Two Warwickshire mansions: the time capsule and the gallery

Charlecote Park and Compton Verney were both built as grand private houses, occupied by their founding families until the 20th century. They are now both open to the public, but offer contrasting visions of Britain.

Originally published on Beacon.

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If you want to monitor local authorities, we’ll ask the locals for you

Local authorities matter. They provide many of the most basic public services: schools, roads, refuse collections and recycling, social services, planning and benefits administration. They are the part of government you would notice first, if they stopped working. In many areas of Britain, a council is the largest employer, and with their elected members, local authorities are arguably the most democratic type of public sector organisation.

But they are tricky to follow. Journalists trying to cover councils nationally suffer from being based mainly in one place, London, from lack of resources and from the sheer number of authorities.

The exceptions are journalists who work for locally-focused publishers. Despite falling advertising and circulation income, it is still local and regional newspapers, broadcasters and online publishers that produce the best coverage of local authorities.

As a result, while it is easy to keep tabs on your own council, if you want to track local authorities nationwide – as a councillor or official keen to learn from your peers, or a supplier seeking new opportunities – you would need to monitor many hundreds of sources.

So let Council News Monitor do the job for you. It’s a new email service, sent first thing every weekday morning, with articles and press releases from councils in all nine English regions, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland – or, as the four nations can safely be called again, the United Kingdom. Continue reading “If you want to monitor local authorities, we’ll ask the locals for you”

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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A rough guide to NHS hospitals

The new Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham

I have been visiting a lot of NHS hospitals recently, as part of research for EHI Intelligence’s forthcoming ‘Routes to EPR’ report. The results of that are due next month, although there are a few tasters in this EHI news article. But I can offer some conclusions – on NHS hospitals as places. Continue reading “A rough guide to NHS hospitals”

The CSU-zy merging, morphing map of NHS commissioning support units

Other maps of the new NHS: clinical commissioning groups (CCGs); local area teams (LATs); specialised commissioning hubs and clinical senates.

Just under a fortnight ago, the NHS Commissioning Board published an updated list of commissioning support units (CSUs) – the organisations that are about to start running ICT and other support functions for the vast majority of clinical commissioning groups.

Map removed as Google Fusion Tables no longer works.

This revealed that six of the old list of 22 had merged into three – requiring some map update work, see above* – although only one merger was highlighted in the announcement, that of West Yorkshire CSU and South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw CSU becoming West and South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw CSU under Alison Hughes. She was already acting as managing director for both, after Ming Tang, who the original MD for South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, took the post of director of data and information management systems with the NHS Commissioning Board. Continue reading “The CSU-zy merging, morphing map of NHS commissioning support units”