Page last updated at 12:42 GMT, Thursday, 26 November 2009

Channel 4 funding Slugger revamp

Slugger O'Toole
Slugger O'Toole features Northern Ireland political comment and analysis

Political discussion website Slugger O'Toole is to benefit from an investment by a Channel 4-run innovation fund.

4iP said it was adding to its range of websites "running along the theme of keeping an eye on money and power".

It said a relaunch in the new year would make the site more welcoming to newcomers and easier to navigate.

Slugger O'Toole was founded in 2002 and claims to have up to 40,000 users each month.

The investment is in collaboration with Northern Ireland Screen, a government-funded body set up to encourage the local film and television industry.

The website will retain its editorial independence under the investment, which will be introduced in a series of phases.

Slugger O'Toole founder Mick Fealty said it would fund a number of projects including the development of a blog debate-monitoring system which could be used by other websites.

"They see us as a political website which has enabled citizens to get closer to what's happening in the political system," he said.

'More enjoyable'

In a statement, 4iP said it was "investing in the stability and growth of the UK's political blog with arguably the most local reach".

"The goal is to make what is currently a crowded, busy and perhaps intimidatingly quick-posting blog more accessible for newbies and more enjoyable for current readers and commenters," it said.

"The next step is to take the most influential political blog in Northern Ireland and turn it into a sustainable collaborative public service media platform, moving the means of pluralistic political debate forward elsewhere in the UK.

"We're also keen to explore how we amplify the voices of those commenting: the debates under each post are just as vital as the posts themselves."

The website plans to increase its coverage beyond Northern Ireland to feature more heavily stories from the Republic, Great Britain and Brussels.

On Tuesday evening, Slugger O'Toole held its second annual awards.

A panel of bloggers, journalists and public figures chose Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness as its politician of the year following nominations by its users.

The Sinn Fein MP beat Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister and DUP Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster.

MLA of the Year was won by Progressive Unionist Party leader Dawn Purvis, while Simon Hamilton of the DUP was the top up-and-coming politician.

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