Some of the biggest, most respected titles in the British newspaper industry will be collectively holding their breath this week.
It is no awards announcement, rather the much-anticipated results of a wide-ranging review by TrinityMirror of its newspaper operation.
The outcome of the review will be revealed on Thursday (14th) and any number of proposals could be announced – from a complete break up of the national and regional titles to a decision to plough on regardless and attempt to turn the ailing business around.
The speculation has intensified since the review was first announced by TrinityMirror’s chief executive, Sly Bailey. It will step up during the next few days.
The Press Gazette (http://www.pressgazette.co.uk) has already started to analyse the various options – incidentally, it is good to see the PG back in circulation and it will be interesting to see how it develops under new ownership.
On a personal level, I will be keeping my fingers crossed that the review throws up some good news for The Birmingham Post. A key regional title for so long, I spent four hugely enjoyable years on the paper.
The potential for the Post is enormous, it has been for some time. With no obvious or realistic rival in terms of quality, informed regional reporting in the Midlands, the newspaper should have been enjoying an unchallenged position at the top of the circulation charts for years.
However, due to a variety of factors and not least because of a singular lack of meaningful investment by TrinityMirror in areas where the title has badly needed it, it has endured an uncertain future for far too long. The quality of journalism is undeniable, the advertising venue is something most titles would be jealous of and yet in circulation terms it has struggled badly for a decade.
Turning the Post around will not happen overnight and it needs a clear signal of intent from TrinityMirror, or whoever ends up in control after the review. But it could be achieved and Birmingham and the Midlands needs it to happen.
The success of the Sentinel titles in Stoke-on-Trent shows there is a future.
Equally, I hope there is good news for The Western Mail. I spent six years in Cardiff and it is another historic, respected title that would benefit from investment in the right areas.
The same argument, of course, could be made for each and every TrinityMirror title. That is why Thursday’s announcement is so important.
This is undoubtedly a tough time for newspapers as they compete with the ever-changing landscape of news coverage and gathering. But these titles do have a future, they can continue to play a vital local and national role well into this century and beyond.
The use of new technology is central to that future. Newspapers should not be afraid of using all the new opportunities available, they are not simply the preserve of broadcast media (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/click_online/6220424.stm).
Most titles have invested in their own websites and that needs to be increased. It is good to see some titles experimenting in podcasting and video clips to increase their audience.
There should always be a place for the traditional newspaper. But the quality journalism it provides, particularly in the regional press, does not have to be restricted to printed paper.
Here’s hoping Thursday is a good news day.