perhaps we can do it on our own. And maybe one day I will, but as it stands at the moment I still want to be involved with print journalism.

The difference is I now understand just how important online content is too.

So I want to go into a dying trade to earn little money? It sounds crazy I know. But most journalists are a little quirky, and I’m no different.

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What’s all the hype about?

Hyperlocal is a term which is batted around frequently nowadays. But what does it actually mean?

It’s all about news where you are.

The definition however is constantly changing, as to reflect the unfixed notion of hyperlocal characteristics.

Hyperlocal isn’t simply about a place, it’s more of an attitude.

It’s about a community, your community, and what’s happening in it. It’s not just hyperlocal, it’s hyperpersonal.

It could perhaps be seen as more of a local information service as opposed to a local news distributer.

But people need and want to know what’s going on in their area, and this information may not be made known to them otherwise.

Websites such as My Society allows people to respond quickly and easily to things going on around them.

It brings in experts to work with us in a simple way.

Hyperlocal works at its best when there is participation from the author but also participation from the community.

It’s about making the things that matter to the local community the main priority. Small is big.

It’s the modern-day form of old school local newspapers.

And it encourages people to think like a network.

Openly Local is a useful site which has opened up data from local authorities.

So with tools like this available, we can really make sure we know what’s going on.

If you want to discover more about the world around you, you may want to check these sites out:

Gowalla

Foursquare

The hype is hyperlocal.

 

 

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Analysing data

As a wannabe journalist the thought of analysing data seems rather daunting. It sounds far too scary for the likes of someone who is more than happy to hide behind words.

But then when you stop and think, you realise that data gathering is at the heart of what journalists do.

Words are in fact data in their own right. And a journalist’s job is to make sense of what’s happening and ensure their readers are able to understand too.

Many groundbreaking stories in recent times have come about purely as a result of analysing raw data. Take the MP expenses scandal as the most prominent example.

Some forms of data are of course more complicated than others and it can take a great deal of time to sift through it all and produce a story with such authority.

Journalists did not do this alone. They were helped by other professionals but also the advances of technology.

Here are some examples of tools used for the job:

  • Excel
  • Access
  • Many Eyes
  • Wordle
  • Tableau
  • Google Fusion Tables
  • Google Doc Spreadsheet

So analysing data may not be as daunting as I first thought.  But I am far less afraid of words, so I am going to hide behind them after all.  I am however going to use Wordle to help me.

Wordle: Data Analysing

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The Times they are a changing

The times they are a changing and if we don’t want to get left behind we are going to have to change with them.

In an age where audiences are able to interact with journalism, like they have never been able to do before, it is quite ironic that so many media organisations are out of touch with their readers.

Where would we be as a journalist without readers? We may have an egotistical desire to have our name associated with a piece of journalism but it isn’t going to do much for our ego if no one is reading the work we produce.

We need to learn how to engage with our readers better, we have the tools to do so, so let’s make sure we use them.

Journalists have been too concerned with worrying whether they have the story rather than stopping to think if anyone actually wants it.

With the rise of citizen journalists, we know anyone can tell a story now and although more people are doing just that, the consumer has not completely turned into the producer.

Which means many people are still relying on us to do the work we love to do, so we should make good use of our readers and find out what it is they love about what we do.

Joanna Geary explained the importance of a community and bringing people together. The people – the community formerly known as the audience.

The Times is working very hard to make sure they representing their community. They are interested in their niches and what’s attracting people to them.

The industry has always been driven by figures and more than likely will always be, but we must remember the reader. Without them we are nothing.

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