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Google: What would Stan have made of it?

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Impressive bit of kit: Google News Lab’s drone

Impressive bit of kit: Google News Lab’s drone

THE DE RIGEUR toolkit of the journalist back in the day was a Speed Graphic camera armed with a flash bulb, which could singe the eyebrows of Dennis Healey when activated, a notepad, a pencil or pen, possibly a satchel of sorts and a stout pair of shoes for sure.

Stanley Phillips was a reporter/ photographer for the Welshman and a couple of other titles in the 1930s, long before The Herald became the people’s choice. He would set off by bike, or in the doctor’s car in emergencies, to cover the local news, which was promptly sent by mail or by telegram if urgent to the head office.

Stan favoured a pipe and would stand and yarn with those he interviewed, more often than not having a cup of tea at his leisure too. He then went back home and developed his sheets of film, washing them under the village pump.

What on Google Earth would he have made of what is on offer today to the humble journalist, no longer in stout shoes and most likely puffing on an eCig contraption while travelling in the modest BMW with connections in every orifice.

One thing that has not changed is that the world was round then and it is round now. The difference between Stan’s view and our view is that we can all now see it through 360 degrees and virtual reality, available to view in all its glory from just about any internet-enabled device smaller than one of Stan’s sheets of film.

Journalism is quickly utilising new technology and gadgetry to provide those seeking the news with a far more interactive and descriptive view of the world, wherever the news may be. 360 degree cameras are being added to the journalist’s toolkit. Google Earth is being used by the leading TV networks around the world to place the viewer at the centre of the action before, during or after an event, without so much as having to find the curator of a museum with a set of keys to blow off the dust from the maps. This is the future for journalism according to Google NewsLab, who are offering training to journalists across the globe.

The Herald attended one of the workshops in Cardiff, where we were shown how Google is aiding and abetting reporters in ensuring the information they are using including words, photos, videos and audio are factually reliable. We have all seen hoax images and hoax videos but Google have provided a system whereby this data can be instantly checked for its legitimacy.

They were also demonstrating the use of Google Earth and Google Maps for journalists to use to illustrate the stories. This may seem familiar to some but the scale and variety of use of Google’s facility is mind boggling.

Huge news corporations have found ways in which to take whatever they can from Google for free and incorporate it into their presentations.

Stan would have had to travel by horse, cart and biplane over weeks to provide a fraction of what the journalist can provide today without leaving his or her drawing room.

The world of 3D, virtual reality and 360 degree views is in demand as the audiences, most of whom are now upwardly mobile young things, turn to their phones for their news content and they want digital media in spades. Google wants to help journalists provide rich media content, which attracts viewers to ‘binge watch’.

We are all familiar with Google as a search engine, Google Maps, YouTube and Google Earth, but there is far more and it is growing. There is Google Public Data, which allows you to access a world of data to create high quality visuals. Google Alerts keep you up to date with the news you want tho see and hear. Google Fusion Tables combine data sets to tell a story using powerful charts, maps, graphs or custom layouts. Google Trends allows you to search data to allow you to bring people the stories they are looking for.

What Google appear to be doing and wanting is placement of as much information and digital media content online and they are encouraging just about anyone to contribute. Journalists can then access this information and weave it into their stories be they international, national or local. Most of the journalists on the training course whooped with joy at what they were seeing but The Herald looks and listens before it leaps and we were slightly skeptical, not to mention suspicious of the motives for Google providing so much for so little, in fact for free.

We were told that the Google NewsLab team consisted of only 10 people. How on Earth could 10 people gather and provide so much information? The truth is that it is we, the Google-reliant public, do so each time we search or ask a question. A clever algorithm takes and regurgitates every single word, number, photo, video and audio file as well as maps gleaned from their street patrols and somehow turns that all into even more searchable and usable content for journalists to use.

We will give one such example to finish off. Let us say that you are writing a story about the 10 most popular towns in Wales. In Stan’s day, he would have had to burn some leather to get around that one. He would have had to construct a survey of sorts and actually go out and ask people questions. Can you imagine doing that today as a journalist? He would then have to calculate all the answers from his questionnaires culminating in a result based on the percentages of answers. He might go to those 10 towns on the Brodyr Davies bus service to get some photos, which would take an age and then eventually put it all together longhand or by typewriter and send in the negative to be magically turned into newsprint. You get the idea, eh?

Today, a simple search on one of Google’s areas for journalists reveals the answers to those questions’ complete with statistics, photos, videos, audio, longitude and latitude and virtual tours, if required, all delivered to the internet-enabled device in the hands of those who just cannot wait until a Friday for the paper version comes out. The name of this magic? Google Fusion Tables.

