Tag Archives: Journalism

Interview: David Cameron

In the run up to May 7th Lincolnshire had it’s fair share of visits from major politicians to sway people’s opinions. Inevitably the Prime Minister came to the county to bolster support for his prospective parliamentary candidates.

He used Lincoln, the home of one of the few remaining copies of the Magna Carta, to launch his English manifesto. The electoral promise would be an answer to the problem of Scottish politicians being able to vote on the rules that govern English people, but English politicians not having a say on some Scottish laws.


I got the chance to meet David Cameron when he came to Lincoln’s Assembly Rooms for Lincs FM. It was interesting to see an important speech, the election campaign up close and how everyone interacted with the head of state. It was also great to get the chance to quiz the Prime Minister on issues that are important to our listeners.

Here’s the package that went out on the radio station about the visit.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Writing for online

Earlier this year I presented a lecture about ‘Writing for online’ at the University of Lincoln. This is the next step on from ‘Tips for blogging and tweeting’ and looks more specifically at how websites for newspapers and magazines work.

Design is important to consider for newspaper and magazine layout, and the same applies to their websites. It’s a useful tool to attract readers, demonstrate that you are a trustworthy source of information and get people picking up your publication or visiting your title again.


Print publications have a front page whereas online you have a homepage. They both act as a welcome page to your publication and should encourage people to read on as well as demonstrating the main points of your brand. All that means is when people look at it they should understand who you are writing for and what you are writing about.


Online homepages used to be the first page people would visit, but more readers are now coming in through the side door. This means more people are discovering articles through Google searches or social media. As a result every page now has to act as a homepage to attract readers and keep them interested.

Homepages are also important for advertising as it gives them something polished to show what your title is about, even if the rest of the website isn’t as organised. One good example of this is The Huffington Post. They use a tactic called ‘the mullet strategy‘ which means they are an established name because they cover serious stories but most people visit them for their lighter, viral stories. It’s called ‘the mullet strategy’ because they are “business upfront, party in the back”.

What makes a good website?

A good website needs to be easy to read and use. This means you need to figure out what you want to showcase to readers and what you think is important for them to see. Then consider the best way to show that to them. Also consider ways to share content as that can help get your articles and website read by more people.

It also helps to understand the technical side of running a website. If your website is appearing broken then you will know how to fix it rather than wait for someone else to fix it and lose visitors. It also means you can be prepared, as your intention is to get more people looking at your website then you will know how you to cope when there is a large amount of traffic visiting your site.

A site for sore eyes

It is hard to keep people’s attention online as there is so much to compete with. There will be some people who will read articles properly from beginning to end and others who will just scan read pieces. So think of ways to make your site appeal to a variety of people with some simple design and journalism skills.

The easiest way is to make sure your content is interesting is to write good articles. Write well, get good interviews and make sure you tell it in the best way.

There are a few other tips as well including using sub headings breaks up long articles into simple chunks. It will also allow people to scan your article and find the bit that they want to read. Think about using pictures, video, audio and depending on your audience maybe gifs or structure the story as a list.

However, don’t feel pressured to use them all at once think which skills help to tell your story best and concentrate on them. Just because people have clicked on your story doesn’t mean they will watch a video too, unless you give them a reason.

There’s also plenty of room for experimentation online. Snowfall by the New York Times was one of the first interactive features which told the story of a US avalanche with lots of different visuals, videos and text and all the reader had to do was scroll down the website. The piece won a a Pullitzer prize but some see the New York Times’ work as a bit over the top so it depends what you are wanting to tell people.

There’s also the option to be quite simple online, as demonstrated by Trinity Mirror’s UsVsTh3m. It’s an interesting site and idea anyway but they wanted to focus on visual rather than articles. So when the Mars Rover accidentally drew a penis shape on the planet UsVsTh3m could just post a picture when other news sources were writing 200 words about the event and padding it out with irrelevant details.

Mobile websites

mobile websites and apps

A mobile website is a scaled down version of the normal website that works best on a smartphone. These type of sites are very important as a number of readers are getting their news first. In fact in the UK one in five read the news only on their mobile according to a survey from September 2013.

Some sites could have a mobile app as well, but they need to be different from the mobile site. Generally people would already be loyal readers of the website and decide to download the app as well. They include features you don’t get on the mobile website for example the BBC News app sends out alerts for breaking news and the Guardian app allows you to customise which categories you would prefer to read.


SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and it helps more people to find your website. There are a lot of SEO techniques that are a lot of hard work and not particularly worth it. However, there are a few tips that you should pay attention to when writing online and will get you noticed:

  • Tagging
  • Strong headlines
  • Useful links
  • Good stories
  • Regularly update your site

News is different nowadays

You need to be able to write your story in a variety of ways. There’s the article but also consider tweets and Facebook updates. When it comes to social media you need to be able to tell your whole story in about a sentence. And how would you approach a video or just an audio interview? If you are going to do them think about how you would do them well.

There’s also more sources of information to compete with — social media accounts and communities, blogs, hyperlocal websites, radio stations and TV channels. They will all have a different approach but they will have a competing online profile.

This is a summary of the full lecture, if you would like to find out more all the slides are below.

Tips for blogging and tweeting

I recently delivered a lecture to first year journalism students at the University of Lincoln. Here’s a round-up of what I told the students.

Blogging recently celebrated it’s 20th birthday, and in the passing two decades it has become a huge part of the internet. In that time blogs have evolved from online diaries to also include journalism, fanclubs, pretty much anything you can think of. It’s easy to start too — just head to WordPress, Blogger or Tumblr and start finding out for yourself.

It isn’t helpful that blogging and social media are essentially platforms open to be used in any way and by anyone, it becomes a bit daunting. However, there are plenty of great parts about blogging it allows you to practice writing and playing with online tools without any pressure. The hard work you put into your blog can then be used to help you get some work experience or a job.

What should I blog about?

When it comes to writing a blog think about what interests you and how you would like to approach that topic. Avoid rewriting what other people have already reported and think about what you can add to a story that someone else has already told. This could include personal stories, people you can interview or looking at the story from a local perspective.

Don’t try to write about something which you know other people are already covering and are capable of doing it better than you. For instance if you are interested in football then BBC Sport and Sky Sports will already be covering the general news and have a lot more resources than a single blogger will have access to. This doesn’t mean you need to dismiss talking about this subject completely just think what you can bring to it. That might be looking at football on a local level or writing about a specific part of the sport.

A knowledge of law will help you too — mainly as a precaution. You might one day publish something that someone disagrees with so make sure you know about libel and defamation. If you would like to know more information McNae’s essential law for journalists is a really helpful guide. Copyright is an important issue too — make sure you don’t use someone else’s words or pictures without permission. If people are happy for their photographs to be used then they will be called creative commons.

Writing for online

In comparison to newspapers and magazine blogging gives you a great amount of freedom — you can write articles as long or as short as you like, use pictures, videos, audio and design a page to look however you like.

There are plenty of resources online to help, there are tools within blogging platforms that help to embed photos and videos. Other options consist of Flickr, embedding YouTube videos or SoundCloud uploads, or even embedding tweets and Facebook posts. You can also link to other websites to back up your research, and open up your blog to the rest of internet.

There are simple ways to design what your posts look like using different fonts or sub headings. There are some more technical ways to change the way your posts look and for those you would need to learn some code. There are plenty of tools to help you online, a good way to understand code and what it does is Code Academy.

Although you can use all these techniques think about which of these would be the best way to tell your story. You can write a blog which consists of thousands of words but other people might not be interested to read it all. Don’t distract from telling your story. Spelling is also really important, read some style guides if you are struggling.

Accuracy online

Working in a newsroom means you have more time and training to be able to fact check stories, in comparison blogs are usually run by one person but that doesn’t excuse you from writing accurately. People won’t want to read your blog if they know your reporting isn’t accurate or truthful, and it won’t help to showcase your writing skills either.

Reporters also aren’t helped by the fact that there’s lots of ways for people online to start false rumours with spoof Twitter accounts and photoshopped images. There’s some great examples of this on the blog Is Twitter Wrong?

A helpful guide is the Verification Handbook with contributions from BBC, ABC, Storyful and other verification experts and it details ways to make sure the information you find on social media is true.

The basics though are check if a Twitter account looks reliable, things to check include:

  • Do they tweet regularly?
  • Are they an expert in what they are tweeting about?
  • Is it a spoof account?

Also work on the idea that something is only true if you have two reliable sources.

What about Twitter?

Twitter is similar to blogging but you only have a 140 characters to say it. Twitter works by you following other people and creating your own newsfeed, and if other people enjoy what you tweet about others will follow you and also retweet you.

Some people have very strict rules about how to tweet (a regular one is don’t tweet about what you’ve had for lunch) but in general write about things you find interesting. You can share articles you like, write about your opinions on news or exciting things you are doing.

