Is there a future for West Midlands media?

The quick answer is yes – but with 3 provisos (based on what was said tonight at the Birmingham Press Club’s Does The Regional Media Have a Future? in Birmingham):

  • that journalists don’t expect the same levels of payment

  • media organisations don’t expect the same level of revenue

  • the audience doesn’t expect the same level of quality 

Rather than take the traditional news inverted pyramid style, here’s my curated, bitesize, online-friendly 3x3x3 approach:

 

3 things that say West Midlands media is stuck in the past:

  • The first 45 minutes were devoted to free wine, beer and food (nice ‘n’ all but…)

  • The first 10 minutes were given over to a DVD compilation of Birmingham’s glorious print and TV past – featuring, bizarrely, images of New Faces, Pot Black and Basil Brush!

  • The panel was made up of seven white males over the age of 30 (I’m being kind)

3 things that show how West Midlands media is struggling with the present:

  • Ownership issues – both panellists (details of whom below) and PRs in the audience seemed stuck on news being filtered through traditional media outlets, whereas these are no longer the only option but among the many now bringing news to the marketplace.

  • The poor freshly qualified, tech-trained journalism student, whose skills are theoretically in demand as newspapers go multimedia, only to find there is no job for her in cost-cutting organisations.

  • Recent redundancies – the statistics across all media given out by the panel were appalling but the consensus is that the money isn’t there and is moving online.

And finally (in honour of Trevor McDonald, whose last night it is on ITV news – he’s obviously getting out just in time), 3 things to remind us of the future:

  • Steve Dyson, editor of the Birmingham Mail, taking pics on his Nokia 96 for his blog/paper (I’d like to think he was live tweeting but didn’t see him text).

  • There were no pure bloggers represented in the audience – in the straw poll of around 70 attendees, most were from print media with only 2-3 online journalists (both with just ‘a foot in’) – showing perhaps that the conversation is taking place elsewhere.

  • Mike Owen, ex of BRMB Radio, talking for a Jamaican minute on how Marconi came to the market in the 1920s with the radio and said, ‘Come on you lot, give us something to put on it’. Media organistations obliged. Now the internet is here, there’s a new tool in town. What are they going to do?

For those ‘lucky’ journos still in a job, more pressure is falling on the dwindling number who are left doing all the work several times over in multiple formats. Like poor Tony Collins, education correspondent of the Mail, who was tasked with taking pix of the event on his staff Nokia.

 

As for me, judging by the questions, I might have to set up as a Twitter consultant! (@katchooo, if you’re ahem hip to the Twit!).

 

And for next year, let’s hope the debate concentrates more on the future and less on the past. I also hope that regional journalists get sussed by reading the likes of Clay Shirky, Seth Godin, Dan Gillmor or any number of other respected commentators on the digital revolution. Because after the printing press arrived there was 100 years of turmoil – so it’s going to be a rocky ride.

 

Notes to those who’ve read this far:

Transparency declaration: I’ve worked as a casual sub at Birmingham Post, Birmingham Mail and Sunday Mercury, and also still write travel pieces for them. 

 

The debate was open and hosted by the Birmingham Press Club, which wants to make the discussion an annual event. It was attended by 70-80 people: several from TV and radio, most from print journalism and PR, some from local or regional government, 4 media students and 2 freelance online journalists.

 

The panel was made up of host Peter Tomlinson, ex of Tiswas and who now heads up communications for Birmingham Children’s Hospital – ohmigod Wikipedia says:

He is the son of actor David Tomlinson, star of Bedknobs & Broomsticks and Mary Poppins.[2]

I so hope that is true – he was charming! 

 

Panellists were Marc Reeves, editor of the Birmingham Post; Steve Dyson, editor of the Birmingham Mail; Laurie Upshon, news and operations director of Central TV (1990-2005); Mike Owen, former programme controller at BRMB; and Chris Morley, NUJ regional organiser. Also, Chas Watkins, head of local/regional programming for the BBC.

 

ends (old skool but I likes it) 

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8 responses to “Is there a future for West Midlands media?

  1. Pingback: BBC should stick to what it does poorly « Groves Media

  2. I’m interested in the make up of the audience. I’m not a BPC member, but I’m a journalist, a blogger, I work in PR and I genuinely want to see a strong regional media presence survive.

    I know several colleagues who, like me, would have been intereted in attending such an event if it had been arranged by another organisation.

    Not sure what that says about me (us) or the BPC, but it would be good to see this debate widen and as you point out focus more on the future than the past.

  3. Fab potential fact of the day. Thanks. I too loved Bed Knobs & Broomsticks and (of course) Mary Poppins.

  4. Hi Paul, I have no particular knowledge of the BPC so went along with no malice aforethought. It did seem like a different world from mine, though, which is more London-based, magazine moll and online geek girl. I was actually amazed at how quiet the audience was – a few more socmed types would have livened it up methinks.

  5. Hi Fiona, from one fledgling blogger to a prolific one…. I think there should have been a far better mix of people on the panel – we were told only 2 women were asked to be on it and they both declined! There are so many high-profile female journalists in this region who could have been approached – why weren’t they??

    The BPC needs to recruit younger members, who will by their very nature bring with it fresh views on the future of regional news in the Midlands. They are schooled in multi-media journalism, which is very obviously the way forward. It’s just a shame that with impending job losses at ITV, BBC and newspaper titles in the region, there’s not the easy pickings for a 1st job for journos as there once was , say, 5 years ago. I just hope the bright-eyed multi-media journos leaving Uni these days are being schooled in survival techniques and in being an all-rounder, so they can go out there and use their online and single-camera and editing skills in the best way they can to freelance with confidence 🙂

  6. Pingback: D’log :: blogging since 2000 » “Is there a future for West Midlands media?”

  7. Marv – Hi again, nice to meet you the other day. Well, what can I say… I offered to provide a girl geek quote from the future but no one took me up on it 😉

    Good luck with teh bloggin’ by the way – lookin’ good!

  8. ‘We’re doing the best we can’ – view from a shrunken and centralised newsroom by the Media Guardian:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/nov/24/leigh-journal-press-publishing-burnham

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