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I am an experienced online journalist and political editor working for Trinity Mirror papers in the West Midlands and the North East, based in the Parliamentary Press Gallery at Westminster.

I understand how government, Parliament and political parties work. I am equally at home digging out stories from data, social media or interviews as I am covering major set-piece events or explaining how things work to readers.

I produce content which is shareable and promote my work on social media.

My experience with content management systems and knowledge of HTML allows me to include charts, embedded content from third parties and formatting in my work, to create content which encourages interaction and keeps readers on the page.

Contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (but please send press releases to my work email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as this is the email I monitor during working hours).

The website of Jonathan Walker, Political Editor for the Birmingham Post and Mail

Politics Home Goes Paid

Farewell Politics Home, another superb free service which is no longer available - except as an extremely limited service - unless you pay for it.

I've mentioned politicshome.com before, calling it "one of my favourite sites". It's a politics news aggregator which manually recommends the best reports on the top political stories of the day as well as comment pieces, blogs and Twitter postings. It also includes a calendar of upcoming events and a précis of the most interesting broadcast interviews.

When I say manually, that means people are employed to monitor news sources and use their judgment to put Politics Home together. It costs money.

Read more: Politics Home Goes Paid

Let's talk about the future of journalism

I've been catching up with David Higgerson's fine blog, which includes an interesting post about the news:rewired event in London on June 25, and his thoughts on a speech delivered by Marc Reeves, former editor of The Birmingham Post.

Marc argued, among other things, that journalists should be willing to boost their employer's turnover by passing on potential sales leads to the advertising department.

But, he laments:

"That artificial divide we created when we put the noisy people in a room marked ‘advertising' and the studious types in another labelled ‘editorial' was the biggest mistake newspapers and other media ever made.

"It allowed journalists to insulate themselves from the business they were in to the point of revelling in their detachment. I've worked with generations of hacks to whom the very idea of passing on a sales lead was regarded as a murderous betrayal of the memory of CP Scott."

He may be right. I'm not going to comment here on the divide between editorial and advertising departments, but reading both Marc and David's blogs did remind me of one of my personal bugbears, which is the divide between the debates taking place about the changing nature of the news industry and most of those who work in it.

Read more: Let's talk about the future of journalism

Goodbye Sprout - Free things are unreliable

Well damn, there I was talking about how wonderful Sprout gadgets were and the service vanishes.

Sprout used to offer free and paid for services ("go pro!") but the free service has been cancelled, and existing gadgets deleted. You can still use Sprout's services if you are an organisation with a hefty budget to pay them.

I've created a Widgetbox gadget instead, but it uses advertising which can be pretty ugly as it sometimes covers the text you want to display.

Can't blame Sprout, as like everyone else they need to get some cash in return for their bandwidth and to feed their families.

But there is a lesson here I think about taking "free" services for granted. Organisations may try out business plans that don't involve directly charging people for their services, but if they don't work then the "free" product won't be around for long.

Tories Warn Regional Media Not To Join Government Consortia

I've reported previously that the Conservatives are opposed to the Government's plans for regional news consortia. These are the partnerships which will bring together newspapers, regional television and blogs, with a little Government subsidy.

But they went a little further last week, making it clear they would do their best to scrap the consortia even if they have been created before the next election. Shadow Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the Tories would "do all we can to legally unpick them".

My former boss Marc Reeves, former editor of The Birmingham Post, is part of the panel that will choose the winning bid for the first three consortia.

Here are some extracts from Jeremy Hunt's speech:

"The Digital Economy Bill sets in stone the Government policy of using public subsidy to prop up regional news on ITV. My opposition to such a measure is hopefully, well known. Using the licence fee to prop up regional news simply casts a failed regional TV model in aspic. It would actively prevent the emergence of new, local media models, making broadcasters focus their energies on satisfying politicians not reaching viewers.

"I know that many organisations in this room are involved in bidding for the pilot schemes that this Bill would make permanent. And I don't blame you: faced with the terrifying situation many of you are in, it is understandable you want to follow the money wherever it is, public or private.

"So let me be clear. We do not support these provisions in the Digital Economy Bill. And we do not support the pilot schemes. The contracts are not due to be signed until May. Anyone looking to sign one should understand that we'll do all we can to legally unpick them if David Cameron enters Number 10. And if they haven't been signed, we won't be doing so.

"This is because we want to see the emergence of a radically different, improved and forward-looking local media sector. Not just local TV, where we are about the only major developed country not to have proper city-based TV franchises. But profitable, hungry and ambitious local radio, local newspapers and local websites as well."

