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Opinion: Birmingham students outshine Mail and Post in riot coverage

The Manchester Evening News has proved that long-established newspapers can shine online, following Roy Greenslade’s criticisms of some London local newspaper publishers for what he considered weak web riot coverage, with their focus instead being on print editions.

The MEN had around 25,000 people viewing its liveblog at any one time between 8pm and 11pm last night (9 August), one of the paper’s digital editors, Lee Swettenham, told Journalism.co.uk.

We didn’t want to fan any flames so held off from liveblogging until something concrete happened.

The liveblog was started shortly after 6pm, once it was clear riots were taking place in Manchester and Salford.

We had half a dozen reporters out tweeting and taking pictures from the whole area.

We received thousands of comments on the liveblog, including lots of very positive feedback. We were providing information such as travel news.

MEN used liveblogging platform Cover it Live which “worked perfectly” despite heavy traffic.

It shows that if you do it properly online the audience and interest is there.

We shone compared with a lot of the national media. It just shows how valuable we still are.

But where the MEN excelled, readers of the Birmingham Post could be forgiven for failing to realise rioting had taken place in the city.

Just two of the five top stories on the home page carousel are about the riots, the others include a cinema reopening as an independent, a story how a Hong Kong “newspaper shakeup gives Birmingham City investment hope” and a top story about Dragon’s Den. Sister title the Birmingham Mail had more riot coverage on its home page but its site design means it failed to shine (see pictures below which illustrate this).

UPDATE: Responding in the comments section below, David Higgerson, who is head of multimedia at Trinity Mirror, explains the stats prove readers have been going to the Mail and Post for news of the riots and more.

Both sites have seen unprecedented levels of traffic over the past three days, and have devoted many, many man hours to covering the story in a responsible way. The riots coverage is prominent on the home page, but our traffic analysis also demonstrates that people are interested in more than just the riots – hence the promotion of other content on the site. In the case of the Birmingham Post, it is a relied upon source of business information for the city and people expect to be able to find that too. The Birmingham City Football Club story you reference is a very important story, and has been very well read.

Like the MEN, and the Liverpool Echo, the Birmingham Mail and Post sites have run a live blog, and will continue to have reporters working in difficult circumstances to ensure we bring our readers the best possible coverage.

Your analysis of the Post and Mail v the Redbrick coverage seems to centre on not liking our front page design. That’s purely a matter of taste. If you apply the logical web publishing question of ‘Can people find the content they are looking for?’ to our home page, then there’s no doubt those looking for riot coverage will find it, as will those people looking for the content they also expect – other news, business news, sport and so on.

Wolverhampton’s Express and Star, which is behind a part-paywall does well, making its riot coverage available to non-subscribers.

Compare the home page of the Trinity Mirror-owned Birmingham Post (which does have riot video content further down its front page) and sister title the Mail with that of Redbrick, the University of Birmingham’s student newspaper.

Hardly surprising, therefore, that Redbrick has seen 93,000 visits and 148,000 page views since 7 August. And because it is summer, and most students are out of the city, it has been co-ordinated from afar. The editor, Glen Moutrie, an economics student, is in Singapore, and just two student reporters are on the ground getting stories.

Moutrie told Journalism.co.uk how he has been coordinating coverage “quite easily”:

We are doing a lot of it through Twitter, keeping a check on hashtags and following things up.

I’ve also been chatting on Facebook and have managed to do things such as organise a statement from the MP.

Meanwhile The West Londoner, a blog that is the work of another student covering the riots, has seen a million views in one day.

So if a group of unpaid students can get to the heart of the story when the editor is the other side of the world, newspapers which have suffered the closure of their town centre offices in favour of out-of town news hubs should be able to cope.

That is exactly what happened at the Hackney Gazette, which moved from its Cambridge Heath Road office, a short walk from the location of looting on Monday night, to Ilford, Essex, which is nine miles away.

But far from being removed from the story, the Archant-owned weekly has one reporter who works from their Hackney home.

Emma Bartholomew was able to get on her bike and go in search of the story. She described the scene she was reporting on as “a little intimidating”, as she witnessed bricks were being thrown by rioters.

