'We can't carry on as a white man's paper'

The Birmingham Evening Mail is to relaunch early next year. The "root and branch" change will see the Mail transform itself from a "white man’s paper" to one that appeals to the city’s ethnic communities, according to editor Roger Borrell.

Virtually every journalist on the staff, totalling nearly 100, is involved in some aspect of the focus group research, he said.

Birmingham’s population includes Afro-Caribbeans, Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus. Research has taken a close look at these communities – "ground-breaking stuff involving different ethnic focus groups telling us what they would like to see in the paper," said Borrell.

"We really need to ensure the paper appeals to them more than it has done in the past. We want the paper to reflect the diverse multicultural nature of the city rather than being a white man’s paper."

Borrell, who arrived in the summer, said it was generally accepted that the Mail was looking rather tired.

"It has been some time since we have had a full-blooded relaunch," he explained. "We have been looking at papers going back almost 15 years and we were all quite amazed to discover that the paper hasn’t changed significantly in that time. It does need the dust shaking off it.

"We are looking at different design concepts, new content, new columnists, new supplements and platforms."

The in-house design team is working on its third dummy and even the masthead is under review, although no final decision on changing that has yet been made.

"The paper will look significantly different," promised Borrell. We are going through market research. We want to produce something that not only we feel is good but the readers do too.

"We haven’t just sat in a dark, smoky room dreaming up great ideas; we’ve also seen to it that virtually every journalist on the staff has been involved in one focus group or another. They all feel involved. It’s their relaunch as much as ours.

"We are hoping that Trinity Mirror will give us the go-ahead for a high-profile campaign."

Ahead of the relaunch, Borrell, previously editor of the Lancashire Evening Post, has announced a new top team. This follows the early retirement of two long-serving members of staff, executive editor Tony Dickens and head of sport Leon Hickman.

Steve Dyson, head of news, who has been heavily involved in relaunch planning, becomes deputy to Borrell with Ray Dunn, deputy editor (production).

Meanwhile, Carole Cole, who was features editor, becomes head of content and her place is taken by her former deputy, Alison Handley.

Ken Montgomery will take charge of sport.

"These appointments will form the cornerstone of the new Evening Mail,” said Borrell.


By Jean Morgan

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