I hope that morning publication of the Burton Mail works out for Staffordshire Newspapers, the small Midlands group that owns the town’s daily. Yesterday it began a month-long experiment after testing morning publications on Thursdays for the past few weeks.
Editor Paul Hazeldine told Hold the Front Page sales on Thursdays have been consistently up so we “are taking it up for a month.” With sales of 15,700 the Burton Mail is one of the smallest dailies in the country and I really do hope this is successful.
But, and this must be the love of hard and fast news coursing in my blood, I cannot see it as a long-term solution to declining sales. In part it must seem attractive because the deadline for evening publication has been 11.15 am (suiting distribution better than news coverage) which gives them barely time to pick up stories from the morning calls to the police, ambulance and fire services.
It is too early to get same-day court copy into the paper or to really follow-up on anything. So 6.30pm deadline means that quite a lot of news will get to readers more quickly.
But a lot of important local stories break in the late evening. Council and other community meetings tend to take place in the evenings which is also the time when it is easier to contact many people.
This means that a lot of important news in Burton-on-Trent will be 36-hours old before it is in the local daily. If it is a really big story the townsfolk will be able to read it in the nationals a full 24-hours before it is in their local.
Meanwhile, not that far away in Birmingham, National Union of Journalist members on the Mail believe Trinity Mirror wants to turn the evening for one of the country’s largest cities into a morning. A puzzle this, as Trinity Mirror also owns the city’s ailing morning, the Birmingham Post.
But the editorial executives at the Mail have also been putting a lot of effort recently into stressing the importance of getting late news into the Mail.