It seems location is less important as long as some reporters are able to go out, tweet, upload videos and get the story. The problem, as Greenslade said, is not to do with the journalists who have shown themselves to be perfectly capable, but with their print-minded publishers.

The problem could not be clearer. Local newspapers remain wedded to print. They are just not set up to report online, even if their journalists have engaged with new media tools.

So long-established local newspapers must focus on their online content, on site design, allowing a story to have sufficient impact if they are not to be outshone by students working without a budget and with an editor posting from the other side of the world.

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More Trinity Mirror cuts: three North West and North Wales weeklies closed

September 22nd, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Job losses, Jobs, Journalism, Newspapers

Trinity Mirror today confirmed the closure of three weekly titles in the North West and North Wales. The Wrexham Chronicle, the Mid-Cheshire Chronicle and the Whitchurch Herald will all publish their last editions the week commencing September 28.

The company anticipates that eight editorial and three commercial roles will be lost as a result of these closures. ‘A period of consultation has begun with all affected staff,’ Trinity Mirror said in a release issued today.

The company claimed it would now focus on ‘market-leading, healthy and profitable titles and associated online products’.

“Whilst these announcements relate to the closure of three titles and the subsequent effect this will have on jobs, these decisions also herald the strength and robustness of the titles that remain, namely the Chester Chronicle series, Flintshire Chronicle, Ellesmere Port Pioneer, Crewe Chronicle series, Runcorn and Widnes Weekly News and the Mid Cheshire Buysell,” said Carl Wood, publishing director at Trinity Mirror Cheshire.

“This decision reflects the challenging economic conditions affecting our local advertising markets and, as such, the current revenue and circulation of these titles does not provide us with a strong enough base for sustainable and profitable publication of these titles either now or in the longer term,” added Sara Wilde, managing director, Trinity Mirror Regional North West and Wales.

“Taking this difficult decision now will enable us to move forward into 2010 and beyond as we look to protect and develop our strong portfolio of print and online products within the North Wales and Cheshire market.”

Trinity Mirror announced in August it was entering a period of consultation at its Midlands titles, with a plan to make the Birmingham Post weekly and to print the Birmingham Mail overnight. In July, Trinity Mirror announced the closure of seven of its weekly titles in the Midlands region, resulting in 94 redundancies from a number of departments across the publisher’s Midlands operation.

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#FollowJourn: @ajeys/head of web

September 22nd, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Recommended journalists

#FollowJourn: Anna Jeys

Who? Head of web for BPM Media, publishers of the Birmingham Post and Mail.

What? Multimedia editor, former news and features editor and news reporter.

Where? @ajeys and www.birminghammail.net

Contact? Find her on Twitter or email her via this page.

Just as we like to supply you with fresh and innovative tips every day, we’re recommending journalists to follow online too. They might be from any sector of the industry: please send suggestions (you can nominate yourself) to judith or laura [at] journalism.co.uk; or to @journalismnews.

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Birmingham Post News Blog: ‘Why the Post must go weekly’

August 26th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

Marc Reeves, editor of the Birmingham Post, explains the economic and structural reasons behind publisher Trinity Mirror’s decision to switch the Post from a daily to a weekly title.

In exemplary style on the site’s news blog (‘it’s absolutely the right thing to do to give the whole region a say in what could be the most important decision for the Post in its 151-year history’) Reeves outlines why the move to weekly is the best option for the Post in light of these pressures.

“The weekly model will provide a much more comprehensive package of information, entertainment and advertising, and I believe will do more to preserve the brand values of the Post, and therefore offer a more sustainable future for the title. We think we will be able to retain most of the essential elements that exist in the current model and incorporate them in a weekly Post.”

Full post at this link…

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NUJ Release: NUJ condemns more job cuts at Trinity Mirror regionals

August 25th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Job losses, Jobs, Media releases

Further to Trinity Mirror’s announcement that the Birmingham Post could become a weekly and the Birmingham Mail could be produced overnight, the National Union of Journalists has issued a statement condemning more job cuts at the Midlands titles.

Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said:

“Trinity Mirror managers have been shown to be irresponsible with regard to the truth and their attitude to their newspapers and the communities they serve.

