Early regionals miss the plot

News of the alleged terrorist plot to blow up planes on transatlantic flights from Britain broke at the perfect time for the evening papers that still have late on-the-day news deadlines.

Big city papers including the Birmingham Mail, the Express & Star, Wolverhampton, and the Manchester Evening News were able to give full coverage to their readers before any of the nationals.

But other regional evenings that have switched to early editions, or print overnight, missed out.

The Birmingham Mail switched its splash in the last of its seven editions, which was off stone at 1pm, from "Airport Terror" to "City men seized as air terror bid foiled" to carry the news that police had made a series of arrests in Birmingham.

It had five pages on the story, with pictures from airports across the country, interviews with terror experts and advice from a travel expert on how to cope with the delays. The paper sent extra copies to airports and areas where the arrests took place.

Editor Steve Dyson said: "The team responded brilliantly to this breaking news story. That's what our team is great at — responding quickly to fast breaking news stories, and they proved it again this time." Early figures show a sharp rise in sales on the previous week.

The Express & Star in Wolverhampton gave six pages to the story and put video footage shot by a PA reporter at Birmingham airport on its website.

News of the arrests made the Star's first edition, which is off stone at 10.45am, and each of its 11 timed and geographical editions had new, updated copy from changing share prices to the situation at the airport through until 2.45pm.

Chief news editor Mark Drew said: "It was a great example of how you can keep your readers up to date, as different things come along through the day."

The paper boxed out an extra 5,000 copies and sold an extra 4,000 on top of its usual sale.

Manchester Evening News editor Paul Horrocks said the terror plot was the first big news story to break since the paper converged its various platforms.

The MEN's first edition printed overnight, missing the story as it broke, but the paper followed it up in its second, third and two city free editions as well as online and on Channel M, the paper's digital TV news station.

The second edition, off stone at 8am, included a quickly prepared splash and two pages of text, but was short of live pictures. Fortunately, Channel M reporter Kevin Duffy was at the airport and sent pictures from his mobile phone.

Horrocks said: "Kevin also took pictures and did a video journalism package for the website. Our material from the paper was fed into the Channel M newsroom to help their bulletin. It made a picture story come together in the paper, helped by the TV station, plus we had pictures for the website.

"Not only was it a top-class news break at the right time, it was a great convergence opportunity between the print, the web and our TV station."

The MEN beefed up its coverage to four pages for its last edition, where women's editor Helen Tither wrote a first-person piece about waving her boyfriend off to America. It also included background on what liquid explosives were, and a story on how an Asian passenger was asked to leave a plane after boarding. Extra copies of the MEN were boxed out in all areas.

Liverpool Echo photographs of passengers sleeping in the airport were published in several national newspapers.

The Echo included several human interest stories from those stranded, including a woman who wanted to take her mother's ashes on board a plane.

Assistant editor Andy Edwards said: "At one point, they were going to have to leave the ashes in left luggage, but airport security agreed if she was prepared to allow sniffer dogs to sniff the ash, then she could take them."

The Echo has two editions on the day, with the last off stone at 1pm.

A number of those papers that have switched to overnight such as the Lancashire Evening Telegraph, The Press in York and the Burton Mail did not cover the story in the print editions until the following day.

The Press in York, which changed from evening to morning publication, took the decision not to print a special edition to cover news of the event.

Editor Kevin Booth said: "It broke after our time, so we didn't cover it in the paper on the day. Our strong point is local news and if there had been an obvious local angle into it, then undoubtedly we would have looked hard into producing a special edition. We do have the facility. As it was, there was no immediate local airport on our doorstep."

Booth said that if the story had happened before the switch to a morning publication, he would have included a last leg on page one with a follow-up story, but would not have splashed with the story.

The Lancashire Evening Telegraph gave the full coverage on its website, breaking the news locally just after 9am and followed the news up with around 10 stories throughout the day including local reaction.

Press Gazette research on print times in the UK evening newspaper sector this week revealed that of 58 "evening" papers surveyed, 22 have final copy deadlines before 10.30am, and of those at least six are now printed overnight.

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