Tips and tricks for developing current affairs ideas

I’ve been training in BBC Gloucester today.


One story which has featured strongly in the newsroom (though as I blog, I’m not sure if it will definitely feature on the local news here later), is that of the woman who suffered brain damage as a result of undergoing the Amazing Hydration Diet.


Using this story, I’m going to share how various tools from around the web can help you create, and more importantly develop ideas for news packages, and current affairs features.


The facts as laid out in the press are as follows: Dawn Page, a 52-year-old mother of two from Wiltshire, was left brain-damaged and suffering from epilepsy as a consequence of a low-sodium, high-water diet, prescribed by ‘nutritional therapist and life coach’ Barbara Nash (of Oxford).


So lets first of all think about contacting, and getting some more background on ‘nutrition expert’ Barbara Nash.


Those of you with a subscription (or access) to will find her domestic phone number is out there, but what if you don’t have access?


Try running a search in 123people for barbara nash oxford (there are several Barbara Nashes out there, so its good to refine by place).  Here you will find some interesting results.


Most notably, you will find the website where she drummed up business – here. Before you actually click on this link, I should point out the site is down for now.  You’d think she’d be trying to build up business at the moment, given she has £810,000 of compensation to pay, but hey-ho.


Anyways, don’t be put off by the dead link – there are ways around this.


Firstly, try searching for in Google – where you can access the site as it was before the pulling of the plug, courtesy of the cached link directly adjacent to the first url in the results (in green type).


Here you will find a work-based telephone number.


If this hadn’t worked, you might want to try searching for the domain registration details for this site in Whois – here you will find an old domestic address for Barbara Nash, and (if you’re prepared to pay) you fan find out what other domains she registered – which could be useful, should she be involved in any other web-based activities.


Unfortunately there’s no phone number on her record, but don’t discount this source – it will certainly work for other stories.


Going back to those 123people results, at last I’ve found a practical application for a ZoomInfo result (see the other social network results at the bottom of the page).


Here she is along with a picture.  This entry says she is (or perhaps that should be was) also involved in a group practice called The Amber Zone. She’s not there on that site anymore though – might these colleagues have something worthwhile to contribute to the story?


Elsewhere on the ZoomInfo record, you can see extracts from her webpage which is now down. They’re good, but more would be better – so what can we do about getting the rest of this web content?


Well, we can run a search for the site in the Way Back When machine – where we can see what the site looked like back in August 2007.


Have a dig around in these pages.


In the Life, Health and Performance Coaching link on the left-hand navigation, you will find testimonials.


Several people have provided testimonials here – one with a slightly unusual name, which makes her easier to find online – Lynda Boyt (she’s in  Did she actually make this testimonial?  And what does she think now?


Perhaps more surprisingly, a couple of these testimonials claim that Barbara Nash was involved with Central TV’s Get Fit for Summer campaign (here’s the Westcountry version page).  Is it true?  And if so, what do Central have to say now?


Moving on – what about professional opinion on this topic.  What is the situation with the regulation of nutritionists, and what are the professional bodies which oversee them?


Try searching in askcharity for nutrition, where you will find a few relevant bodies, who might be willing to share their opinions.  Or just try this search in Google (just to prove that the bespoke search engines aren’t always better than Google!)


And sticking with experts – what about academic opinion?  If you want to find some local expertise on diets in this particular area, you could always try dieting professor gloucest* in Google, which brings back a few good results.


You might also want to think about the story from the angle of local people who diet – is it possible to unearth local diet groups for some feedback on who else might actually be trying the diet?


For a quick and dirty effort, try searching Yell for Weight watchers in Gloucestershire, and you’ll find some good results.


Then there are the social networks.  Here is a Facebook group called Slimming World (it has 19 members, an email, and seemingly an office), which is based in Gloucester.

Are there any bloggers in Gloucestershire who blog about dieting? Probably not.  Are there any bloggers anywhere in the UK who blog about dieting? You’d better believe it (you’ll need to register with bloglines to check these).


As an alternative to the above, try a search for gloucester* “weight watchers” in Google – the domain function is particularly good for focussing in on local, charitable, NGO and nimby groups.  Note the use of the wildcard (*) after Gloucester – we want to spread the geographical net as far as possible, and make sure results from all Gloucestershire come back (as well as results for Gloucester).  If “weight watchers” hadn’t have worked, we could have tried ‘slimmers’, ‘slim*’, diet etc. etc. etc.


If you want to dig further into the world of nutrition, by all means try a few searches in delicious, where you can tap the curiosity and interests of other web users for sites more potential leads – it’s a potentially great backgrounding source.


Being honest there’s no particular local angle on this theme in there just yet (give it a couple of years, I reckon).  Nonetheless, I’ve seen some genuinely interesting local results for Gloucestershire around cheese rolling – which is rapidly developing into an internationally significant event!


But I digress – back to the matter at hand.


Actually, it’s knocking off time, so I’m going to stop here.  


If anyone reading this fancies teasing it out into something more tangible, by all means feel free.


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