“The union will fight to defend the jobs of journalists and the future of the Post.”

Full release at this link…

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TM Birmingham chapels’ motion of no confidence

The National Union of Journalists announced today that its members at Trinity Mirror in Birmingham have ‘unanimously passed a motion of no confidence in the company’s management of its regional titles.’

The motion was agreed by the chapels from the Birmingham Post, Mail, Sunday Mercury and Midlands Weekly Media, it said in a release.

“The big newspaper companies are following a policy of slash and burn – and the people who work there have had enough,” said Chris Morley, NUJ Northern organiser and a former father of the Post and Mail chapel.

“Trinity Mirror would rather close titles than put them up for sale – giving them the chance to survive under another owner.

“The Walsall Observer used to sell more than 30,000 copies a week. It is a much-loved local institution.”

NUJ members at the Birmingham titles are currently balloting for action, following the announcement of  job cuts and closure of weekly titles.

At the weekend, the Financial Times reported that the Birmingham post might soon cease daily publication.

Here’s the statement in full.

The chapels sent this letter to Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey:

Dear Ms Bailey,

The Birmingham and Midlands NUJ Chapels find ourselves in dispute with the company over cuts and redundancies.

Regretfully the unanimous view of members is that while some difficulties are expected in a recession, the successive assaults on this business goes way beyond that and in fact continue a trend of cutbacks which began long before the economic downturn.

Therefore the BPM Media and Midlands Weekly Media chapels have unanimously backed a proposal from the floor for a vote of no confidence in Trinity Mirror’s management of its regional titles.

The motion, which will be issued to the newspaper trade media, states:

“Journalists, already having recently suffered a major round of redundancies. massive structural change and being the testing ground for new, unproven IT systems, have responded to these greater workloads and longer hours, with professionalism and much good will to ensure deadlines are met and quality is maintained.

“This has been thrown back in their faces and they have been betrayed by a management with a single aim – the pursuit of short term profit through cost reduction, asset sale and redundancy. This one-trick pony has no plan for the future and no concept of how to grow the local news, advertising and publishing business.

“Under this management we fear that within a few years there will be no Birmingham Post, Mail, Mercury and weeklies. Titles which have served communities and made profits for decades in the face of recession, depression, war, the advent of radio, television and recently the internet, are either being closed now or are in immediate danger if the present policy of cut, cut, cut continues.

“The company has accused the union of ignoring the disputes procedure in immediately calling a ballot for industrial action in the face of these cuts. However, the company broke its agreements with the recognised unions in imposing a pay freeze without negotiation or consultation at the start of this year.

“We believe closing titles such as the Walsall Observer, which has been published for more than 150 years, and proposals we believe are being considered to cut publication of the Birmingham Post and stop same day publication of the Birmingham Mail are reckless and negligent as it sends out the message that this company is failing and will scare advertisers away.”

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FT.com: Birmingham Post ‘might cease daily publication’

July 13th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

At the weekend the FT reported that Birmingham Post might cease daily publication after 152 years, ‘becoming the first flagship newspaper of a large city to go weekly in response to the recession and competition from online media.’

“The circulation of the Birmingham Post has dropped from 18,500 to 12,700 since 2000, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Locally, a fully paid circulation of less than 7,000 is spoken of. It is understood that options studied by Trinity Mirror, which owns the white-collar morning title, include converting the lossmaking publication into a weekly title. The media group might publish the Birmingham Mail, an evening newspaper with a blue-collar readership, in the mornings instead. This would trigger wide-ranging redundancies, from delivery drivers to newsagents and journalists in a newsroom that services several titles.”

Full story at this link…

Yesterday, the Press Gazette’s Grey Cardigan said his sources back the report:

“I knew that sales were poor, but I didn’t realise that paid-for copies had dropped to fewer than 7,000 – a claim made by the FT and stood up by my own sources this morning. (Just what you want on the golf course early on a Sunday – a call from Mr Cardigan suggesting that you’re about to lose your job.”

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NUJ Release: Trinity Mirror to axe eight Birmingham weekly titles

June 24th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Job losses, Media releases

National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has learned of plans to reduce frequency of the Birmingham Post and potentially cut eight weekly titles from the region.

