Thursday, 29 July 2010

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Online journalism in Salford

This is my day job - News Editor at, a community news website based in Salford, Greater Manchester.

There are many, many interesting things that go on as part of this position - especially since it's a field in which there a NO experts. A lot of the things we do are made up on the hoof, as there's really no precedent.

For example - workflow. If you're a camera professional, you're probably working with a big, expensive, over the shoulder camera, with XLR connections, lights, separate audio recording, recording to DV tape, which you then stick on your computer by firewire.

Far too old skool for online journalism.

We shoot with very light, very flexible, very easy to use consumer-level equipment, with a minimum of extras. A SalfordOnline reporter must be a lighting cameraman, interviewer, reporter, video editor, actor, writer, presenter and journalist all in one. This is, in my opinion, the only way to make the online news model work.

Fuck all that "composing your shots" shit. I want you to get in there, do your interviews, take your cutaways shots and fuck off out of there back to the office, and have your piece edited and uploaded within the hour. Sound impossible? It's not. This Christmas lights story was shot in about half an hour, edited in about 20 minutes and online 10 minutes after that:

You have to be on Twitter as well. And aggressively market everything you do, everywhere you can. Social media is free, for fuck's sake!

Sorry about the swearing. But all journalists do that, I'm told.

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Wednesday, 29 April 2009

A modest aim: to be the most famous Tom Rodgers in the UK

It's a modest proposal - not to be famous, just to become the most well-recognised Tom Rodgers in the country. Unfortunately there are some already well-known TR's who are blocking the light, including a tree surgeon from Newcastle, a lawyer from Sheffield and a poor lad, a downhill biker who died recently.

Maybe I just need to work on my SEO.

On Google, A video interview with producer Chris Brophy (great bloke) is my top hit, but even that's on the third page. Any suggestions?

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Sunday, 15 February 2009

Idea for a Suicide prevention campaign

Advertising idea of the week: suicide prevention.

What do these three people have in common?

a) Sigmund Freud (psychoanalyst)

b) Justin Fashanu (footballer)

c) Chris Benoit (wrestler)

Give up?

So did they.

Suicide. It's not the answer.

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Monday, 2 February 2009

Tom Becker at the Salford Book Awards -Jan 2009

1.If you could dedicate this nomination to anyone, who would it be?

Well, Darkside is dedicated to my family, so it seems only fair that they also get the dedication for this nomination.

2. How old were you when you wrote your first story, and what was it about?

Hazarding a guess, probably about 5 or 6. I haven’t the foggiest idea what it would have been about – possibly something to do with the Wombles. Don’t ask me why.

3. Did you have an inspirational teacher at school who got you into writing? If so, tell us about him/her.

I was lucky enough to have some great teachers at school, but for me writing was always a personal thing. It was perhaps the one thing I didn’t need encouragement to do.

4. What's the worst job you ever had, growing up?

As a phenomenally lazy kid (and a pretty lazy adult), I’ve managed to avoid getting too many jobs. Having said that, working on a farm shop when I was 15 wasn’t great. I remember spending one Christmas Eve standing on the back of a truck chopping up sprout sticks. In the rain.

5. Who are your biggest non-literary influences (musicians, philosophers, artists)?

I’ve always listened to a lot of music. Sometimes when I’m struggling to write, I turn up the volume on my CD player and try to blast ideas into my head. Even if it doesn’t work, it’s worth it. My favourite band is – and will always be – an American group called Rocket from the Crypt.

6. Did the Darkside series spring up, complete, or did they start life as shorter stories?

Once I’d had the initial idea for Darkside, things came together pretty quickly. The first time I sketched anything out, the characters of Jonathan, Carnegie, Raquella and Vendetta were all there, which was a massive help. That’s not to say that there weren’t a host of false steps and wrong turnings before I finished the first book, but then that’s a perverse part of the fun.

7. What is it about Victorian England that attracts you as a writer?

I just think the period provides you with so many narrative opportunities. Victorian London was a sprawling megalopolis of a city, which boasted vast wealth and crippling poverty almost side-by-side. You can go from one extreme to the other in a matter of streets. And of course there’s also the seedy underbelly of crime, typified by the figure of Jack the Ripper, who is an essential part of Darkside.

8. Do you ever find yourself slipping in and out of your characters when you're not writing? i.e. do your characters spill over into everyday life?

Given some of the characters in my books, I think it’s probably best they stay in my head…

9. Kids that like to read a lot and sleep late and have their head in the clouds - can they be a success too? Do you think it's important for kids to daydream?

I struggle to get up before midday, so I hope so! I think everyone needs space to daydream now and again, no matter what they want to do with their life. For me, imagination is just like any other muscle – if you don’t exercise it, it’ll waste away.