Now there is something to be said for the good old days and Stan, bless his real wool socks, worked like a Trojan to do his job and we are all much the richer for his archives, paper and photos, which might just fill a large filing cabinet. What we have today is millions of Stanley Phillips across the world sending in their work and millions of us, the public, enabling and enriching that through our internet habits, however intelligent, stupid, significant or insignificant they may be.

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Police launch public appeal following Carmarthenshire burglary

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE is investigating a burglary at a property in Ponthenry.

People broke into a shed at a home in Victoria Road at around 8.30pm on Monday, 31 October, before leaving after spotting a CCTV camera.

They returned at around 10.15pm and again at around 10.55pm.

During their raids they tooka green Wolf motocross helmet with a full face with a peak and line green motocross goggles.

Officers are appealing for help to identify two people they would like to speak to over the incident.

Anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police, either online at: https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Quote reference: DPP/0756/01/11/2022/02/C. Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org.

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Morrisons Foundation supports children’s charity with grant for vital equipment

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The Morrisons Foundation supports registered charities that make a positive difference. They recently awarded national children’s disability charity, Cerebra, based in Carmarthen, a grant of £11,109.

This will fund the creation of writing slopes through the Cerebra Innovation Centre, which is partnered with the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and designs wonderful toys and equipment to help children living with a brain condition to learn and play.

The writing slopes are designed to help children who struggle with posture and fine motor skills. They also aid children with writing, drawing and hand control. Ross Head, Product Design Manager at the Cerebra Innovation Centre explains;

‘The slopes include a lovely wipe-clean surface for children to experiment with mark making, their own set of pens and a clever lid-free pen store to remove the challenge of removing lids for some children. We are so lucky to be able to do what we do and funding like this is so important to allow us to push boundaries and provide vital equipment that looks beautiful.’

At the start of 2022, the Cerebra Innovation Centre highlighted that they anticipated the need for an additional 20 writing slopes for children. Cerebra Fundraising Manager, James Hay then worked with the grants team at the Morrisons Foundation, who were delighted to support this project. David Scott, Morrisons Foundation Trustee said:

‘Cerebra is dedicated to helping families who have a child with a brain condition to discover a better life together, that’s why I’m delighted that we’ve been able to provide this support. The specialised writing slopes will make a huge positive impact on children with sensory and mobility issues, providing a great opportunity to develop their skills, which will last a lifetime.’

Grants like this are a vital source of funding for Cerebra so that they are able to continue to support children living with a brain condition and their families who face challenges every day. The Cerebra Innovation Centre is one of the many support services provided by the charity that so many families have come to rely on. James Hay adds;

‘Thank you so much to the Morrisons Foundation for this generous grant! We are over the moon as we know how much this project will change young lives. These are particularly challenging times for charities and so this funding from Morrisons for the creation of 20 writing slopes is warmly welcomed.’

You can find out more about Cerebra and how they help children and families by visiting www.cerebra.org.uk 

Writing Slope
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White Ribbon campaign supported by Carmarthenshire County Council

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CARMARTHENSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL says it is again showing its support for the White Ribbon campaign, which takes place on Friday, November 25 and is followed by 16 Days of Action.

White Ribbon is the UK’s leading charity engaging men and boys to end violence against women and girls.

While domestic abuse affects both sexes, the largest number of violent incidents involve men against women. But ultimately male violence against women is everyone’s issue, not just women’s.

The council was awarded White Ribbon UK accredited status for the first time in 2018 and is continuing to work to tackle such violence.

White Ribbon flags will be flying at County Hall in Carmarthen and town halls in Llanelli and Ammanford on White Ribbon Day (Friday, November 25). County Hall will also be lit up on the evening to show support.

The council is working alongside partners to raise awareness of the campaign across the county – from sports clubs, joint visits with the Police to licensed premises, our leisure centres and libraries to bus stations.

With this year’s White Ribbon Day falling on the same week as the start of the FIFA men’s World Cup, there has never been a better time to come together and start playing as a team to end violence against women and girls.

The council will be raising awareness of the campaign at special events including a Walking Football session at Amman Valley Leisure Centre on November 30 and at “An Evening with Sam Warburton” at the Lyric Theatre in Carmarthen on White Ribbon Day (November 25).

Cabinet Member responsible for Community Safety, Cllr Philip Hughes, said: “It’s vital that we raise more awareness about domestic abuse so that anyone affected can get help and support from one of our local services.”

Support locally can be found at: Threshold (Llanelli) on 01554 752 422 or www.threshold-das.org.uk; Calan DVS (Ammanford) on 01269 597 474 or www.calandvs.org.uk; Carmarthen Domestic Abuse Service on 01267 238 410 or www.carmdas.org and Goleudy on 0300 123 2996 or www.goleudyvictimandwitnessservice.org.uk or call the Live Fear Free Helpline on 0808 80 10 800 or visit https://gov.wales/live-fear-free for free advice and support 24/7

For more information on the White Ribbon campaign visit www.whiteribbon.org.uk

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