Welcome to PICamp, Belfast…

We’ve been promising to try out a ‘Unconference’ around a lot of the issues that concern Slugger’s readers and posters. We’ve now fixed a date for this – Tuesday 26th May, 2pm – 6pm. The PICAMP site is up-and-running and you can register to join and start suggesting conversations and themes for the day.

There are a total of 110 tickets available for the event and it’s completely free of charge to come along.

And what’s on the agenda? Well, that’s the point: You decide. All we’re interested in is a positive problem-solving dialogue.

It’s not got to be a party-political bunfight and we’re looking for people to come along with ideas and imagination to address the big political challenges Northern Ireland is facing.

We won’t have a formal agenda and there are no top-down speakers. When you register, we’ll ask you if there’s anything that you’d particularly like to speak about and if you’d like to prepare talk lasting just a few minutes to kick off conversations on your pet subject.

When you arrive on the day, you’ll be able to pitch your idea and we’ll see which ideas have ‘takers’ – the venue will allow us to run three or four conversation groups at a time and we’re aiming for four or five 45 minute sessions.

There are a few conversations that we’ll be hoping to have. For instance, we’ll be interested to hear what Slugger readers have to say about the collapse in local journalism.

While media revenues are collapsing all over the world, who will hold government – from local to national level – to account when news becomes a commodity?
In Northern Ireland’s imperfect and developing democracy, who, if anyone, will undertake the role that a robust and well-funded broadcast / print media is retreating from?

This is an issue for the quality of democracy. It’s also a structural problem for Northern Ireland’s economy – many creative jobs rely upon a vibrant and effective local media.

We’ll want to know what you think this all means for the quality of government as well. All over the world, the cosy old compact between politicians and journalists has been busted right open – what do you think will replace it?

But that’s enough from us. Let us know what you think – but register first – the site will guide you through the rest of it.

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  • Mick

  • Brian Walker

    To raise sights if this is needed I recommend the dialogue in the current Prospect: Are we on track for a Golden Age of Serious Journalism” – a counter-intuitive thought.


    Extracts – which relate more to big regional papers than nationals. While they’re talking about the very different US environment, there are resonances for NI.

    “In the US, coverage of state government has dropped sharply. More than 50 full-time reporters used to cover politics in the capital of my own state of New Jersey. The number is now 15. Many stories do not get reported at all. Contrary to your account, as newspapers retrench there is no compensating tendency for online news to fill the gap. Some news websites are developing in states and cities elsewhere in the country, but they almost all operate on a nonprofit basis, and at a fraction of the scale of the great American daily papers.

    There are really three separate problems here: the production of professionally reported news; the production of an engaged public; and the production of effective political accountability. While the internet unquestionably offers a diversity of opinion and access to new sources, it is not sustaining general-interest professional journalism at its previous levels. Niche audiences are being served. At the national level, even as the number of reporters for the general news media has declined, many journalists have found jobs in high-priced publications serving particular industries.

    Philanthropy may be able to support investigative reporting and partially remedy this problem. But the second problem—the creation of an engaged public—is even more difficult. Newspapers, which used to be read by half the people of a city, helped to create a self-aware urban public. Those who buy a paper may be chiefly interested in the sports section or the crossword puzzle, but still glance at the front pages, learning something about their city and the world. Online, people interested in sports or puzzles go directly to sites with those features, avoiding exposure to news and controversy about their community. The incidental learning of a bundled metropolitan paper disappears.”

    Good luck!

  • Mick Fealty


    I’d love you to be there… We agonised about that, and decided that if we ran it at the weekend, we’d stand little chance of getting the professionals in, particularly on a weekend during the election campaign.

    I’d be more than happy to put Slugger’s name and convening power behind a mirror weekend event if you were prepared to pull it together?

  • I’d love you to be there …

    Maybe I will be, but without my jodhpurs and riding whip you mightn’t recognise me!