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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).

A 12 -year-old girl was airlifted to hospital after being involved in a traffic accident in Lichfield on Sunday.

It's a story the people of Lichfield and the surrounding area might be interested in. And to its credit, local paper the Lichfield Mercury has the tale up on the front page of its website.

But search in Google News for "girl airlifted Lichfield" and the sites that come up are the BBC and the Lichfield Blog (at least for me, as I write this). The Mercury is nowhere to be seen. Sammy J
The Lichfield Blog claims to be edited by "Sammy J" - better known as Lichfield's statue of Samuel Johnson.
Image by Tim Ellis, published under Creative Commons License.

That seems to me like a good example of the challenge facing existing newspaper websites.

The issue is not so much, despite the claims of some "social media" enthusiasts, that established newspapers don't "get it" when it comes to the Internet.

Both the Lichfield Blog and the Lichfield Mercury's site - clumsily named thisislichfield - have social media elements.

They both invite readers to comment on stories. The blog also invites ratings, while the Mercury doesn't. The Mercury has icons for sharing stories (on Facebook, Digg etc), while the Blog doesn't.

Bizarrely, the Mercury doesn't seem to offer an RSS feed, which is a big minus. But they are basically doing the same thing.

Despite using Wordpress, a platform usually associated with blogging, the Lichfield Blog even looks like a newspaper website rather than a traditional blog (not a criticism - it looks better than most websites for small newspapers, in fact).

If it was named The Lichfield News it could happily describe itself as a news website rather than a Blog.

What the Lichfield Blog does demonstrate, however, is how easy it is to set up a news website, and one that looks professional, if there are people who have the time to do so.

It's even fairly easy to get listed on Google News, although I do wonder how it meets Google's requirement that it be "written and maintained by a clear organization" when the editor claims to be Lichfield's statue of Samuel Johnson. But I'm glad it's listed - no reason why it shouldn't be.

The Blog is well written and seems to be updated more than the Mercury website.

It doesn't appear to be written by a professional journalist, (the intro to the story about the accident is "a crash involving a van and a lorry in Lichfield saw a 12-year-old girl ....") but I doubt many readers care. [Update - I was wrong about this, the main writer is a trained journalist]

Despite running Google ads, the Lichfield blog is a non-profit project. You need a hell of a lot of people clicking your Google links to pay one person's salary, so I'm not surprised.

Is this the future of local journalism - kind of like what we have already, except people don't get paid for it? Quite possibly.

One big challenge for commercial newspapers is that an obvious response to websites which use a free CMS and don't pay their staff is to cut their own expenses to the bone.

But anything which reduces the quality of the journalism they offer is, surely, only likely to make alternative offerings even more attractive to their audience.

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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.

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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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