Regional teams work through night to produce war specials

Western Mail: relaunched as war broke out

Relaunching your paper on a new press on the day war breaks out is not something any editor would relish – but it happened to Western Mail editor Alan Edmunds.

His new-look paper rolled off Trinity Mirror’s £18m press in Cardiff Bay in the early hours of 20 March.

Although first editions had already gone out across Wales, Western Mail journalists changed pages for special editions at 5am and 6am.

“Everyone was already buzzing with the relaunch and the new press, but covering a breaking war added to the tension and excitement. All the team did a great job,” said Edmunds.

That buzz infected regional newsrooms across the country. Morning paper journalists switched into war mode early on and evening newspapers called in teams in the early hours to produce special war editions as early as the national newspapers.

The Journal, Newcastle, put out two special editions, with colour bills, at 3am and 4am; the English edition of the Liverpool-based Daily Post, published a 4am edition.

Of Trinity Mirror’s evenings, the Liverpool Echo produced a 10.30am, eight-page special; an eight-strong team on the Birmingham Evening Mail printed nine dedicated pages by 6.30am; the Coventry Evening Telegraph had a 7am, nine-page special; the South Wales Echo’s seven-strong team produced 11 pages by 9.15am; and the Evening Chronicle, Newcastle, gave the conflict eight pages of coverage, including a story on a war protest that brought traffic chaos to the centre of Newcastle.

Within minutes of the first strikes against Iraq, the Colchester Evening Gazette team were putting together a 6am edition. Colchester is a garrison town with 2,500 soldiers sent to the Gulf. Editor Irene Kettle said: “I felt it was vital we brought the news to the people as soon as possible.”

Down in Taunton, home of 40 Commando Royal Marines, the Somerset County Gazette devoted its first five pages to the conflict.

The Citizen, Gloucester, had planned a 16-page special for 7am Thursday but editor Ian Mean and deputy Bev Ward were still in discussions about running it at 2am.

The problem was solved when the surprise American attack on Baghdad started half an hour later. By 3am, the editorial team was in the office and by 6.30am five pages were ready to go.

Mean marched his team to a local hotel for breakfast and got them back to their posts for the first Forest of Dean edition at 9.30am.

The Glasgow-based Daily Record’s special was off-stone at 6.30am, with demand quickly outstripping supplies.

The edition was put to bed by a “special forces” team, co-ordinated by the newspaper’s deputy editor Murray Foote, and comprising assistant editor (production) Tony Donnelly, Kenny Rattray, Lucy Allsopp, James Cargill and Iain Leckie.

The Cambridge Evening News’ 6.30am special had seven pages, with staff in from 3am.

Some of them took a break in the afternoon before returning at 5pm to cover the paper’s annual Business Excellence Awards.

EDITIONS PRODUCED AROUND THE CLOCK

The morning Northern Echo produced an historic 5am war edition. It was the sixth edition of the night with eight pages of news and analysis. It sold an extra 10,000.

Editor Peter Barron said: “Quite a few of us haven’t had much sleep but it was an outstanding team effort.”

The Hull Daily Mail has run a breakfast edition every day since war broke out, put together at 2am by a team led by editor John Meehan, deputy editor Mel Cook and assistant editor Paul Hartley.

The edition is off-stone at 6am and has carried as many as 17 pages of war coverage. On the first day, a special at 5pm helped sell 5,000 extra copies.

Staff from The Sentinel and Sentinel Sunday, Stoke-on-Trent, picked up a clutch of honours at West Midlands Media Awards just hours after working through the night putting together a 7am war edition.

By Jean Morgan

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