Deep fried chip and pin, anyone?

6 Sep

From the website of the Chatham Islands, 500 miles off New Zealand:
“Essential services: post office, bank and fish and chip shop.”


The top-ranked site on St Helena is in, er, Sweden…

5 Sep

Interesting to learn that St Helena Online is now the most active website relating to the island. The one in the South Atlantic, anyway.

There’s perhaps a tendency for webmasters to link to other sites because of a perception that they’re, I don’t know, more “official”… the St Helena Broadcasting Corp, for instance, is government funded at the moment, and is at least based on the island, and run by Saints, which gives it quite a claim.

Actually, though, the biggest hitter of the lot is a site that now just ticks over gently. was set up in Sweden in 1996 and according to the home page has been visited by a million users. And now it links to St Helena Online, for which I’m grateful. 

So the highest ranked and most active sites for St Helena are both a long way away, in a different hemisphere, even., which is at least run by a Saint, is also UK-based and one of the highest ranked. Interesting.

On the island, the main media outlet is Saint FM, and its partner, The St Helena Independent. They’re not St Helenian either: they were set up by another Swede.

Branding, and acceptance

30 Aug

The internet is making it possible to provide a local news service remotely for St Helena. But that doesn’t mean just anybody can do it – or indeed, just any journalist.

One also has to be able to build contacts, and be accepted.

Bizarrely, I think it matters that I am known on the island not for my journalism, but for my dancing and other seemingly frivolous things. When my wife and I boarded the RMS St Helena at Walvis Bay for our second trip to the island, I was the one who was immediately recognised, and not my wife – even though she had been the one with the prominent job, as a doctor. And I was remembered not for the radio programme I presented, but because I “danced down the street”: with a troupe of island women, I performed an umbrella dance in the first yacht race carnival parade.

When we went back, I was asked to perform in the Girl Guides’ parade, and did so. I also took part in an evening of music and dance (singing Gilbert and Sullivan with the Palm Villa Singers was the result of a neat ambush).

These are things that have made me stand out from the usual run of expats, who are often regarded with suspicion (with some justification, on the basis that most are excellent, but it’s hard to know which ones aren’t).

So when I won a dancing competition in the UK, I wrote a flippant story about it for The St Helena Independent. In the UK, I kept quiet about it outside folky circles. The Indy ran it under the headline, “Wasted talent”, which was great.

A point here is that branding needs to work two ways for a job like running St Helena Online: I’m trying to establish a brand as a journalist and island expert in the UK, but on St Helena itself and among the diaspora, I also need a brand – and it needs to be more personal.

SHG is accountable – but only after the event

29 Aug

A formal request has been made for St Helena Government to publish agendas and associated reports for council meetings. Its reply: our request will be borne in mind.

They haven’t refused, then… but we still don’t know what’s going on in this so-called democratic government.

How does this tie in with a comment in the April 2012 edition of the St Helena Audit Service newsletter?

What is public accountability, it asks on page 1?

“When a person is given the responsibility to hold, use or dispose off resources not belonging to him, he must be held fully answerable to the owner of the resources for what he does with them.

“This, in essence is the principle of accountability.”

It begs the question, does accountability not count until after the damage has been done? Why doesn’t the government have to give account of what it’s planning to do – which is when the information would be really useful – as well as what it’s done?  

Incredibly, I’ve only just found out about the reports published by the audit service, thanks to Mike at the St Helena Independent, who forwarded an indictment of management failures with the new customs building. It’s not even safe and shouldn’t be in use, it says. As far as I can tell, though, this is the first significant report to emerge since I started covering St Helena affairs this year.


Next job: write an ebook

29 Aug

I’m planning an e-book on St Helena once I’ve finished the MA, the idea being to have a book I can then use to get other writing work. Paul Bradshaw tips a publish-as-you-write set-up called   Looks interesting.


Interesting that Paul doesn’t set his links to open in a new page, meaning readers leave his site.


Recording interviews at the annual UK gathering of Saints

28 Aug

Nearly 2,000 St Helenians and their friends and families got together for the 2012 Reading Sports, the annual reunion of Saints in the UK. I went along as an “official helper” to record interviews and greetings, which we then relayed back to the island for broadcast on Saint FM. Radio shows that link Saints on the island with family members on the Falklands and Ascension, or in the UK or South Africa, are a traditional part of the broadcasting fare at Christmas – and now, on the August bank holiday weekend too.

Click here to listen to an interview with a couple who’d travelled from Florida – to sit in a field in Berkshire.


Online journalism for people without the web? Try phones

21 Aug

There’s a big, big disconnect in running an internet news service for an island where most people can’t afford access to the internet.


It turns out that in this, at least, I’m not a complete pioneer. Someone else made the mistake before me, on a much bigger scale. And has solved it.

Shubhranshu Choudhary recognised that tribal people in India were being excluded from the national media conversation. They didn’t even speak the same language. Frustration became violence.

“There’s not a single tribal journalist,” Choudhary told CNN. “There’s a complete disconnect: reader, writer, (media) owners all on one side, this 100 million population on the other. The journalism is completely one-sided.”

Not only were the tribal people absent as voices in the media — they had no access as consumers either, said Choudhary. There were any number of barriers. They spoke different languages to those used in the mainstream press. Many did not read or write. They lived in remote, inaccessible villages, without electricity.

The initial phase of the experiment, which revolved around the internet and community radio stations, “failed completely,” he admitted. But then he took a different tack, focusing on mobile phones, which have a 74% penetration rate in India…

The result, CGNet Swara (roughly, the “voice of Chhattisgarh”) is a voice portal that allows anyone with a mobile phone to record or listen to news and items of interest. The operation is simple: on dialing the service’s number, users press “1” to record a report, or “2” to listen to one. Once a report is recorded, it is verified and edited by a team of moderators before being made accessible on the service.

Mobile phone journalism is not going to work on St Helena – at least, not yet.

There aren’t any mobile phones, though the new licence signed with Cable & Wireless St Helena includes provisions for a cell phone network.

But the lesson is that I need to find an alternative way to reach island readers, that doesn’t involve printing or downloading web data. It could mean putting an eReader in the library and community centres, or simply selling CDs – people may well own computers, even if they can’t afford more than a very low-data web allowance.

Phone journalism gives a voice to India’s rural poor – CNN