My favourite newspaper – weekly and hyperlocal


I know this is odd but my mother and I share an unspoken bond over a newspaper. Well, unspoken till now I guess. But in all the talk of hyperlocal news on the web and the local paper here in Birmingham going from daily to weekly I thought I’d explain why the Connacht Tribune is the greatest newspaper in the world.

The Tribune is a regional broadsheet covering the county of Galway in the west of Ireland. Because it has a sister paper covering the city of Galway (the City Tribune News) it’s free to focus on rural issues and covers news from all areas of Galway, including the region that my mother is from (North East Galway). I say ‘news’ but more often, once it gets down to these smaller, more sleepy areas, it focuses on cultural, social and farming stuff. So the price of sheep in the local market sits alongside the names of the winners of the local card game tournament. Its sports coverage of Gaelic games is incredibly comprehensive as well, right down to schools level.


Its coverage of deal people is second to none. Death announcement and death anniversaries take up several pages. Such things are a real feature of local newspapers in Ireland, perhaps the one income stream that’s remained steady in the face of the advertising downturn.

Overall it has a depth of coverage that would be the envy of other local newspapers. Its quite a read, as weeklies should be. And in communities where access to the web is problematic the paper version is vital for well, knowing how expensive sheep are. But for me and Mom it has a deeper resonance. For her it connects her to the area she left nearly 50 years ago and for me it connects me to her, to the place that shaped her early experiences and a place that I spent every summer holiday from the early 70s till the late 80s.

The problem at the moment is actually finding a copy in the UK. It used to be the case that finding a wide selection of regional Irish newspapers was easy, many local newsagents in specific neighbourhoods stocked them as a matter of course. Or at least they would order them in. But whatever supply chain was operating in Birmingham seems to have ground to a halt as far as the Tribune is concerned. It just seems to have dissapeared from the shelves.

But its scarcity is, if anything, making it more important to us. That we can’t get a joint fix of it until one of us goes to Ireland to get a bundle of back copies has if anything made it clear how much we value it.

Like nearly all newspapers, its website is of course rubbish, but who cares. This is hyperlocal as I understand it, something that I’ve yet to see the web replicate and kind of hope it doesn’t any day soon.

My Dad is definitely not on Twitter

About a year ago I was talking to some work colleagues about an event that was taking place about social media. “It’ll be full of the usual suspects,” I said. “But Dave,” they responded, “you are a usual suspect.”

I suspect that’s how I’m viewed – a usual suspect. Truth is I don’t actually attend that many events. Birmingham Social Media Cafe maybe from time to time but little else. In the last few weeks though I’m aware that I seem to be all over the place. I pitched up at West by West Midlands 2, I chaired a debate about cinema exhibition and most recently I’ve been explaining why my poor dead Dad (30 years gone this year) isn’t on twitter.

You can read elsewhere about the mindmap idea behind the event ‘My Dad’s on Twitter but he doesn’t know why’ at Fazeley Studios in Digbeth. I think I gave a rather dour speech about how Twitter seems to come with a whole set of unwritten rules that puts newcomers off and can be intimidating for organisations. Tolerance towards people’s mistakes was my request. Some useful points were made from the audience. One of them took me to task about my argument that digital doesn’t archive as well as analogue. Digital captures conversation, was his response and what a rich seam to mine that would prove to future historians.

The second half of my talk touched on the Internet of Things. No-one really picked up on this despite my fab example of GusandPenny, the tweeting cat flap. My argument here is simple. Once Twitter gets filled up with objects, rather than people, we’ll realise how dull we are in comparison and how our unwritten rules were naive at best. A Twitter of Things is coming I declared – I’m not sure anyone believed me.

An enjoyable evening overall, some sharp questions from an engaged audience and some drawing to boot.

Fazeley Studios Digital Festival continues throughout next week.

People Power/Media Power

Well today was a bit of a frenzy. The Act on CO2 People Power campaign was launched and I found myself being wheeled in front of the media for most of the day.

It started gently with an interview down the phone with Radio WM’s Phil Upton. He even left a comment on my Facebook wall afterwards – nice touch.
act on co2 shoot

Then at 10.30am a government minister turned up. Along with her press assistant, three people from the PR company, two people from the Energy Savings Trust (one in a lovely white lab coat) and a photographer. Phew – it was busy.


Then the BBC arrived at 4.30pm and spent about an hour and a half shooting a sequence that may appear on your TV sometime in December or January. I got the idea that this was a story that gets slotted into the news agenda when other stuff doesn’t crowd it out. This time there were two Beeb people, the same three PR people (who helped with mine and the kids’ tea – ta) and one of the energy saving guys. This involved an interview and plenty of shots of the family using energy. You can see that in the picture above – there’s the youngest watching telly, let’s hope she doesn’t leave it on standby after she’s finished. As an aside, if the kitchen scenes ever make it to air then the kids aren’t usually fed pizza and Maltesers. It was what I had to hand to keep them quiet as the camera rolled.

Overall a busy but quite enjoyable day. Now I have to get on with the actual campaign thing itself which involves keeping a diary of my energy use. More on that as it progresses. Some nice playing with the Current Cost device in the meantime as well (which impressed the PR & energy people). Got some graphs going on (and better ones to follow):

My long lost family

Here’s some audio from my archive. I studied radio at university and for my final year piece we were required to do a classic 27 minute Radio 4 style documentary. That’s quite an intimidating length for an undergraduate who’s longest radio package to date had been about 5 mins. I recorded the bulk of mine over a few days in Ireland in Easter 1996. I’ll outline what my idea was briefly and then let you listen to the results for yourself. 

My long lost family
My Dad was born out of wedlock in 1930s Ireland. He was brought up in the country by a foster family and never knew who his mother or father was. My Dad died in 1979 and we often wondered if we would ever find out for ourselves about his origins. So this documentary involves me going to Ireland to see what I can find. My intention was to make some kind of soul-searching ‘finding myself’ piece. A road movie on the radio is what I had in mind and in fact the finished piece isn’t far from that. However I did find out far more than I anticipated – take a listen. 

Feel free to download and repost as you like.