Editor Marc Reeves slays some sacred cows as Birmingham Post goes weekly
Marc Reeves, a Brummie proud to have been born and brought up in Handsworth, tells Paul Dale that taking over as editor of Birmingham Post in 2006 was the fulfilment of a life-long ambition.
Last night Marc Reeves put to bed the last daily morning Birmingham Post, ending a 150-year tradition of continuous publication in this city. One of the oldest, most respected and talked about regional newspapers in Britain will appear weekly from next Thursday.
Hasn’t the dream ended in a bit of a nightmare? It will never be a glad, confident morning again.
He stops just short of proclaiming ‘stupid boy’, preferring instead to concentrate on what he passionately believes will be a better and more relevant service for readers in a fast-changing multimedia age.
The weekly Post, “a chunky, bumper edition” of 100-plus pages, will set the agenda for the city’s business, political, cultural and sporting communities. A must-read publication containing deeper analysis than was possible in the limited pages of a daily publication, he expects sales to rise by at least ten per cent.
That is only half of the story. The Post will still continue in daily form, through its website www.birminghampost.net and a daily email bulletin service to subscribers.
Reeves does not try to hide his irritation at those who have tried to argue that Birmingham simply must have a serious daily newspaper, even if the economics of that do not add up – and they do not.
Likening himself to King Canute, who famously demonstrated that he did not have the power to hold back the natural forces of the tide, Reeves says: “I genuinely want to get rid of the irrational belief that there is something inherent in the status of a daily newspaper. As if it is something physical, that a paper every day is the only way for a business like this to do its job.
“It’s the readers and the businesses that advertise with us who have decided to make these changes. They may not have done it consciously but they have done it by demonstrating they are going elsewhere for news and information or want to get what we offer in different ways. You can be Canute trying to hold it back or understand what’s going on and do something about it. You have to be prepared to slay some sacred cows.”
The sacred cow in question is the assumption that newspapers have a God-given right to exist come what may. “At the end of the day we are a service that gets information from one set of people and gives it to another set of people. That’s all we are.
“When you are part of a business, as we are, you have to do it profitably or you don’t do it at all,” adds Reeves. “More and more people are getting their immediate information fix by going online and pressing their mobiles and getting email bulletins.
“We are going to make sure there are fresh stories every hour of every day on our website. We will be carrying on as a daily news operation covering stories breaking throughout the day. Our writers will be blogging throughout the day on all aspects of Birmingham’s business, political, cultural and sporting life.
“For £1 it will be considerably less than you would pay at the moment if you buy the Post at least twice a week and it will be served in a new way that’s going to give people a far better read – a chunky and high-quality read that will sit happily alongside Saturday and Sunday newspapers. I am sure that people will be very pleasantly surprised.”
He talks enthusiastically about a “super-charged version” of an existing email alert system, which sends news bulletins out to 2,000 Post readers and is set to grow quickly. “We want to give readers the opportunity to have something that’s a fantastic daily product. We have done a lot of research and what we are offering will be a lot more than just a list of stories. Four or five pages of self-contained stories that you can read on screen or print off.”
So why, then, if the brave new world is so enticing, is he not going to be part of it, at least not at the Birmingham Post? Marc Reeves is leaving the paper he dreamt of editing at the end of the year after overseeing the birth of the weekly Post.
He explains: “It’s been a massive privilege to be editor of this great newspaper. I never thought I would have the opportunity and it’s a real wrench to go. But I had always given myself between three and five years before I would look for new opportunities and I feel the time is right to move on.”
His message to loyal readers, who will soon be running a keen eye over the quality of the weekly Post? “I would urge them to give it a try. Buy it and see what you think. I don’t believe you will be disappointed.”