Full release at this link…

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Joanna Geary: ‘How I started blogging and how it changed my journalism’

Joanna Geary, who led a range of online and social media initiatives at the Birmingham Post before joining The Times, posts on how she got into blogging herself and the impact it has had on her journalism.

“[S]uddenly I didn’t really know what I was supposed to write about. Coming from journalism training that teaches you that there is a form and structure to the way you write, a empty blog page was a bit of a nightmare. There was no convention to cling to. It was entirely up to me what I wrote,” writes Geary, as she explains the different writing styles, building an audience and personal/professional boundaries.

Well worth a read.

Full post at this link…

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The budget online: Liveblogging and Twitter dominate news orgs’ coverage

April 22nd, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism

Today’s budget announcement is being billed as the most significant of recent times given the UK’s current financial woes.

This is both a breaking news story, but one that requires closer analysis and follow up – and, perhaps most importantly, the ability to make it relevant to the reader.

So how are news organisations covering it online and who’s ticking these boxes?

Telegraph.co.uk
Currently performing well in Google News search for budget, the Telegraph is going in big on online coverage today.

It will be updating throughout the day via its @Telefinance Twitter account (headed up by @hrwaldram). Meanwhile a trio of Telegraph reporters have been liveblogging budget news since 6:30am.

On the subject of Twitter – the Telegraph has reinstated its Twitterfall – an embed aggregating all Twitter updates marked #budget. The feature had to be taken down earlier in the week, because of some mischief, but so far so good with the tweaked (filtered?) version.

In addition there’s a nice ‘What to expect’ guide breaking down the issues that are likely to feature in the budget announcement.

FT.com
Arguably the go-to site for budget coverage given its specialism, the FT is building on tried and trusted features from last year (a budget day podcast, video analysis, a budget calculator) with a new liveblog from 12pm covering Alistair Darling’s speech, editor Robert Shrimsley, who will participate, told Journalism.co.uk.

The format is based on the site’s MarketsLive feature successfully developed and used by its Alphaville blog. As such it will ‘bring people people up to speed, but inform them in an entertaining way’. Financial analysis but entertaining – two styles that rarely meet, said Shrimsley, but that will be key to FT.com’s liveblogging of the budget.

“There’s a premium on getting that information out and telling people what its means. We feel at the FT that we have the right people to pass on that analysis,” explained Shrimsley.

There will be a Twitter feed too, but it’s crucial not spam people with updates, he added. Readers are encouraged to participate in both this stream and the liveblog though.

Alphaville isn’t being used as a lab for experimenting with new ways of coverage, he stressed, but there is potential for more liveblogging across the site. It’s important not to overdose on technology, however, but to use only when applicable, he added.

“Can we offer our audience what is worth reading? There’s lots of innovation on the internet and there’s lots that you can do – that doesn’t mean you have to,” he said.

Channel 4 News website
More use of Twitter by the Channel 4 news team – as introduced by presenter Krishnan Guru-Murphy in the vid below:

There will also be use of CoverItLive (CiL) for a liveblog starting at 12pm, which was similarly used in the site’s coverage of the G20 summit.

Some nice additional touches include the use of FactCheck to test the claims made by the chancellor in the budget; and a wordcloud (or Snowcloud) of Darling’s announcement.

Sky News Online and Times Online
A specially built budget page has been set up including a liveblog, live video streams of the budget speech, and analysis from bloggers, tax experts and taxpayers, the site told us. There’s a good guide to how to use Sky’s online coverage too – one particular highlight, the chance for users to get answers from PKF UK tax accountant Matt Coward.

Meanwhile Times Online will be following up its excellent liveblogging of the G20 summit with a version starting at midday today.

Liveblogging at regional level
Deciphering what the budget means for the average news reader is being tackled head on by the Newcastle Evening Chronicle with a liveblog taking place across a number of Trinity Mirror centres.

“We’ll be mainly trying to digest it for *normal* people with rx [reactions] from experts, rather than the scary £180bn debt figures,” said Colin George, multimedia editor, in a Twitter update.

Wales Online (bringing in a tax expert) and the Birmingham Post – under its dedicated Live! Section – also host budget day liveblogs (using CiL again).

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