Monday, 27 March 2017

Sessions for Smith's Wood snappers

THOSE with an eye for a picture are invited to join the Smith’s Wood Photography Group.
Sessions for those 16 and over are held at Auckland Hall on Thursday mornings (10am-12noon).
Paul Gwilliam, who runs the group, said: “Last year we went out just around the local area, but
this year we’re looking to go further afield.”

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Opinion: Local news is turning its back on local people

To mark this week's Local News Matters campaign, organised by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), Other Side of Solihull argues that publishers need to go back to basics if they're going to serve their communities properly...

I reckon there were many journalists across the country who sat up and took notice during a scene in a recent episode of ITV's Broadchurch.
The drama, which examines the impact of harrowing crimes in a small Dorset seaside town, occasionally has other things to say about communities around the UK.
In this particular scene, Maggie, the dogged editor of the Broadchurch Echo, was confronted by a fairly unpleasant woman from head office.
It was obvious to the viewer - even if they're not up-to-speed with the internal politics of the local press -  that we weren't supposed to like her, not least because she was eating her lunch with a fork (never good). She was that annoying mix of strident and smiley, and while we weren't privy to the contents of her LinkedIn page, you can well imagine that she'd describe herself as "a real team player" in the profile.
In the conversation that followed, Maggie complained that her story on a controversial planning development had been killed off in favour of a cuddlier tale about kittens in a bin.
She also grumbled that she had been left to cover the patch single-handed following the departure of her only reporter.
Her complaints were met with the blunt announcement that the publishing company would be shutting the town's branch office and filling the paper with more content from across the region.
"We're redefining 'local news'," sneered the woman on the other side of the table.
Unfortunately this is an approach that companies around the country are taking in real-life.
Now it's fair to say that cuts in local journalism have been going on for a while, with many people losing their jobs and, in the worst cases, papers closing altogether. Over 300 titles have folded in the past decade alone.
But in the last year or two there is an equally worrying trend of assigning the much reduced groups of reporters to stories which, simply put, local papers shouldn't be anywhere near.
The fact is, if you are visiting the website of a paper in York or Grimsby or the Shetland Isles it stands to reason that you want to find out what is happening in your local community.
Why were the police out in the park last night? Has the council given permission to build that new lot of homes? When are the potholes on the main road finally going to get fixed? Questions being asked by communities up and down Britain.
Yes, these events are small against the backdrop of global news, but if the local paper doesn't bother itself to cover them then they won't get an airing elsewhere.
Only this week I heard it argued that the regional press shouldn't be afraid to cover national stories. But if there is little or no connection to the community, what's the point? And when staff are no longer there to cover key council meetings, court cases, election counts and public protests, is it not a bit of an insult to local people to have the few reporters remaining churning out irrelevant tosh.
If people want to read a blow-by-blow live blog of the terrorist attacks on the streets of London, they'll go to The Guardian or BBC (who will be there on the ground and able to do it better.) If residents want to read about why Pier Morgan upset a Z-list celebrity on Good Morning Britain, then they'll pick it up in a glossy magazine or gossip site. If the readers need to know what day Good Friday is this year...well, they'll check the calendar won't they.
ECHOES OF REAL LIFE: The plight of the local rag in
Broadchurch has parallels with a real-life crisis in journalism
The problem is that too many press giants are pushing towards a digital future which is increasingly faceless, cut off from communities and packed high with national news.
This obsession with getting clicks for assorted crap recycled from Mail Online or The Good Pub Guide gives little thought for what the writers are missing on their own doorstep.
Patch reporting as it was - getting out on the streets, making local contacts, sitting in the back of dimly-lit council chambers - is not dead, but it's definitely in a critical condition
Just a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that one of the local papers had written a report on the council's budget - the annual event which decides how millions of pounds of your money will be spent and what services will be cut. This was knocked together entirely from the council's own press release, without a single critical voice or alternative viewpoint. The rival title, as far as I'm aware, didn't cover the story at all... It isn't good enough.
All told, the way papers are going is hard luck for local people who want to be kept informed and great news for councils, crooks and anyone else who doesn't want their bad behaviour splashed across the front page. This may be a bleak assessment, but if reporters are taught anything it's to cut through the froth and tell things as they are. If we won't do it, who will?

