Monthly Archives: November 2009

Council coverage in the Lancashire Evening Post

Ed Walker has been looking at council coverage in the Lancashire Evening Post?as part of?the investigation into 'How much local council coverage is there in your local paper?' He writes:

"I found that there were 35 pages devoted to news on 23/11, 25/11 and 27/11 and of these 6.25 pages were given over to ?council reporting?.

"Like others I?ve been finding there is little reporting of council meetings, more stories are created from council press releases and then a few quotes from councillors. It?s also not clear when these councillors were saying these quotes, although the councillors title and ward are always attached."

The investigation continues – join it here.

Council Coverage in The Oxford Times

Journopig has added analysis of The Oxford Times to the investigation into ‘How much local council coverage is there in your local paper?

26 of the newspaper’s 184 pages are devoted to news, and of those:

“We counted the equivalent of just three pages of council stories within this 26 page total, using Sarah’s guide to counting up coverage; but we were being generous by including brief mentions of, or quotes by, councils or councillors.

We were slightly surprised by the findings, as we had been fairly confident that a newspaper of The Oxford Times’ size and status would contain a good amount of council coverage. Its circulation area includes not only Oxford City Council but also district councils such as West Oxfordshire, Cherwell, South Oxfordshire and Vale Of White Horse – which serve diverse rural areas.

“But perhaps The Oxford Times assumes that other regional newspapers – such as the daily Oxford Mail, or the weeklies in the district, such as the Banbury Guardian or Witney Gazette – will cover the councils, and leave it to be more arty and intellectual. 

“We’ll be looking at those other regionals in the very near future to see if they really do pick up that council baton. Because if they don’t, then who does make those councils accountable?”

Council coverage in local newspapers – now there’s a spreadsheet to help you work it out

The investigation into How much local council coverage is there in your local newspaper? now has a handy spreadsheet, thanks to Chie Elliott.

The spreadsheet – available here – will calculate the percentage of any newspaper’s coverage that is based on monitoring the local council. 

Chie writes:

“I have set it up so that every time anyone edits anything I’ll be notified. If you accidentally delete anything, don’t panic. You can either go to Edit and click Undo or, if the error was more extensive, Go to File > Revision history and keep clicking “Older” until you get to the version you wanted. Then click OK.”

She also says she is happy to help if you have any questions or problems.

The investigation has so far looked at The Brighton Argus and Sussex Express, the Birmingham Post and Mail, and the Darlington and Stockton Times, while the Lancashire Evening Post is in progress.

If you can help by looking at any other paper – or inviting someone who could – please join the investigation.

What would you say were the most famous examples of investigative journalism in recent years?

What would you say were the most famous examples of investigative journalism in recent years?

That’s the question I asked. Here are the responses, as suggested by people on Twitter. I’ve quoted most tweets verbatim:

Alex Cockburn & Jeffrey St Clair and Counterpunch? 
Seymour Hersh, how about his work on My Lai and the Israeli nuclear programme
Paul Foot’s book on Colin Wallace
@philchamberlain on building industry blacklisting, alive and well in C21
Duncan Campbell/ABC, ECHELON, World In Action on E4A/Shoot To Kill, Death On The Rock, Who Bombed Birmingham, Foot/Bridgewater
@paul__lewis‘s #G20#IanTomlinson work shows a welcome return to journalistic grafting – tenacious, probing, relentless.
Flynn’s redundancy-attracting bits on ‘Untouchables’, Grauniad on Aitken, Milne on Roger Windsor, @StPeteTimes on Scientology
(All BristleKRS)
Abu Ghraib was broken by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker (philchamberlain)
#Trafigura, Roberto Saviano’s Gomorrah,
BabyP. MPs Expenses (before the chequebook bit). Extraordinary Rendition. Bush’s death squads (Hersch)
Guardian’s Tax Gap (slewfootsnoop)
Computer Weekly & Chinook crash (martinwake)
Mail’s Stephen Lawrence (CLetterman
Mark Daly’s undercover police documentary. In terms of reputation with the public, certainly. (iainmhepburn)
john ware/panorama omagh bombers (sambrook)
Cash for Peerages is the example that sticks out in my mind. iduncan
I always like the News of the Worlds “fake sheikh” – almost laughably comical but people fell for it nearly every time… (studavis)
Extraordinary rendition [Stephen Grey] (adrianshort)

How much local council coverage is there in your local newspaper? Sussex Express and Brighton Argus completed

The investigation into ‘How much local council coverage is there in your local newspaper?‘ has had its first results. OrangeBlossomer has blogged about her four-week survey of the weekly Sussex Express and daily Argus in Brighton:

The two papers returned very similar results. In four weeks,Sussex Express produced an average of 4.15% of council news in its news pages and The Argus, an average of 4.46% over five days.

Join the investigation here and read Chie’s blog post here.

How much Birmingham Council spends on emergency repairs to roads: ’04-’09

The investigation into How much Birmingham City Council spends each year on compensating drivers of cars damaged by potholes/speed bumps has unearthed more information. Sarah has now also received figures on “how much the council spends on emergency repairs to roads, as opposed to planned upgrades/maintenance.”

Her update gives the following figures by financial year – 2004/05 to 2008/09 

  • 2004/05 £9,349,000 
  • 2005/06 £9,474,000 
  • 2006/07 £8,482,000 
  • 2007/08 £9,404,000 
  • 2008/09 £12,461,000

New Facebook page for Help Me Investigate

A page has been created for Help Me Investigate on Facebook – you can find it at?

The page will publish updates from the site and allow new users to find out about it.

This is different to the Facebook group, which is more useful for events and communication between users. This can be found at?

“But what about my exclusive?”

A recurring question from journalists who look at Help Me Investigate is ‘Why should I want to do my work in public and risk a rival stealing my story?’

There are 2 answers to this, which I’ll deal with in turn. 

Answer 1: It’s not for you if you can do it all by yourself

If you have enough time to keep your story to yourself and do all the work yourself, then fine: you don’t need the site. 

Help Me Investigate was launched to address a number of problems. 2 of them are: journalists not having the resources to pursue stories; and people not feeling that the media is interested in the same things as they are. 

So by all means choose to do all the investigating yourself, but if you need to ask for help – if, for example, you don’t have the resources, or the story is such a long shot then you cannot risk investing enough time in it – then the site is here. The trade-off is that, yes, it means doing it in public, which takes us onto the second answer.

Answer 2: The rules are changing

The idea behind the ‘exclusive’ relies on a monopoly model of media where you could hold onto your story for months.

That model is breaking down, and a key element in the new model is that distribution is in the hands of users. If you really want to make an impact with your investigation then engaging in a passionate community around it will be key.

There’s also a long-term strategy here which is: if you invest time in an investigation which benefits others in the Help Me Investigate community, they are more likely to help you again, and to tip you off to other stories. This is already happening with the site: journalists who pitch in get tips; those who just take, don’t.