Twitter is a good resource to find out what’s happening by searching what other people are saying on the site. Hashtags are a good way to follow what’s happening and events or certain news stories will have their own.

For more information Twitter has a detailed section of their website explaining the basics and best practises.

Just start

The best way to understand blogs and Twitter is to just start doing it. Your first posts might not be perfect and it might take time to develop readers and followers on Twitter but take it as an opportunity to perfect and to experiment. And remember to enjoy it.

Best of Food for Thought

If you’ve never listened to Food for Thought before then this ‘best of’ episode is a great place to start. I like to interview the people running Lincoln’s cafes and restaurants so I get to learn about the amazing food that you can find in Lincolnshire as well as hear people’s interesting stories.

This week’s show is snippets of interviews from the past few weeks, including the Angel Coffee House, Baked by Eileen and The Little Espresso Company.

Listen to this week’s show here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

The places featured on this best of are:

Little Espresso Company

The Little Espresso Shop on Silver Street in Lincoln. | Photo: Charlotte Reid

The Little Espresso Company is the smallest coffee shop in Lincoln, and possibly in the country. Remember though, good things come in small packages. Adam Lowiss, who owns and runs the Little Espresso Company, opened the shop because he wanted to have his own space to share great tasting coffee with others.

He’s also just started a coffee delivery service. During the day if you’re unable to escape the office for lunch he will bring the Little Espresso Company to your desk at work. And you get to order online. Find out more about the new delivery service here.

Angel Coffee House

We’ve had the smallest and now to the prettiest, the Angel Coffee House. It’s an independent cafe based in the old vestry hall for St Swithins Church.

The new owner CJ used to work at the Angel with the previous owner so she knows what the customers want. At the same time she has a few plans of how to put her personality into the place as well.

You can listen to the full original interview here.

Revival Lincolnshire

Revival Lincolnshire is a community cafe, run by the local community, for the local community. Revival is a pop-up store on Sincil Street and offers workshops, a health and wellbeing centre and a craft cafe.

I met up with Angela Porter, who leads the Revival Lincolnshire project, to talk about the importance of supporting Lincolnshire and the people who live in the county.

Revival Lincolnshire | Photo: Charlotte Reid

Baked by Eileen

Eileen Robertson makes all her cakes in her kitchen at home using local and seasonal produce. Eileen mostly sells her cakes at the Castle Sqaure Market in Lincoln, but some of her cakes are also stocked in cafes around the city too.

Baked by Eileen is a relatively new venture for Eileen. She’s surprised by how successful her business is when it started as a simple idea a couple of years ago. Find out more about Baked by Eileen here.

Next time

On next week’s show I find out more about how we can stop wasting our food and and I’ll be explaining what is cultured beef.

New Year, new projects

Looking towards 2012 I am thinking about new projects I want to start to keep me amused throughout the year. And with that I mean take up New Year resolutions that have a journalism theme to them.

I do, for the moment, have a job that is based in journalism, but these new projects would be extracurricular and a chance to try out some new things too.

My first resolution is to keep a One A Day blog. I did it last year with photos and hosted it on Tumblr. I lasted until October when a number of things happened in one month and keeping it up to date slipped out of my mind. But I enjoyed it and it has made me take more photos, and some of those are even in focus.

This year I am planning on being more ambitious and I am going to do something different each day. One day a blog, another day will be posting a photo and so on for the whole week until it comes back full circle for the start of a new week. So this will make me be creative, do something different and it will all be for fun. Hopefully a few friends will join in as well.

Last year I used Tumblr, which was great and is a nice little blogging tool but I should have made separate accounts because my oneaday photos got confused with me reblogging silly pictures from the internet. So this year I am using Blogger, here is the currently empty site. I am already regretting that decision because it took an hour to figure out how to customise it and not use one of their horrible preset themes. But I have about five WordPress sites already and by using Blogger I can get to grips with another blogging site.

Secondly I have a little television review site called TV Talk, that I set up with a friend. It is a site used to review television programmes and in 2012 I would like to focus a bit more on it.

We get a regular group of readers each week, nothing spectacular, but I want to write for it regularly and be able to show it off as something to be proud of.

And lastly, I want to find a use for this website. It was set up as a way to get my CV and work online and this year I finally got it to a stage I like. But the posts are random rants and interviews that I am proud of and I want it to become some sort of professional blog, but I have a whole year to think what I can do with this place.

So fingers crossed this is what will happen in 2012. I have written it down now which means it is a bit more permanent than just a thought, nevertheless wish me luck.