Wednesday, 30 July 2008


It seems I've moved again - from now on, you can find me here.

Monday, 28 July 2008


Well I almost managed to go a fortnight without thinking about Croydon before blowing it right at the last minute.

Flicking through a dog-eared copy of the Sunday People in a Spanish airport in the early hours of this morning I came across a spread headlined 'The town where even the police get beaten up' and suddenly I was right back in Advertiser House. You can read it for yourself here.

It was quite interesting coming to this type of story completely fresh, and I have to say it didn't make Croydon sound like the kind of place I'd like to go shopping, and I shudder to think how these continual incidents will impact on the local economy.

(Incidentally, some of you may recognise the name of the report's author. Josh Layton worked at the Advertiser where he was named Press Gazette reporter of the year after a series of gang-related articles.)

That aside, I'm not really back into the swing of things yet, and haven't finished wading through my email backlog which I suspect will take me the rest of the afternoon.

Thursday, 10 July 2008


The news that Edenham High head Jacey Downes has been suspended took me by surprise.

I don't know her personally, but the newsdesk have always been impressed with the way she would come out fighting whenever her school was in the headlines for the wrong reasons rather than hiding behind a 'no comment'.

Ironically, it's a 'lack of communication' that's been cited as one of the reasons for the school governors' move, so make of that what you will.

I guess I should point out that the governing body insists Mrs Downes has not been suspended, but that her absence is the result of an 'arrangement'.

I have absolutely no idea what that is supposed to mean, but what is indisuputable is Mrs Downes' deputy is currently running the show.

As well as the Edenham story, we're continuing to give extensive coverage to the ongoing schools review.

The Advertiser's stance on the overhaul hasn't changed since the start. Some of our schools clearly need a lot of attention, and you can't fix things by tinkering around the edges so brave decisions are needed.

Whether the detail of the proposals is correct isn't for us to say - that's an issue for parents, councillors and education experts to debate. Our role is simply to provide a forum for all points of view.

This week the attention seems to have shifted from the detail of the proposals to the non-appearance of Maria Gatland and Mike Fisher at recent public meetings.

It's a tricky call - if they do turn up, the meetings could easily descend into a slanging match and do more harm than good.

On the other hand, if you are in a position of responsibility you have to be prepared to front these things out sometimes - I have to go to the occasional council and police meetings in the full knowledge I'm just going to be moaned at for an hour. You take it on the chin and carry on.

Elsewhere in this week's paper, I think Aline has done a fantastic job interviewing teenage killer Adam Eastmond.

Eastmond stabbed Gavin Brown to death at the age of just 15, and is back on the streets just 16 months after being jailed for manslaughter.

I finished reading the article with mixed feelings. It will never seem right that you can take somebody's life and then walk free in less than two years.

But if you want to know why teenagers are carrying knives, this is about as clear an insight as you are going to get - even though it doesn't paint a very optimistic picture for the future.

Finally, this may well be my last blog entry for a couple of weeks as I'm going somewhere where the default weather setting isn't grey and drizzly. By the time I come back our website will look completely different and we'll hopefully have recruited a couple of new reporters.

In the meantime, news editor Jo Wadsworth has started her own blog - you can read it here.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Pigeons and poetry

Many thanks to the reader who reminded me that Mr Mappin (see below) is the same man who set up a series of 'good news only' papers a while ago.

I don't think they're still going, but you can read about them here.

Many thanks to the other reader who made an equally valid comment on the same topic, although I hope you understand why I've decided it's probably best not to publish it for now.

Right, back to Croydon and our reporter Aline Nassif poetically claimed that 'stories were falling on her like pigeon droppings' this week.

She's right as well.

One story in particular, which is currently causing a few legal shenanigans, will make a very striking front page, even if some people are trying to block its publication.

It's shaping up to be another strong paper all round, with another two or three stories easily strong enough to be the front page lead in any other week.

Oh, and work continues apace on the new Croydon site - I think I'll post the temporary address later this week so you can have a sneak preview.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008


For some time now I've had the misfortune to be on the mailing list of a gentleman called John Mappin, who owns a hotel and restaurant called Camelot Castle in Cornwall.

I'm not really sure what he's all about, although I think there's a Scientology link somewhere along the line.

His castle isn't just a castle, apparently - it's also a 'luck machine' and he's written a frankly mind-boggling 'Magic Poem' on his website to prove the point. You can see it here if you really have nothing better to do.

Anyhow, I normally delete his unwanted emails with a quick tut and shake of the head, but his latest offering - which he kindly sent me many copies of - caught my eye because it claims newspapers can give you cancer.

Over to Mr Mappin to explain further:

"It is not provable yet, but there is considerable evidence that there is a direct link between over exposure to the negative news in the media and the precipitation of illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, arthritis and many more common psychosomatic illnesses that today cause a considerable burden on individuals lives and society."

Well that's just great. It's one thing when I get the usual old comments about how we increase fear of crime, but it's quite another to be accused of spreading terminal diseases.

Truth be told I'm not sure why I'm giving him the publicity apart from the need to take a break for building our new website, which is certainly responsible for giving me a banging headache.


I'm spending way too much time this week doing some of the donkey work involved in setting up our new website.

There's no two ways about it - it's really, really boring. However, the alternatve would be to launch without any content on the site which isn't ideal.

I've been reassured by the news one of our reporters has already pulled in a sensational-sounding story for this week's paper, so I'll be keeping my head down for now.

Friday, 4 July 2008

I should write something about the teenage murder in Thornton Heath, but what can I really say?

It's a thoroughly depressing sign of the times. It's not just a problem for Croydon, it's a problem across the whole of London and it only seems to be getting worse.

The stabbing missed our print deadline, meaning we've had a very busy morning online instead.

I'm going to take a break from that now though to start wading through the CVs as we look for Lizzie Smith's replacement.

A couple of them are going straight in the bin. One is addressed 'to whom it may concern', which is just lazy, whilst another one manages to spell Croydon two different ways - both wrong - in two paragraphs. Aside from that though, it's a good field to choose from.