Memories of a Death-Row Execution

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Almost ten years after witnessing the execution of a Death-Row prisoner in Alabama, journalist
Matt Elofson (pictured) is still haunted by the experience.


Recalling the harrowing moment, Matt, who recently joined the editorial department of the Stratford Herald, said: “The images of watching a man take his last breath after a lethal injection of drugs make it an assignment I vividly remember as though it were yesterday.”


Alabama is one of 31 US states still using the death sentence and the prisoner had been on Death-
Row for 23 years after being convicted of the fatal shooting of his daughter’s boyfriend.


Matt, whose assignment involved describing what happened before, during and after the
execution, said: “Watching someone die left me battling bouts of nausea throughout the whole
experience.”


Matt’s comments are contained in a blog for Birmingham Press Club in which he reflects on some
of the differences that he is now encountering as he enjoys life with his family in Warwickshire.


His blog can be read on the Press Club website by clicking on “Read the Board of Directors Blog”
and then clicking onto “Read the Guest Blog.”

Award-winning Editor to go as TM continues to restructure

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A editor whose publication has twice won the Midlands Newspaper of the Year award is set to step down as part of a package of cuts which could see 11 journalist roles axed at the six titles he runs.

Trinity Mirror is set to cut 49 editorial posts as part of the roll-out of its ‘Live’ online brand across its newspaper centres in the Midlands and Bristol.

It has now been confirmed that Gary Phelps (pictured) who serves as editor-in-chief of the Tamworth HeraldNuneaton News, Royal Sutton Coldfield ObserverLichfield MercuryWalsall Advertiser and Great Barr Observer – is to leave as part of the restructure.

According to media website Hold The Front Page, all 19 editorial staff roles at the titles, which are published by TM’s Central Independent News and Media division, have been put at risk of redundancy, including Gary’s.

The company plans to retain eight editorial staff to work on the newspapers, to be headed by an executive editor.

In addition to the job cuts, the National Union of Journalists has claimed the Walsall Advertiser and Great Barr Observer, which merged into a single print product last year, could close, although TM has refused to confirm this.

Under Gary’s editorship, the Tamworth Herald won Midlands Newspaper of the Year in 2015 and 2016. The Awards are organised by Birmingham Press Club.

Also in 2016, the Royal Sutton Coldfield Observer’s fight for a memorial to the victims of a 1955 rail disaster in the town was awarded Campaign of the Year at the same ceremony.

Gary began his career on the Walsall Advertiser in 1990, working his way up from junior reporter to become chief reporter and later news editor.

Eight years later, he became editor of both the Lichfield Mercury and Sutton Coldfield Observer, before taking the title of CIN editorial director in 2005.

As well as the 11 jobs at CIN, the NUJ says 16 jobs are set to go in the East Midlands, eight in Liverpool and two in Coventry.  It is unclear where the other 12 jobs will be lost.

 

Blue plaque for Enoch?

A Wolverhampton newspaper’s online poll on whether Enoch Powell should have a blue plaque erected has closed with 70 per cent of readers giving the idea their backing. However, the Express & Star, which staged the vote over the course of last week, says it has “no plans” to join the campaign to honour the controversial politician.

The poll followed a public meeting held by the Express & Star  last month to mark 50 years since Mr Powell’s infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech warning of the dangers of mass immigration. By the time it closed on Sunday more than 20,000 readers had had their say – with 70 per cent backing the blue plaque proposal.

Wolverhampton Civic and Historical Society has confirmed it has received an application for a plaque for Powell, who was a Tory MP in the city for 24 years.

Among its backers is former Birmingham Post editor Nigel Hastilow, who described Mr Powell in a recent article as “one of the towering figures of the 20th century.”

Hastilow wrote: “Enoch Powell fought to maintain our freedoms.  Would anyone seriously deny such a significant politician a little blue plaque marking his links to Wolverhampton?.”

However the city’s three Labour MPs and the local bishop have all declared their opposition to a plaque on the grounds that it would be tantamount to “honouring his racist views.”

