Grantham journalists track 'Garden Gobbler' online

The Grantham Journal is the latest publication to experiment with social software to report ongoing stories and reach out to new audiences.

The Lincolnshire weekly is using Google Maps to track the ongoing saga of the ‘garden gobbler’ – a wild heron roaming local residents’ back gardens and eating fish from local ponds.

Journal chief reporter Bob Hart invited readers to report their sightings of the heron, which were then logged geographically using the free software.

So far, 11 sightings of the heron have been logged on the map.

Using Google Maps in this way had been inspired by a Press Gazette story about BBC Berkshire’s use of the tool to report on the summer floods, Hart said.

‘We liked the idea and were looking for a way of using that technology. We’ve ended up finding a more light-hearted use for it, but hopefully when the moment comes we’ll be able to use it for a more serious purpose,’he said

The Journal also hopes to use other social software to reach new audiences. The paper started a Facebook group for readers interested in its local music festival G:Fest.

Hart plans to continue the interaction with the Facebook members by creating a weekly general news bulletin to send out to its members.

‘It’s probably fair to say the sort of people who are reading the Journal website are a bit older than the people who are using Facebook,’he said.

“It’s a good way to get into that late-teens, early-twenties market.”

The Johnston Press weekly has also added a YouTube channel, which it has used to cover G:Fest and exam results days. The channel has received almost 5,000 views since its launch two months ago.

‘It’s given us an opportunity to be a bit more creative way and think about more interesting ways to cover stories,’said Hart.

‘For G:Fest, we did a promotional video that was on our website, on YouTube and on the Facebook group. We had MP3 files of the bands that were playing that people could download.”

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