Is the BBC obsessed with regional newspapers?

The BBC Birmingham and Black Country website on Sunday - the Express and Star story is fractionally more important than the Ashes not coming to Edgbaston, apparently

Maybe it was just a slow news weekend in the Midlands. In fact, I know it wasn’t because I’ve seen what’s passed through the Birmingham Mail website since Friday. So I can’t quite work out why a decision by the Wolverhampton Express and Star to close its printing plant in the city and switch to a sister plant in Telford is such big news.

Birmingham and the Black Country is a big old region population wise. There’s a lot happening. And while it’s interesting for media geeks to know that the Express and Star is closing one of its presses, is it really the fourth most important news story in the region?

The story fails to do what all new stories should do: Address how it might impact the reader. Will the paper be out earlier? Will it have fewer editions? Will it mean a change to the look and feel of the paper – more colour for example? All the BBC reports is that it will mean ‘greater efficiency’ for the title – whatever that means.

This post isn’t meant to be a big at the Express and Star. Heck, it remains the biggest-selling daily regional newspaper in the country. The article, on the BBC website, does suggest an almost obsessive interest in regional newspapers by the BBC’s regional newsrooms.

The Express and Star will still be published every day. It will still appear in the shops of the Black Country every day. Is the fact it is being printed somewhere else really news? And is it really the fourth biggest news story of the weekend in the Midlands?

It’s not the first time the BBC locally has given a much greater focus to changes in newspapers than it would to pretty much any other industry. When printing of the Liverpool Echo moved out of Liverpool, Radio Merseyside went to town – and spoke of ‘production of the Echo’ moving to Oldham, which confused some to think the whole paper had moved there. The Post and Echo continue to, and always have had, far more reporters based in Liverpool covering Liverpool than the Beeb ever has. The papers continue to set the news agenda, which Radio Merseyside more often than not follows.

This is the same BBC which turned concluded that one of the eight main stories of the day was the Echo mistakenly reporting that Taylor Swift, the singer, would be appearing at a Liverpool school. Had thousands of screaming children turned up at that school there would have been a story – but that didn’t happen. Yet ‘paper makes mistake, no harm caused’ became one of the top stories on BBC North West Tonight.

It feels as though wherever a local newspaper is concerned, the BBC suffers a major sense of proportion failure. Why? Maybe it’s a sign of just how much regional BBC newsrooms rely on local newspapers for so many of their stories.

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2 comments

  1. Dave, as someone who recently started work at a BBC local radio station, I can tell you it’s hard to fathom how and why they make the decisions they do sometimes. All I can say is that if I were you, I probably wouldn’t read too much into any decision that’s been made about a story because it’s defiinitely the result of c***-up not conspiracy.

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