10. Is novel-writing a great job? Or can it get boring and tedious like any other profession?

You spend enough time doing anything, it can have its less inspiring moments. When I’m stuck for ideas I can get pretty moody and frustrated. But when the writing’s going well, I can lose myself completely, and it brings me a sense of happy satisfaction that I wouldn’t swap for the world.

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Thursday, 20 November 2008

As Salford heads for redundancies, Manchester increases wages

Reporter: Tom Rodgers

News has emerged today that Manchester City Council is increasing its baseline rate of pay to £1 per hour ABOVE the minimum wage, putting more than 900 of the lowest-paid workers at a higher salary. The minimum wage at present is £5.73, and Manchester council have voted to make the minimum hourly pay £6.74. This means that in an average month of 40 hours per week, workers can expect an extra £160 a month before tax.

Across the river, our own council has offered voluntary redundancy to all 11,300 of its workers, following a £15 million budget deficit. A report commissioned by the council by accountants KPMG noted that 279 jobs could go in order to save £20 million for Salford as part of their 'Think! Efficiency' project.

And amid all this fuss, Council members voted 31-20 in favour of the move to increase spending on their freesheet magazine LIFE in Salford by £120,000, despite strong opposition from its own scrutiny committee, a resignation from Cllr Steve Cooke from the editorial board, and resistance from Salford Star owner Stephen Kingston, who feels that his magazine is in direct competition with the Council's own.

Cllr John Merry said in response: "By increasing the frequency from six times a year to once a month and by adding more pages, the aim is to make it an even better way of keeping householders in touch with their council.

“While it will cost more to do this, I have set the magazine a revenue target for advertising each month to help offset this increase. In addition, we can advertise in Life ourselves, saving us the cost of advertising elsewhere or in producing some leaflets."

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Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Over 11,000 Jobs on the line for Salford Council

All 11,300 of Salford city council's workers have been offered the chance to take voluntary redundancy in response to today's news that the council is running at a £15 million deficit.

The news broke as Salford was forced to undertake a review of how much it pays its staff. Conservative opposition to the Labour council leaders have spoken out in the past about the number of staff employed being far too high, but were apparently ignored.

Iain Lindley, Conservative councillor for Walkden said:
"The Conservatives have repeatedly asked the Council to cut down on waste and provide value-for-money for local residents but Labour have continued on their spending splurge."

He added: "We warned the Council about the dangers of taking money from their precious reserves in order to cover budget deficits in previous years. These reserves are now at the minimum allowed level and there is no money in the bank to cover the current deficit."

All Councils have been required to implement a Pay and Grading Review in order to bring equality to the pay packets earned by men and women in the Council; recently both Bury and Stockport councils have attended to the changes.

In Salford, this measure has forced cuts in pay of between £50 and £4000 for nearly 900 workers, which is still only around 10%. The rest of Salford Council's staff will either remain on the same grade or their wages will actually increase.

A similar 'voluntary redundancy' scheme was announced by Trafford Council in 2003 after it emerged that the borough had overspent by £8m. However, staff numbers at the Manchester council have increased, not decreased since then.

It is unclear at this time whether Councillor John Merry will take voluntarily redundancy, or take a pay cut, in line with the proposals.

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Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Best Blogs in Manchester

Praise can be few and far between as a blog writer. So it's with a big smile on my face I announce that it's official.

New To Manchester is in the Top 5 Blogs in Manchester, according to

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Monday, 25 August 2008

How to solve problems like a real person

If you're a normal person, you will fuck up in your job occasionally.

Management texts and office politics should take human fallibility into account, but they don't, so here's a great, simple guide to probelm-solving.

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Thursday, 14 August 2008

Earn money from freelance journalism!

You may be suprised to read (if you don't come here very often) that journalism is among the worst-paid of all professions in the UK.

So here's a few ways to get the rent cheque sorted if you're a struggling journo/writer. All it takes is your talent, a few envelopes and a couple of stamps.*

Paul Foot Award
Deadline: 1 September 2008
Categories: Investigative journalism, published in print or online 1 Sept 07 - 31 Aug 08
Prize: 1st (£5000), Runners up (£1000)
Sponsors include: The Guardian, Private Eye

Rory Peck Awards

Deadline: 2 September 2008
Categories: News; Features; Impact by freelance camera operators in TV news and current affairs.
Sponsor: Sony UK

Eloquium COPD Award

Deadline: 21 September 2008 Categories: Consumer; Medical; Broadcast
Sponsor: Boehringer Ingelheim

Plain English Campaign Awards
Deadline: 30 September 2008
Categories: National paper; Regional paper; TV programme

*contacts are still everything, sadly. You may have a greater chance of winning the Paul Foot Award if your dad can pass your work onto Ian Hislop's desk, for example.

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