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Despite the overwhelming public vote in favour of the plaque proposal, E&S editor Keith Harrison (pictured) made clear the paper is staying above the fray. He told media website HTFP: “Our aim with the poll was to ascertain a snapshot of public opinion and, as ever, report the results in an accurate, balanced and fair way.

“The scale of the response shows that, 50 years on, the Rivers of Blood speech still sparks strong feelings across the political spectrum. We have no plans to campaign for or against the plaque proposal.”

Industry chiefs welcome Government’s review of printed press 

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The Prime Minister has announced a review into Britain’s printed press which will look into funding models to ensure the continuation of high-quality national and regional journalism. A move that has been described  by the Society of Editors’ executive director as a strong message that the Government “appreciates an independent media.”

Theresa May warned in a speech in Manchester that the disappearance of hundreds of local titles was “dangerous for our democracy.”

The review will examine different business models for quality journalism and also analyse how the supply chain for digital advertising operates.

Birmingham Press Club director Marc Reeves (pictured), editor-in-chief of Trinity Mirror’s Birmingham Mail, said:

“I will watch with interest to see how this develops. I am cautious about the State thinking it should get involved in the very industry that is there to hold it to account, but this could nevertheless be a good thing.

“I am also concerned about the terms of reference - people talk about the ‘decline of newspapers’ and often completely ignore our growth online. We reach more than 50% of Brummies every week through our online channels, an audience equivalent to our print circulation back in the so-called heyday.”

Mrs May warned: “Good quality journalism provides us with the information and analysis we need to inform our viewpoints and conduct a genuine discussion. It is a huge force for good. But in recent years, especially in local journalism, we’ve seen falling circulations, a hollowing-out of local newsrooms and fears for the future sustainability of high-quality journalism.

“Over 200 local papers have closed since 2005. This is dangerous for our democracy. When trusted and credible news sources decline, we can become vulnerable to news which is untrustworthy.

“So to address this challenge to our public debate, we will launch a review to examine the sustainability of our national and local press. It will look at the different business models for high-quality journalism. And because digital advertising is now one of the essential sources of revenue for newspapers, the review will analyse how that supply chain operates.

“It will consider whether the creators of content are getting their fair share of advertisement revenue. And it will recommend whether industry or Government-led solutions can help improve the sustainability of the sector for the future.

“A free press is one of the foundations on which our democracy is built, and it must be preserved,” added the Prime Minister.

Culture secretary Matt Hancock added: “Robust high quality journalism is important for public debate and scrutiny – but as print circulations decline and more readers move online, the press faces an uncertain future.

“This review will look at the sustainability of the national, regional and local press, how content creators are appropriately rewarded for their online creations, and ensure that the UK has a vibrant and independent and plural free press as one of the cornerstones of our public debate.”

Both sides of the industry have welcomed the review. David Dinsmore, chair of trade body the News Media Association, said: “This review acknowledges the importance of journalism in a democratic society, the vital role that the press takes in holding the powerful to account and producing verified news which informs the public. Viable business models must be found that ensure a wide variety of media are able to have a long and healthy future.”

Ian Murray, executive director of the Society of Editors, added:  “All too often it seems we hear the siren voices of some in power who wish for the press or some sections to be muted. This, coupled with economic pressures present as the industry copes with the challenges of a new digital age has meant there are genuine fears that freedom of expression itself is at risk.

“I’m delighted therefore that the government is sending a strong message that it appreciates an independent media in this country and is seeking ways to protect it for future generations.”

National Union of Journalists general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “Quality journalism is at the heart of a healthy democracy – as Theresa May has rightly acknowledged today. It helps to keep people informed, combats fake news, holds those in power to account and promotes community engagement.

“The media industry is in crisis today, more than 300 local newspapers have been closed in the past decade and more than half of all parliamentary constituencies do not have a dedicated daily local newspaper.

“We have consistently highlighted the severity of this situation – our local communities deserve better. Hollowed-out shells of titles are no substitute for properly-resourced titles, with real investment in the provision of news and information that communities are crying out for.

“We therefore welcome the announcement of a review by the government, and the NUJ will fully engage in the process including the call for a panel of experts.”

