Tag Archives: Coventry Telegraph

Coventry Conversations: ‘Tele’ editor Darren Parkin on weathering the local newspaper storm

You have to be either brave or foolhardy to take over as editor of a local newspaper in the current climate. Circulations are dropping, advertising plummeting, and revenues are through the floor.

But Darren Parkin, the 38 year old editor of the Coventry Telegraph, is not foolhardy. “Surviving the perfect storm: one year on” was the title of his Coventry Conversation last Friday, and survive he has.

Fourteen months ago, Parkin took over a ship that was rocking and reeling on the seas of change. The numbers were down but, worse than that “The Tele” seemed to have lost touch with the heartbeat of the Coventry community. Parkin spent his first weekend as editor reading, eating and sleeping in the newspaper’s library to see if he could rediscover that Holy Grail. One concrete result is a weekly page of community news, a lot of which is written by Coventry University’s journalism students.

The greatest challenge to local newspapers today is without a doubt the internet. Why buy when you can find it online? Advertising, especially classified, has fled to cyberspace and the eyeballs have followed. Parkin has met the probelm head on with some hugely popular blogs on the Cov.Telegraph website. One of those, called “The Geek Files“, is by far and away the most popular in the Mirror regional newspapers stable, although Parkin admitted that he had thought it was a bad idea when it was first suggested.

On taking over at the Telegraph, Parkin was faced with a staff of journalists who had become comfortable. Too comfortable. The previous editor was in post for just a year and his predecessor for over a decade. He thinks he has remotivated and refocused the staff. He was full of praise for his newsroom and their talent.

The “perfect storm” is far from over though. Over Christmas, the Telegraph put up its cover price by 3p to 45p, to make up for the anticipated 20 per cent rise in the cost of newsprint this year.

Initially, as expected, the rise reduced sales but they seem to be back on the recovery track. Parkin admitted that all he could do anyway was moderate and not reverse that long-term decline. In 1953, the Telegraph had a circulation of around 100,000. Today it is around 35,000.

But Parkin is willing to be innovative. He has forged new partnerships with the university, and with BBC Coventry and Warwickshire. He and they and the local commercial radio stations are involved in the Coventry News Forum, which is brokered by the university journalism department. That meets monthly and has so far proved to be beneficial to all. As an example, coverage of the 70th Anniversary of the Blitz got deeper following a News Forum meet.

Parkin started his career as a Youth Training Scheme intern on the Dewsbury Reporter 22 years ago, paid a pittance by the state. Since then he has been Young Journalist of the year three times, a chief reporter on the Solihull Times and at 24, Britain’s youngest editor after taking the top job at the Wolverhampton News.

From 2005, he was editor in chief of the well-regarded weeklies division of Coventry Newspapers and since November 2009 the editor of the Coventry Telegraph – a job he told the audience he had always coveted.

Perfect or not, one suspects that Parkin will survive many more storms.

John Mair runs the Coventry Conversations series at Coventry University. He is a senior lecturer in journalism at the university and co-ordinates the Coventry News Forum.

Coventry Telegraph editor promises digital fireworks

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. 

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Trinity Mirror overhauls senior management in Midlands

Trinity Mirror has announced a host of changes to the senior management of its Midlands newspaper titles.

Steve Dyson, who will remain in his post as editor of the Birmingham Mail, is to become additionally responsible for the Sunday Mercury.

He will also oversee the introduction of new centralised multimedia, newsroom and production operations to the region.

Marc Reeves, editor of the Birmingham Post, will take on new duties for the online development of Trinity’s titles in the area.

Dave Brookes, current editor of the Sunday Mercury, has been named as editor of the Coventry Telegraph and will take up the role in January replacing Alan Kirby, who will retire at Christmas.

Kirby and Brookes will remain as editor of their existing titles while the new processes are implemented.

Completing the changes Tony Lennox, editorial director of Midlands Weekly Media, has been appointed to the new role of business development editor for the Midlands.