Tag Archives: pressure

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) 

Now it’s the media crunch

If you weren’t depressed before then check out Guardian digital editor Emily Bell’s prediction of ‘two years of carnage’ for western media.

Worst-ever subbing jobs 1

Just been reading Richard Burton‘s recent posts. No, not that Richard Burton (t’would be difficult, he died in 1984 – I checked, hey I’m a sub, sue me!); but the other one, the former editor of telegraph.co.uk who’s been writing scary things about what subbing is all about.

His post highlighting the horrible turnaround times we lovely subs have to deal with in print reminded me of one of my worst subbing jobs ever: two weeks of casual shifts at the Birmingham Evening Mail. It was my first time on a daily and it was like jumping into a plunge pool – dive into the cold copy folder, sub it and get the hell out fast.

Bedtime for this evening paper had been pulled back to 9.30am so the first edition could hit newsagents by around 11am. Really it should have been renamed the Birmingham Brunch Mail.

All I remember is having 15 minutes to sub what seemed like the entire paper. It was the first time that I failed to read to the end of a story – just chop and hit file. If someone had written ‘c*nt’, ‘sh*t on the Villa’ or some libellous low-blow in the final pars, I’d have missed it. For the first time, I felt shame at a job badly done.

But worse was to come. The pressure, the deadline, the rising heat, the blank mind, bodycopy blurring, staring at the story as the seconds ticked by trying desperately to think of a headline for a page 2 story about a picture of a murdered woman being released. Three decks, 36pt, one word on each line. I had to put something, anything. Slowly the Xxxxs turned into words as the chief shouted at me for the story. How I always remember my sharp, insightful summation of the story:


Thank god for the revise sub who changed it to something with a verb in. I brushed up on my newspaper vocab after that and can now write ‘Bus crash probe chaos’ type headers along with the worst of ’em.