Momentum steps up to bring Channel 4 to the Midlands

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A campaign by Midlands media and commerce to relocate Channel 4 to the region is being supported by Birmingham Press Club.

A Club statement, in which directors offer to show executives of Channel 4 and the Culture Secretary around Birmingham, says that hundreds of media and broadcast companies have already made the city their home.

“Birmingham offers Channel 4 a modern, vibrant city, where only recently the BBC moved its BBC Three services to its base at BBC Birmingham in The Mailbox - a move that confirms the city has the capability to offer broadcasters experienced and talented people to help create engaging and creative content,” added the statement.

It went on: “We are excited by the idea of Channel 4 moving to our great city. Why? Because it confirms what we already know - Birmingham is fast becoming the new media city. Success of shows like The Peaky Blinders has shown how the city brings success. Its creator Steven Knight is planning to open a major film studio in the city. He can see the potential of basing himself here, in a city which is growing and growing. The foundations are already being laid for a media revolution in Birmingham.”

The Club says the message to Channel 4 is obvious - Birmingham is a location offering value for money; with low costs and a high skill base.

Currently, the Government is considering the results of a consultation into whether the broadcaster should move after the Conservative general election manifesto stated that Channel 4 “will be relocated out of London. The station employs

More than 800 staff but only about 30 are based outside central London.

Birmingham, together with Coventry, Solihull and the Black Country have all been included as potential hosts for the channel in a joint bid submitted by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, who believes that such a move would add £5 billion to the local economy over ten years.

 Social media initiatives have been launched by Trinity Mirror sister-papers Birmingham Mail and Coventry Telegraph highlighting the advantages of a national TV station being based in the West Midlands and  Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce has also added its weight to the campaign.

Credit boost for University

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The University of Nottingham has received a £75 million Revolving Credit Facility from HSBC - sponsor of Birmingham Press Club - to further enhance its facilities and the university experience for students.

The funding will allow the University to continue developing its estate, including teaching and learning spaces, as well as the facilities for its world class research programme. Additionally, the University will continue improving its library and social learning spaces, transform its website and digital assets and invest in the aspiring research leaders of the future.

HSBC has been supporting the University of Nottingham’s China and Malaysia campuses for several years and with HSBC’s head office move to the Midlands, the two global organisations have now begun working together in the UK too.

Margaret Monckton, Chief Financial Officer at the University of Nottingham said: “We are delighted to be working with HSBC in the UK. This funding will enable us to continue enhancing the student experience specifically through our digital transformation, our research vision and our ongoing estates programme. It also builds on our existing relationship with HSBC and paves the way for a longstanding relationship that will continue to benefit our students.”

Jon Bramwell, Managing Director of Large Corporates in HSBC’s Midlands and East team, commented: “By extending our relationship with the University of Nottingham locally, we are helping them realise their growth plans on a larger scale by putting programmes in place that will continue to attract new students at all three of their campuses.”

Suzy Verma, HSBC’s Head of Public Sector & Education in the UK, added: “Given our regional presence we are well placed to support Midlands’ universities with their strategic plans, helping to drive regional economic growth and support the supply of a diverse, talented graduate pool to local businesses. HSBC’s global presence and expertise will enable us to continue to support the University of Nottingham as they increasingly become bigger players on the international stage.”

The University of Nottingham is in the top 85 universities in the world, according to the QS World Rankings 2018. In the 2015/2016 academic year, more than 44,500 students attended the University worldwide and this number has been growing year-on-year.

The funding was arranged by Stephen North, Relationship Director.

Charity trustee role for ex-East Midlands journalist

Lauren Mills at the 2016 Midlands Media Awards

Lauren Mills at the 2016 Midlands Media Awards

A former regional daily journalist has been made a trustee of a charity which runs one of the country’s biggest comedy festival.

Big Difference Company, the charity behind the Leicester Comedy Festival, has appointed ex-Leicester Mercury deputy business editor Lauren Mills to its board of trustees.

Lauren, who was highly commended in the Business Journalist of the Year category at the 2016 Midlands Media Awards, organised by Birmingham Press Club,  joined Nottingham-based PR and marketing agency V Formation last year.

