Mail's 96,000 sale is the real big surprise

Your front page (11 March) regarding the demise of Roger Borrell at
the Birmingham Evening Mail does not surprise me. What should have been
your headline was the fact that the paper is still selling 96,143
copies per night.

I was proud to join the Evening Mail under the late Keith Whetstone and its news editor Ian Mean.

Today’s design-led version, however, is a far cry from those quality days.

Oversize
headlines, over-simplified stories, overblown pictures, low story
count, bags of white space – I find it difficult to believe that a
conurbation the size of the West Midlands and a city which has thrown
off its long-time humdrum image and has now entered the international
stage can produce so few worthwhile stories on a daily basis.

The
product now has the distinct appearance of a late eighties throwaway
freesheet. Of course, it is not just Roger Borrell who is to blame, but
many years of cost cutting, as well as national trends in the
dumbing-down of local news coverage which have paralleled falling sales.

Well
before Borrell’s time, district offices and localised editions were
axed. Residents of Solihull and Stratford-upon-Avon are not interested
in reading about the problems of inner-city areas to which they do not
relate. And there are the trendy newsdesk policies of the past decade,
such as cutting down on coverage of the courts.

However, I know
only too well that nothing worthwhile will be done to address the
situation, because it would rely on heavy investment – not in paying
consultants, but returning to the structure, staffing levels and basic
and effective newsgathering approaches of past eras, rather than
Trinity Mirror pruning everything in its path to the bare bones and
treating a onetime pioneering evening newspaper as just another cash
cow.

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