Tories Reject Labour's Plans to Subsidise Local News

Government subsidies for regional news will stifle innovation and lead to demands for more public money, according to the Tories.

The Conservative stance means there is a very sharp division between the two major parties over how Government can support the local and regional news industry.

As I reported previously, Labour plans to support regional news consortia bringing together newspapers, local TV news and bloggers.

Three pilot schemes will be announced soon. Word in the industry (I can't verify this) is that they will be in Scotland, Wales and north west England.

The projects will get some public cash, probably from the licence fee, although this is only supposed to be temporary.

Jeremy Hunt, the Tory shadow culture secretary, made it clear the Conservatives oppose this idea, in a speech last week.

He said: "Let's look, for example, at what the government is proposing on local news. Essentially it wants to prop up the failed regional news model with licence fee cash.

"Why is this so flawed?

"Firstly, because it will set in stone the current failed model and stifle any possibility of better local news models emerging.

"Once the licence fee is paying for regional news, then all the efforts of those people receiving the subsidy will be put into lobbying ministers and Ofcom as to why it should continue. What they will not be doing is developing the new business models for local media that are being opened up by the internet.

"Secondly it will undermine one of the most successful elements of British broadcasting, namely the fact that our broadcasters compete on their ability to attract viewers not subsidy."

Read more: Tories Reject Labour's Plans to Subsidise Local News

Make an RSS Feed for your Favourite Journalist

I have a feature on the left column of this site titled "Birmingham News", which is meant to provide links to stories I have written for the Birmingham Post and Mail. It never really worked, because there was no RSS feed for my stories. My attempts to create a feed using Yahoo Pipes were unsuccessful (and Pipes, although incredibly useful when it works, is not always reliable in my experience).

So thank you Google News for coming to the rescue. Their author search feature allows you to create an RSS feed for stories written by any given author, so that I can isolate my own stories at last.

I thought this may be of interest to others, because you can of course do the same with any writer whose articles appear in Google News.

For example, I am a fan of Matthew Parris. He has his own page on the Times Online website, here:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/matthew_parris/

But there is no RSS feed specifically for his work, provided by the Times. At least, if it exists, it is well hidden and I could not find it.

But you can easily create your own feed from Google News. Here is the URL:

http://news.google.co.uk/news/search?aq=f&um=1&cf=all&ned=uk&hl=en&q=author%3A%22matthew+parris%22

To generate an RSS feed for any author, go to Google News:

http://news.google.co.uk/

Enter as your search term (taking Matthew Parris as an example):

Author:"Matthew Parris"

You should get a list of articles written by the author you have chosen. And on the left will be some options, including "sorted by date" and "sorted by relevance". I don't know what relevance means in this context, and personally I suggest clicking on "sorted by date" to ensure the feed gives you the latest articles as they go online.

Google News

Then you can either click on the RSS symbol somewhere near the top of your browser (it will be an orange symbol of some kind, and it will look a bit different depending on which browser you use), or simply scroll to the bottom of the page where there is an "RSS" link.

Google News RSS

Click that link, and there you go.

Journalists and Bloggers to Work Together with Government Funding - Can it Succeed?

Government legislation will create subsidised news consortia bringing together blogs, newspapers and independent regional television news.

This was the plan set out by Creative Industries Minister Sion Simon (Lab Erdington) when he spoke to me during Labour's annual conference. A Bill will be bought in this autumn, he said.

While there's been a lot of discussion about the future of regional and local news, I'm not sure there's been a great deal of debate about this. The plan, as set out by Sion, is for the Government initially to subsidise the scheme, but in the hope that a business model will eventually emerge which does not require public funding.

How exactly local bloggers will feed into it remains to be seen. I wonder whether they will be happy for their work to be included in a commercial operation if they are not being paid themselves? Or maybe the plan is to pay bloggers too.

Ministers are apparently planning three pilot schemes, in Scotland, Wales and an English region which has not yet been named.

Sion spoke to me about the policy when I interviewed him in partnership with Yoosk, a web-based service which allows members of the public to pose questions to politicians, with journalists sometimes acting as middlemen. Apparently I was the first newspaper journalist to set up an interview like this with Yoosk.

The question he is answering, as you will hear, is actually about the Birmingham Mail. As I said, all the questions I put to Sion that day were chosen by users of the Yoosk website.

Here is what Sion said:

 

 

Full Text of Gordon Brown's speech to the TUC

Below is the full text of Gordon Brown's speech today to the TUC. You may wonder why I am posting it here. It's because I have written a post on the Birmingham Post blog site comparing Mr Brown's speech to one delivered by George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, and wanted to link to full copies of both speeches.

