Britain and Greater Manchester – both torn apart by Margaret Thatcher?

My latest two articles on Beacon have a theme: things torn apart by Margaret Thatcher.

The first is Britain itself, and obviously that has not happened – yet. But if Scotland votes for independence in September, Mrs Thatcher’s decision to test the poll tax in Scotland first will have played a part. Continue reading

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Charging for journalism: crowdfunding, paywalls, metering and Beacon

This is a guest post for Paul Bradshaw’s Online Journalism Blog. I recently spoke to media students on Birmingham City University, where Paul leads the MA course in online journalism; this post is based on research for that talk.

While in the city I also visited the Library of Birmingham, covered here on Beacon.

The Columbia Review of Journalism recently reported that the Financial Times now has nearly twice as many digital subscribers as print ones, having added 99,000 online customers in 2013.

They pay significant amounts for access: the cheapest online subscription to the FT is £5.19 a week. A free registration process does allow access to 8 articles a month – but try to access a ninth and you have to pay.

The FT was earlier than most to charge online, but many publishers have followed suit. Only a few – such as The Times – lock up everything, but titles including the Telegraph, New York Times and Economist all use metering, allowing non-paying readers access to a limited number of articles before a subscription is required. They have been joined by increasing numbers of trade and local publications.

This isn’t just an option for established titles: as a freelance journalist I write for Beacon, a start-up used by more than 100 journalists in more than 30 countries to publish their reporting. It has “more than several thousand” subscribers after five months’ operation, co-founder Adrian Sanders told the New York Times recently.

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How does the UK Budget compare to the US on military spending?

George Osborne’s fifth Budget has largely been analysed in terms of the chancellor’s changes to pensions and savings, as well as the usual tweaks to taxes. In my weekly article for Beacon, I have done something different. Using figures from the UK Budget and president Barack Obama’s recently-published US budget, I have compared spending per person on five areas: military spending, healthcare, pensions and benefits (or social security), international work (Department of State in the US, the FCO and DfID in the UK) and interest payments.

As the former head of the armed forces Richard Dannatt argues that Russia’s invasion of Crimea shows why Britain should start recruiting soldiers, rather than shrinking the army, my figures on military spending show that the United States plans spends £1,062 on military spending, per person, in its next fiscal year (2015). That’s nearly twice than the £586 planned by George Osborne for Britain.

This section is republished below. The full article is here; you can read it free as part of Beacon’s 14-day free trial.

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Gravity’s sound man from Israel… make that Wheatley in Oxfordshire

One thing you have to love about local newspapers is the way they make things local. Niv Adiri was one of Gravity‘s Oscar winners for his work on the film’s sound. He’s originally from Israel, he works at Pinewood in Buckinghamshire, but as far as the Oxford Times is concerned he’s a Wheatley in Oxfordshire man now. Continue reading

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Bodmin, Padstow and Rock: making good food Cornwall’s bread and butter

Bodmin in Cornwall - Cornish cross on streetMy latest article on Beacon focuses on three towns in nothern Cornwall: Bodmin, Padstow and Rock. Padstow and Rock have become known for their good food and the associated tourism that brings, through restaurants such as Rick Stein’s and Nathan Outlaw’s. Now, Bodmin wants to follow suit.

I wrote about Bodmin just over a year ago for the Guardian; for Beacon I caught up with the councillor who showed me around Bodmin’s Beacon technology park (no relation) and the town’s economic progress. Cornwall Council has decided to build new offices in Bodmin, and BT may use some of the space for its joint-venture with the county’s state sector. Continue reading

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