Darren Parkin is, at 37, one of the youngest editors in the history of the Coventry Telegraph. But he is determined not to be the last captain of this mini-flagship of the Trinity Mirror empire whose alumni include Jeremy Vine of the BBC and Dermot Murnaghan of Sky News.
Parkin took over the Telegraph ship in a storm last November. He was the third in a year and the third to come and address the Midland’s major media forum – the Coventry Conversations at Coventry University. He attracted a packed house last Friday.
Fortunately for him, he is of a cheery disposition and refused to be downhearted by the task of turning round rapidly declining advertising, declining sales and fewer journalists. He advised the (student) journalists manqué too not be downhearted at the state of the industry either.
They had to learn that they were entering a rapidly changing industry and one in which multi-platform skills were at a premium. It was adapt or die, in his view. But the core journalistic skills of finding, researching and writing were still vital even if complemented by the newer web based ones.
Parkin announced the launch of a unique internship scheme brokered with Coventry’s Journalism department. Four desks in the Telegraph newsroom will be set aside for Cov university students to be interns three days a week. Seven had already applied. As for his plans for the paper, Parkin said he was planning some fireworks for the Telegraph website with “one of two things that will make other newspapers very jealous”.
He hoped these would be available later in the year but refused, despite being pressed, to give any more detail. As for local news partnerships, he was willing to join in with the likes of BBC Coventry and Warwickshire and did not regard the broadcaster as an enemy “as at least one of my predecessors did”.
The Telegraph like other local papers, he said, needed to reconnect to the audience and do that through any platforms available. He would be encouraging his journalists to once more become active members and the scribes of their community.
Parkin started his career as a Youth Training Scheme intern on the Dewsbury Reporter 20 years ago, paid a pittance by the state. Since he has been Young Journalist of the year three times, a chief reporter on the Solihull Times and at 24, Britain’s youngest editor – of the Wolverhampton News.
Since 2005, he had been editor in chief of the well-regarded weeklies division of Coventry Newspapers. He will need all this experience if he is to guide the good ship Coventry Telegraph away from the rocks of media failure and on to a bright future – or any future.
John Mair is senior broadcasting lecturer at Coventry University and producer of the Coventry Conversations series.