Believe it or not, while the Conservative website has a copy of Mr Osborne's speech, the Labour website does not have a copy of the Prime Minister's words (and it is a Labour speech, not a Government speech, so it's not on the Downing Street site either). So I have posted a copy to this blog for me to link to. Here it is:

Read more: Full Text of Gordon Brown's speech to the TUC

Blog Aggregator for Birmingham

As I have stated many times on this blog, I am in favour of aggregators which make it easier for people to find content from across the web, although I think there are some limits on what they should do.

I have begun work on an aggregator for Birmingham blogs, to replace the rather poor "blogroll" on this site.

If anyone has any thoughts on whether this is a good idea or not, I would be very grateful for their input.

Work on it has only just begun, and it will be a long time before it is anything close to comprehensive (I'm sure it will never be complete).

Take a look at http://birmingham.localbounce.com and leave a comment, either at the "about" page on that site, or right here.

How Twitter Caused a Headache for David Cameron

I've been chatting to a friend in America who tells me that the evils of our NHS have become a favourite topic among opponents of Barack Obama's healthcare plans.

Tory MEP Daniel Hannan (South East) has made a number of appearances on US television to explain to America why our healthcare system is so bad.

Mr Hannan became something of an internet sensation after his eloquent speech condemning Gordon Brown, in the European Parliament in March, received hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube (currently 2.4 million).


Hannan speaks to the European Parliament

Despite this, he doesn't get a great deal of attention in the mainstream media in the UK.

But his comments in the US have nonetheless been highlighted in the UK by users of Twitter.


Hannan speaks to Fox News

The "micro-blogging" tool has been used by supporters of the NHS to defend the health service against the attacks by Mr Obama's critics, using the hash-tag #welovethenhs.

And some of these have also had a dig at the Tories - demanding Conservative leader David Cameron disown Mr Hannan.

Mr Cameron has insisted that he also loves the NHS, and spoken in a positive way about the Twitter campaign, on the official Conservative Party blog.

There was no mention of Mr Hannan, something that has been noted in comments left by the blog's readers.

But Mr Cameron has distanced himself from the MEP's comments elsewhere. It seems that Mr Hannan has become an embarrassment to his party.

And while the mainstream media has picked up on the story, from what I can tell it all began on Twitter.

In Defence of TheYamYam

Mark Blackstock, editor of TheYamYam, has contributed this reply to my earlier post about his website. JW

------------------------

Hey Jonathan. Thanks for commenting on the YamYam.

The simple reason why the YamYam sometimes scans stories from newspapers and posts them on its own website is because the stories are not to be found anywhere online.

This is often the case with the Express and Star, where many excellent stories about Walsall, of interest and importance to local people, appear in newsprint but never find their way onto the E&S website. Believe me, I would much prefer not to have to take the trouble and time to scan stories but simply link to the original content online - scans also look rather ugly.

I have raised this issue with the Walsall editor of the E&S. Unfortunately, it has been explained to me that publishing all of the E&S content online is beyond the capacity of the newspaper's small internet team. I suspect this is as frustrating for the Walsall journalists who write these stories as it is for me, and for you who may perceive this as ‘theft'.

A story scanned and published in the YamYam is always credited, it is always reproduced as an image file, the article is not OCRd and stored as text in a database. So unfortunately, it is not possible to provide a link to an original article if the article does not exist online in the first place.

Readers appreciate articles being scanned, not just for their news value but also for the record. Much of the value added by a site like the YamYam is it's attention to links. Obviously links to specialist websites are a useful resource for someone researching or wishing to find out more about a particular subject, company or institution etc. But a story published in newsprint can often be isolated and read out of context.

Historical links can add meaning and tell their own story on a subject. So scanning an article is also important historically for telling the full story in links for when the subject appears next time. This is of particular use to people and groups campaigning around local issues.

As for your reference to using RSS feeds in your previous comment, I do wish it was so simple. Unfortunately many newspaper RSS feeds are unreliable and I spend many hours in search engines hunting down and selecting content. And for the record, there are no computer automated feeds going into the YamYam website - it is all human activity.

Many of the headlines and intro paragraphs (not all) are rewritten, for reasons of space or clarity on the page design or RSS feed, since what makes sense on a printed page often doesn't translate into a different web context.

Read more: In Defence of TheYamYam

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About me

Jonathan Walker Political Editor of the Birmingham Post, Birmingham Mail, Sunday Mercury, Coventry Telegraph, Newcastle Journal, Newcastle Chronicle and Sunday Sun.

Contact me:

Email jonathan@walkerjon.com (but please send press releases to my work email which is
jon.walker@trinitymirror.com, as this is the email I monitor during working hours).

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