PA boosts regional newswire service

Paul Potts

The Press Association has expanded its regional newswire. There is now a team of a dozen journalists at PA Howden, the national news agency’s Yorkshire centre, led by northern editor Peter Beal, feeding news of national events with regional angles to newspapers and companies all over the country.

Two of the team work on audio news for websites, regional radio and Teletext. Linked to PA reporters all over the country, the team is the conduit for a flow of news for eight parts of the UK.

The service has been in existence in a small way for over a year and the expansion has come because the agency believes new markets are opening up.

PA editor-in-chief and chief executive Paul Potts is adamant his company is not muscling in on the regional news relied on by its main customers – evening newspapers.

"They tend to have a relatively local news agenda, which they gather themselves – they are the kings of that," he told Press Gazette.

PA editor Jonathan Grun explained: "It’s news about their regions from outside; news that comes at a national level – like Whitehall, the Government, the City, sport. You’ve got the grassroots stories coming from within the region and then the national stories with five or six regional angles, all of which, if covered the right way, become great stories."

And it is not only London-sourced news which provides the basis for the unit. If someone from Grimsby is involved in a car accident in Devon, PA now has such a well-placed network of reporters that the story will be in the Yorkshire/Humberside basket in minutes.

While newspapers remain the agency’s core customers, Potts sees other opportunities for expansion. "There are lots of other people coming into the industry who represent new markets, who don’t have newsrooms but who want news feeds," he said.

"There is a whole information explosion and these people want news information for their products. And all of them want instant, real-time news."

To remain on top of its game, PA is investing in a new computer system which will enable it to transform information, however it is received, into a single process for its newsdesks and sub-editors to deal with.

And it is considering what Potts describes as "the newsroom for the next century" – a multimedia command desk system in the London HQ which will bring news, features, picture, sport and new media editors together on one desk.

It was an idea first envisaged at The Mirror but not pursued.

PA’s famous library is to be moved north to Howden and made fully electronic.

It has already devised a piece of software in-house which enables a journalist at a huge computer screen to key in every move of a football match to the instructions of a former football professional reporting from the match.

Jean Morgan

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