Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Journalism Week 2013 - Mark Bradley, Yorkshire Weekly Newspapers - Group Editor

We went regional with our final speaker on the second day of Journalism Week - Mark Bradley is Group Editor of fifteen West Yorkshire titles including the Wakefield Express, Dewsbury Reporter and Halifax Courier. 

Mark Bradley introduced to #ltjw by Susan Pape,
Assoc. Principal Lecturer in Journalism
An eighteen-year veteran reporter, then sub-editor and finally editor responsible for all the titles mentioned above, it was clear he was going to speak with a great deal of experience behind him.
He approached Journalism Week with an unprecedented amount of hard, and good, advice for training journalists, saying "I'll tell you what I'm looking for when I'm recruiting for my newsrooms." He wants reporters who can quickly take pictures, get and edit video, write good copy, write their own headlines, sub their own work and put it all on a user-UNfriendly Content Management System.

It's another brick in the wall of multi-skilling journalists - but more than that, Mark doesn't want staff to forget the "fundamentals - finding and telling stories. How you deal with people everyday will define you as a journalist, and what this course does is train you how to go out and TALK to them - not sit behind a monitor and press keys."

It's valuable stuff for a room full of training reporters, many of whom will be job-hunting within weeks. Demand for a position well exceeds the actual vacancies - Mark informed us if he advertises for a position, he will get at least 50 applicants!

How should the potential employee stand out from the crowd then? The answer is at the heart of regional journalism - that the journalist should be vitally aware OF their region! Any good editor wants to see in the covering letter itself a true awareness of the 'patch' you'll be covering, a real familiarity that will lead to good, in-depth writing.
Back that up with a reference as well - and make it a good one! If you can, make it someone already working on the publication who knows you. "I want to be able to pick up the phone and speak to someone who can tell me in a few minutes if you're right for the job."
Finally, Mark observes "I've never had a video application!" I'd already been considering a show-reel style portfolio on Youtube as an application tool, but now a room full of competitors know, I'd better get on it quick! The lesson here though is a combination of local knowledge, proven skills, and ability to improvise a novel approach - all keys to standing out from the crowd.

Mark turned next to the real challenges facing regional media, dealing with monetizing their work and balancing the digital/print demand. "We want to chase new demographics, of course, but we don't want to alienate our existing customers. Print is still our priority, and whilst it might change in 12 to 24 months, but many of our core demographics don't have access to high speed internet" - so, a flashy website is entirely wasted on your key customers and what content might you have sacrificed in the course of going fully 'digital'?

It's an interesting conundrum which must be facing regional titles and broadcasters across the country, and it's even more crucial when you consider a key message of Journalism Week is the importance of starting with local media - either as a stepping stone to national and international work, or building a solid career with your hometown title.

Mark echoed other common themes of the week, such as advising against too much dependance on Facebook or Twitter. "They're valuable tools certainly, but they are no replacement for properly curated content." He cites well-known examples of social media driven stories that have exploded spectacularly in people's faces, with names like McAlpine and Bercow ringing warning bells across the nation.

During the Question and Answer session, I asked him what he thought of hyperlocal blogging, and citizen journalism - did they compete for custom with their increasing popularity, and lack of commercial dependance versus his more traditional media?
"I think bloggers, and micro-local journalism, are really just part of the landscape that live alongside local newspapers - for the moment. We aren't really in direct competition."

He stressed the kind of 'brand loyalty' that publications like the Yorkshire Evening Post have, which is key to the success of regional media - and that loyalty is assured as long as they retain 'integrity', which causes him to comment on the post-Leveson world of journalism. "Our readers now come to expect a higher quality, less 'in your face' style of reporting that is less tabloid. They will actually complain if we become too tabloid, that's a definite shift after things like Leveson and the closure of the News of the World."

I found that a particularly interesting point, and after the applause and thanks I stopped to ask Mark to expand a little further on it for a video.

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