Funding boost for domestic violence services

EXTRA money will be pumped into Solihull to help support those who are victims of domestic abuse.
While this is a problem across the borough, previous studies have suggested that there is a disproportionately high number of cases in the north.
In 2014/15, figures collated by Solihull Council showed that more than a third of incidents took place in either Chelmsley Wood or Smith’s Wood.
Support available to sufferers was affected by the closure of the Make a Better Life (MABL) Trust a few years ago.
The charity had been in operation for over a decade and ran a helpline for victims.
Now there is hope of increased help after more than £600,000 was made available for the West Midlands.
Councillor Tony Dicicco, cabinet member for stronger communities and partnerships, said: “Domestic violence is a devastating crime that wrecks lives. Sadly, 10 per cent of recorded crime in the West Midlands is domestic abuse, and these are only the cases we know about.
“We also want to develop timely and dedicated services for target groups. I look forward to seeing the impact this funding will have.”
* Birmingham & Solihull Women’s Aid run outreach sessions in Chelmsley Wood every Tuesday and Friday. Call 07891 492 327 for further details.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Kids run riot for Red Nose Day

GOTCHA - Credit/The CTC
STUDENTS from the CTC Kingshurst Academy have raised more than £2,500 for Comic Relief.
Fundraising activities have been taking place throughout the week, culminating with a series of events to mark Red Nose Day.
Pupils threw themselves with gusto into sponsored jogs, basketball challenges and sessions on the games console.
The Cooks Lane school also played host to a Britain's Got Talent-style competition, which was won by Year 9 student Molly Mayo, and held an auction in which the children could bid for teachers to end up in the gunge tank.
The CTC has a proud tradition of supporting Comic Relief and its efforts were recognised back in 2009, when girl band The Saturdays visited the school to promote the charity single they had recorded for that year's appeal.
You can watch a video of some of the school's activities on YouTube and donate at the official website
This year's telethon gets underway at 7pm this evening, featuring celebrities including Sir Lenny Henry, Emeli Sande, Romesh Ranganathan, Warwick Davis, Jonathan Ross and French & Saunders.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Cleaning up the streets: Vacuum thief is jailed

A BURGLAR has been jailed after being caught on CCTV fleeing a Castle Bromwich property clutching a vacuum cleaner.
Paul Gloster, 24, of Bordesley Green, had been captured on film following a break-in in Windleaves Road on January 30.
He had been carrying the Dyson he had taken from the home and was accompanied by two other men who were also holding items stolen from the address.
The images allowed police to identify Gloster (pictured, right) and earlier this month, at Birmingham Crown Court, he was sentenced to 27 months in prison.
It has been confirmed that another man remains on remand over the Castle Bromwich break-in, awaiting trial on other criminal matters.
The sentencing comes after police have acknowledged that burglary rates are up in parts of the West Midlands, following a period of long-term decline.
Such were fears about the spate of break-ins in Castle Bromwich, scores of residents turned out for a meeting at Arden Hall in January to ask local officers what was being done to tackle the problem.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Meriden MP says "thoughts and prayers" are with terror victims

MERIDEN MP Caroline Spelman has given her condolences to those affected by today's terror attack in Westminster.
It is not immediately known if the former cabinet minister was among the politicians caught up in the lock-down of Parliament, triggered by shocking events earlier this afternoon.
Police chiefs have confirmed that a vehicle was driven into a number of pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before crashing into railings. A man then ran into the grounds of Parliament and fatally stabbed a policeman. He was subsequently shot dead by other officers at the scene.
Two other individuals have been killed and at least 20 were injured - several seriously - in the incident, which happened at around 2.40pm.
In a statement this evening Mrs Spelman said: "Following the tragic incident which took place earlier today in London, I would like to extend my sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives or were injured in this attack.
"I would also like to take this opportunity to commend the hard work and bravery of the emergency services and Parliament's security officers, who work around the clock to protect everyone who works in Parliament, as well as the many thousands of visitors to Westminster each year."

First anniversary of motorcyclist's death

FRESH tributes have been placed by the side of the Collector Road a year on from the death of a local motorcyclist.
Christopher Clarke was killed when his bike collided with a car on March 20 last year.
A subsequent inquest concluded that the 32-year-old had been travelling in excess of 100mph when he hit a Toyota Yaris near the junction with Auckland Drive. He suffered catastrophic injuries in the incident and his bike was said to have "disintegrated" on impact.
Mr James Bennett, Assistant Coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, recorded a verdict of death by road traffic collision.
Twelve months on, new memorials have been left on the verge by wellwishers. But local residents have also voiced concerns that high-speed motorbike "meets" are taking place along the dual carriageway, with fears that a similar incident may happen along the same stretch of road.