Birmingham, B29

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Weoley Castle - local news

posted by pindec
After our walk around B29 included Weoley Castle, and finding a very negative view of Weoley on chavtowns, I wondered what view the outside world gets of the area from various news sources. This would also show how good news organisations are at providing very local news. appears to be thinking along the right lines by creating a "weoley castle" tag and associated RSS feed. However, it doesn't actually work - zero points for zero results for the tag (and note a related tag is "knife crime"):
weoley castle tag: no resultsThe site does actually contain several (mis-tagged?) Weoley Castle stories. At the time of writing, the top 5 are - two anti-social behaviour stories from March 09 (the same family - evictions and imprisonment), an improved school (March 09), a charity worker meeting a Royal (May 09) and a stabbing (from 2008). Not all bad, but not a great vision of community harmony, not updated very often, not helped by technology failure (it would also be helpful if they sorted out their favicon). doesn't even pretend to have helpful tags. You also can't order the search results - and unlike BirminghamMail, they don't seem to be ordered by date descending. Actually, the ordering of results isn't stated, so I'm assuming it's based on relevance. So, the search results on a news site don't appear in date order, most recent first? Awesome ... . Here, the top 5 search results are:
  1. controversy over changing a failing schools into an academy (Jun 08)
  2. a business success story for an IT Weoley Castle firm (July 08)
  3. a mention in passing of "hardcore white working-class kids" in a music culture piece (Jun 09)
  4. the Council disputing a school's absence records in Weoley Castle - 2nd worst in country (Dec 07)
  5. a mention of the Weoley Castle Plainsong Ensemble (Feb 09)
So two of these stories are just passing mentions of Weoley Castle, not news from it. Hmm. Also, given that and are run by the same company, it seems strange that only one has implemented tagging (albeit incorrectly), and that searches aren't orderable, the default order being unclear, and there's no way to filter stuff based on whether it's actually news (as opposed to comment/culture/brief mentions). No wonder people are talking about the "death of local news journalism" - if you can't even find stories relevant to you, it's not overly surprising that people won't use the news sources. The group also owns the Sunday Mercury - no results. (*disclaimer* I don't read any of these papers, so I don't understand what the difference between them is supposed to be.)

weoley castle ruins
The parent company also owns icbirmingham, with a similarly crap search. Their top 5 items are: a list of schools for no apparent reason (no date); the same anti-social family (from 2002! both a very old story and a long time for the same family to be causing Weoley Castle trouble); an expats forum; an incidental mention in a piece about an old folk's day centre in Northfield closing (Nov 04); and the same row about absence figures at a Weoley Castle school (Dec 07). However, the group has been making moves towards community sites based around postcodes and local governance reporting so perhaps they might cover Weoley in the future ...

How about the dear old Beeb then? They've got nicely configurable search results (by date, relevance and category), but not a lot of WC news with only one story this year, and only a few mentions in features elsewhere ... I guess The Mailbox is several miles and cultures away from Weoley. (Disclaimer: I used to work for them in New Media, albeit not for the News bit.)

National newspapers-wise, there's not much - The Guardian has 3 stories, latest from 2006 (with configurable search results & RSS, nice :)). The Sun's search just gives some locations of commenters on their forum. I lost the will to google any more.

What about sites written by local people? The Castle Community Site looks a bit empty, and has a rather empty forum, though they link to OFSTED reports and minutes from Councillor meetings (£91k to carry out a survey on a single deciduous tree?? I'd be cross about that if I lived there - p2 item 1051), and the local residents' association seems to be having trouble getting enough members. The Weoley lists local amenities and shops, while has links to local history resources, but seems to have been last updated in 2007. There are also some nice old pics of Weoley, which reveal the modern-day versions when you click them.

Probably the richest set of user generated stuff about Weoley Castle is the flickr pictures, with some lovely shots of the area, some historical reenactments and, oddly, a lot of knives. Here's the map view:

View weoley castle flickr in a larger map

Over on technorati, the blog search is pretty slim pickings (though apparently you can't search for the phrase "weoley castle") apart from the videos - there's a few visualisations of the Castle in case you can't make it to the ruins and/or your imagination fails.

And what seems to be a local history video project feat. Trevor :).

Plus a few more randoms that might put you off Weoley Castle like blowing up a (toy) ladybird, those neighbours from hell (again), some kids happy slapping the select&save with eggs and a nasty one of someone shooting a pigeon.

I think the area's crying out for more personal local sites that don't have anyone blowing anything up - though if you know of any more sites, let us know in the comments. If there are any Weoley Castle community groups out there just itching to get a site up, but are not sure where to start, they could try the Social Media Surgery on 14th July, or a UK Online centre.

Finally, the plan for our next walk is to find out definitively whether Weoley Castle is shit or not - if you have suggestions for places for us to visit or want to join us, please comment.

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  • At 1:20 pm, August 27, 2009 , Anonymous Richard Tubb said...

    I'm the person who put together - and you're right, it's a little neglected - but I felt it was better left on-line than being taken down.

    The reason the site hasn't been updated for ages is related to News Story 2 above - I'm the owner of the business featured in the story, and being self-employed can be quite time consuming. :-)

    Feel free to get in touch with any suggestions for sprucing up the site - I'm

  • At 1:52 am, April 28, 2015 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Check out the Weoley Castle History Facebook, which is owned by a chap called Graham Sweet and a helpful and friendly group of admins. There are lots of stories and info on there and user generated photos. There are currently at the time of posting 2,137 members.


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