The Green Man is all around us, but who is he and where did he come from?

Green men at Christchurch Cathedral, Oxford. Pictures y Rex Harris

The Green Man caught my imagination years ago. I believe the figure probably dates back to pre-Christian times, and his origin is lost in the mists of our pagan past. Others put a Christian interpretation on the symbolism of the figure which appears in churches across Europe.

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Is this the face of Christ worshipped by the Knights Templar?

The Templecombe Head

The Templecombe Head

Traces of the once powerful medieval order of warrior monks known as the Knights Templar remain across the Westcountry. And it was curiosity about a holy relic linking the order and the mysterious Turin Shroud that took me to a small church in Somerset. Continue reading

How the internet makes news a free-for-all

News is undergoing rapid change. And the big players face being marginalised as upstarts grab audience share. For example, I went online to get an update on the latest situation in the Gaza conflict. I found a Channel 4 News story about the resignation of Foreign Office minister Baroness Warsi who said she could no longer support British Government policy. In the comment stream was a series of links to news reports of Hamas rocket attacks on Israel. I clicked on a link which took me to YouTube. And then I was adrift in the bewildering global news matrix.

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Are books more than stories, and what does that mean now?

One of the themes of George Orwell's novel 1984 is the constant monitoring of society by 'Big Brother'

One of the themes of George Orwell’s novel 1984 is the constant monitoring of society by ‘Big Brother’

I read today about a couple who sold up to sail around the world with their three-year-old daughter. They got rid of everything except for two antique chairs and their books. That got me to wondering why they kept their books. When Zara and I down-sized two years ago, we had to empty a big old Edwardian terrace to squeeze into a mid-1800s stone cottage in the old town centre of Exmouth. So a lot of our stuff had to go, including our books, amassed from our teenage years onwards. It was a tough decision. But when we analysed why we want to keep books, we  came up with some interesting ideas.

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My two great uncles died on the Western Front, but they are still remembered

Walter, left, and Arthur Willoughby in uniform, probably 1916

Walter, left, and Arthur Willoughby in uniform, probably 1916

It had been raining for five days before Private Walter Willoughby and his pals packed up their tents and trudged two-and-a-half miles in darkness through boggy fields in Flanders, Belgium, with German shells exploding around them. It was the early hours of Tuesday, October 9, 1917, the first day of the Battle of Poellcapelle, another day of carnage in the First World War.

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So how can news organisations earn trust in the digital age?

So we’re all publishers now. There is an avalanche of content pouring out on Twitter, Facebook and blogs. Organisations are publishing their own stories, businesses are pushing out their own content. So how does a news organisation flourish?

First, and most fundamentally, by earning trust. That means much more transparency and accountability. So far print titles are switching their focus to online. But in the not too distant future the audience digital natives will have little loyalty to print brands. So how can we earn their trust?

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Updated – My complaint to police about taking photographs is now resolved

ALMOST four weeks ago I made a formal complaint to Devon & Cornwall Police after a police officer threatened to arrest me for ‘obstruction’ and seize my iPhone after I took a photograph of a car crash on Exmouth seafront.

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Photography and the law: If you’ve got a camera on your phone, you should read this

Millions of people have phones with cameras like the iPhone

Millions of people have smartphones with cameras

A police officer threatened to arrest me and seize my iPhone after I took a picture of a crashed car on the seafront in Exmouth, Devon. I wrote a full account of what happened here.

 So what? Well, if you have a phone with a camera and take photographs in public, you should be worried. Because you could be next to be wrongly criminalised. ​ Continue reading

Why we must argue for our right to report the news

The picture I took of the aftermath of a collision on Exmouth seafront

The picture I took of the aftermath of a collision on Exmouth seafront

So I’m walking along Exmouth seafront with a friend this afternoon about 5pm. We’d been for a stroll along the beach, stopped for an ice cream, then turned around to head home. As we walk along, I see blue lights flashing in the distance. The road is closed to traffic, but the pavements are still busy close to a ten-pin bowling centre, theatre, cafes and entrances to the beach.

We walk on and see a car on a zebra crossing, the back caved in, and paramedics treating a casualty in the passenger seat. The other car involved, with its front damaged, is parked across the road. People are walking past on the pavement, some are standing and watching. There are a handful of police dealing with incident, talking to people, paramedics at work on the passenger.

I am a journalist. This is a news event. I decided to take a photo.

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What journalists can add to a content marketing team

hootsuiteI’ve just watched an interesting and useful online lecture on social content curation by Cameron Uganec, director of marketing communications for the social media management system Hootsuite.


He defines social content curation as the practice of using social networks to find, organise and share the best and  most relevant content on a specific topic.

The half-hour lecture is well worth watching. But I’ve pulled out a few points I found useful. The bottom line really is that here is an area where journalism and marketing merge.

First off, three tips for social content creation. Continue reading