Ben’s World: A 24-hour news agenda (to find a missing cat)

Content editor Ben Raza’s weekly column

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 19th August 2012, 1:22 pm

Yes, you’ve probably already noticed. In fact, I daresay you’ve been on the phone to friends and family, gossiping, speculating and so on.

Because in this week’s paper we’ve stopped putting the first word of every story in capital letters.

Suffice to say, it’s laying the ground for a sexy re-launch of the paper later this year. There’s a few exciting things planned, so watch this space.

> Of course the T&C will continue to play to its strengths. When I first started we prided ourselves on being a community newspaper, championing what’s best in the town while being unafraid to challenge the powers-that-be when necessary.

It was (and is) always particularly satisfying to run a story one week, and then to see the results in real life over the subsequent days, weeks and months. Whether it’s a charity campaign or an appeal for witnesses, it’s great to know that what you write makes a difference.

Nowadays we are well and truly in the era of 24-hour news. So when my colleague Hayley O’Keeffe was called this week by a woman whose prized cat had been taken, she didn’t wait for Thursday’s T&C but put it straight online instead.

Fast forward just one day and the same woman was on the phone - our online appeal (on the website, through Twitter, and on Facebook) had come up trumps! The cat had been found, and it was all down to someone seeing the appeal online.

The whole story is on page 22. But it just goes to show, if you want to know what’s happening in our area then you don’t just get to read our paper, you can follow us on our website, on Twitter and on Facebook too!

> I like to support local businesses.

So, needing some shoelaces on Friday I popped into Shoe Zone. Times are tough, but in the world of shoes - the ‘zone’ if you will - I knew that I could rely on Shoezone to also sell shoelaces.

“Hello, where are your shoelaces?”

“Sorry, we don’t stock shoelaces.”

Whoever is in charge of what Shoe Zone stocks is an idiot.

> It’s a few weeks late, but a massive thanks needs to go to North East Beds MP Alistair Burt.

Regular T&C readers will know that I was over in El Salvador earlier this year, working with a small family-run charity to help to train local football coaches. It was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.

One of the guys from the charity works at St Gregory’s Middle School in Biddenham, and the money raised by St Greg’s had been to buy a bunch of ‘indestructible’ footballs. These are balls that don’t puncture, that don’t go flat, and which are perfect for a place like El Salvador where life is tough enough that you want to spend your money on food and other essentials rather than puncture repair kits.

We had a little difficulty recently however, when it came to getting these balls through customs.

But one phone call to Alistair Burt, who is a minister in the Foreign And Commonwealth Office, made a huge difference. Alistair’s people had a quiet word, and the balls bounced their way happily to our friends in the charity in Central America.

So if you’re like me and you’re a little cynical about politicians sometimes, well, I can’t blame you.

But sometimes the good people in tough jobs can make a huge difference - so thank you Alistair Burt.