Central News in launch of special investigative unit

Central news: "big investment"

A special unit has been set up by the editor of Central News in the East Midlands to bring more investigative journalism to the programme.

The news investigation unit has been set up by Mike Blair, who took over as editor of the Carlton programme from Dan Barton last year, and currently includes deputy news editor Alan Thompson and investigative journalist Gary Newby.

The next stage is to recruit a permanent reporter, said Blair, who believes the decision to launch the unit is "unique" across ITV’s regions. "It’s a big investment, not only in cash terms for a regional newsroom, but also in time and resources," he said.

"Everyone knows current affairs investigations have a high drop-out rate, but when they work they give the programme a real cutting edge."

Most of the programme’s reporters have also been sent on short directing courses, learning drama and documentary camera techniques.

The launch of the unit coincides with the revamp of evening programme Central News East that includes a new set and titles, a new presenter, Kevin Ashford, to work alongside Marie Ashby, and more features, including a ‘trading places’ swap between pupils from a comprehensive and a public school.

"I want a programme that is engaging to watch and sets its own agenda, with stories that are picked up by the national media," said Blair, who was previously UK head of factual programmes for the Australian producer and distributor, Southern Star.

"I remember watching local news programmes that were relevant and connected with the viewers, but I’m not sure they do that any more," he said. "They are trying too hard to be mini Skys or ITNs, but that doesn’t work because we don’t have the world to go at."

Julie Tomlin

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