Friday, May 27, 2011

The Police Have Arrived

I like the twitter-tradition of Follow Friday but it lacks a little something in terms of explaining the context of the why and wherefore of a recommendation. The police are interesting people to follow currently because two things are happening - the command level are waking up to twitter as a way of publicising their force achievements and crime initiatives, and the grassroots cop and their representatives are finding it a way to express reservations (sometimes very serious reservations) about the way things are going on the ground. So these are the Boys/Girls in Blue who I follow, and of course I'm very open to other suggestions. 

I wish twitter had been around when I was a local reporter at Radio Manchester and Granada because there are lots of local story tips now being dropped by the cops. Falling in to the this category is @Co11MetPolice which flags up things of interest, I also like @ in east Manchester - which I know from experience can be a challenging area for the law. actually puts job adverts up.  a self confessed pie eating man-mountain Deputy Chief Constable in Cumbria is also good value.

Other police tweet and blog under a cover of anonymity, and very illuminating this is at times like these. @TheCustodySgt  is one such; he manages a thirty cell suite and a thriving twitter account. He opens up a gateway to lots of cops who also tweet, which I leave you to explore. Don't miss @ He does a fizzing tweet-feed and also check out the blog belonging to I also follow and very good value he is. 

The Police Fed and ACPO are also running accounts. Have a gander at  - she's involved with policy at the Federation, is also there, is an ACPO tweeter. I shouldn't forget the middle management:

Journalists who follow the cops are also very good value. @RoamingRoyston is Deputy Editor of the Police Review, and he's got lots to say.

I've just scratched the surface, but the point is they're out there and well worth adding if you're into that sort of thing.  Fellow hacks are welcome to loot my list.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Twitter Is No Answer

Last night another demonstration of how excellent Twitter is for sparking communication. Dave Winer (@davewiner), who's the visiting scholar of journalism at the NYU, posted up a discussion of how the service could well be the host for 'twitter only' reporters, and as he suggested, if there wasn't one already 'there was something wrong'. I found myself responding to this, then feeling a blogpost was in order and so here it is.

He wrote as follows:

"Last year I was looking out my window on Bleecker St in the West Village and saw a huge plume of smoke off in the distance. Within five minutes, through Twitter, I knew exactly where the fire was, and had seen pictures taken by people on the scene.
People working at a local TV station couldn't possibly have gotten a reporter and camera there that fast."

Well this is true. And twitter is a great way to stay alert to all kinds of happenings like fires, which lots can see and maybe tweet about, particularly in New York which is full of folk who love to tweet. But my issue with this is, who finds out what caused the fire? And if someone is hurt or killed, who names them? If the fire is in the small hours of the morning, or is in the middle of nowhere, what if nobody tweets about it?    

Lots will point to the chap who tweeted about the raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound as it happened. But if the guy had been a real reporter as opposed to a twitterer just think of the story he'd have got. And the job offers he'd now be fielding. 

I think I'm some sort of dinosaur, because I feel that although it's clear Twitter has many qualities there is no way it's a replacement for longer forms of financed reporting, in which there's a proper investment into training, the development of veracity and the cultivation of trust.

Twitter  - let me deal with it now as a "community" - actually abandons standards many journalists are brought up to hold dear, as we've seen in the last few days with the ridiculous and libellous stories about two BBC presenters and the full scale challenge to the rule of law as followed by the rest of the media. I like to tweet, and I get a lot out of it - stories, thoughts, even friends. 

But Twitter is nothing more advanced than a high tech rumour mill. It doesn't replace sending trained and resourced correspondents to places, as Dave, in fairness, admitted in his blog post. It can't replace the kind of journalism that requires even a modicum of fact checking and investigation. It's a magnificent communication and referral tool, but it can't go far in replacing journalism.  If somehow mainstream journalism withers as a result of people claiming it's a panacea to the rest of our ills, well we shall all be hugely the poorer.  

Saturday, May 07, 2011


I never thought I'd make it as a Londoner. When I had to move here to start a job with ITN in the 90's I actually wept at having to leave Manchester. I was completely attached to all those things which make that city so excellent, the cricket at Old Trafford, the football at Maine Road, Granada TV, Chinatown...the list seemed to be endless.

And added to that was a kind of professional resentment about the Londonisation of the media's priorities. Journalists in Manchester were under the bitter impresson that London's priorities didn't include making the most of stories from the provinces, but this would turn into resentment when for example the Manchester Air Disaster happened and a cadre of London hacks arrived to cover it.

And for years I was miserable in London and went 'home' virtually every weekend. To me, for ages, it seemed to be imploding under the stress of simply being Britain's capital city. Smelly and chaotic, to me it just didn't seem to function properly as a place to live.

But gradually I grew into it, or adjusted to it, and now it seems absurd to go back to Manchester at every opportunity. And these days it seems mad to me that Manchester doesn't have a really swift public transport system that links virtually everywhere with everywhere else with a minimum of hassle. Or a proper river in the middle of it. Or a parliament and a selection of really top rate art galleries, etc etc.

So against the grain, I've become Londonised. But did I have to be? Ultimately I've lived or worked almost everywhere in Britain at some point or another. Shouldn't I just be a citizen of the UK and feel comfy wherever I land up? Well, I think I draw the line at Warrington.
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Pool Thoughts

Hovering around 16 degrees celcius a wetsuit is essential - after all why be uncomfortable? But already I don't think a day off is quite complete without hitting Brockwell Lido.

Divided into lanes it's really the perfect environment for some serious swimming, which unfortunately I'm not capable of. Still, my neoprene clad frame can manage around twenty lengths before I have to drag myself out, spent, to the amusement of the lifeguard staff.
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