She had previously held senior positions at a number of national newspapers including The Sunday Telegraph, Mail on Sunday and Wall Street Journal.

“I am honoured to have been appointed a trustee of Big Difference Company as it celebrates its 25th anniversary.

“It is a charity which works tirelessly to change the lives of disadvantaged people from all walks of life,” said Lauren.

“It also puts on the annual Leicester Comedy Festival, which brings millions of pounds to the Leicestershire economy and which includes many charitable events as part of the two-week programme.

“I look forward to working with the other trustees and the team at Big Difference to ensure it is in a position to continue its good work for at least another quarter century,” she added.

Death of Broadcasting Giant

Ed Doolan receiving his Life Member award at a Birmingham Press Club luncheon

Ed Doolan receiving his Life Member award at a Birmingham Press Club luncheon

Tributes were paid today (January 16) after broadcasting legend Ed Doolan, who had been unwell since Christmas, died in his sleep earlier today, aged 76. He had been suffering from vascular dementia for a number of years.

 

“Ed was a broadcasting giant – also an inspiration and a friend to many people in the Midlands and across the country,” said Sarah Harness, Editor at BBC WM.

During his career, Ed, who in 2015 was enrolled as a Life Member of Birmingham Press Club in recognition of his services to the industry,  was awarded the MBE for services to radio. He also won a Sony Gold Award and had the unique distinction of becoming the first person to be awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Birmingham, Aston University and the (former) University of Central England, now Birmingham City University.

In paying tribute, David Jennings, head of regional and local programmes at BBC West Midlands, said: “Ed was one of the great names of Local Radio.

“For 30 years from 1982, Ed's daily show was an appointment to listen on BBC WM.  Recently, Ed had been living with dementia, but continued to broadcast a recorded weekly programme featuring interviews from his vast personal archive.

“Ed was a genuine broadcasting giant loved by generations of radio listeners in the West Midlands. On his daily show, he was the people’s champion - tireless in his pursuit of truth and fairness for all. Ed faced dementia with indomitable spirit and bravery, raising awareness of the condition and was the subject of a BBC West Midlands documentary about that battle.

“His contribution has been immense and will continue to inspire presenters across local radio now and in the future.  All our thoughts are with Ed’s wife Chris and their family,” said David.

Sarah added: “Ed’s UK career was launched at BRMB in 1974 and he first broadcast on BBC WM in 1982 but had already become a well- loved figure in the area by then.  He was undoubtedly the people’s champion and I don’t think there was any major public figure he didn’t hold to account on his mid-morning show. Ed was a man of the people and really did get things done and today really is the end of an era.”

She said: “Our audience will need time to talk about their loss and share memories.  But so will we.”

When he was enrolled as a Press Club Life Member, Ed recalled the time he was actually refused membership!

He said:  “It was in March 1973. I turned up at a Press Club meeting and they told me I couldn’t join.  They said I worked in radio – and wasn’t a journalist!

“Anyway, I kept going back and eventually did join when I produced my German Press Card,” said Ed, who worked at Radio Deutsche Welle before joining commercial radio station BRMB in Birmingham.

Celebrate the Mail’s return to city centre

Embassy House, the new home of the Birmingham Mail and Birmingham Live

Embassy House, the new home of the Birmingham Mail and Birmingham Live

Birmingham Press Club is to hold a “welcome back” reception for the Birmingham Mail following the relocation of its editorial operations to the city centre after ten years at Fort Dunlop.

 

It is to be held on Thursday, February 1 (from 6-8 pm) to coincide with the Press Club’s monthly “drop-in” event at St Paul’s Club, St Paul’s Square.

Press Club chairman Llewela Bailey said:  “The move back to the heart of the city is good news – not only for the newspaper operation itself, but also for the community at large. As a Press Club, we are delighted to see the Mail in new offices in Embassy House, Church Street, and to have the opportunity to welcome them back ‘home.’”

Embassy House is situated less than half a mile from Colmore Circus, where the Mail was based prior to the Fort Dunlop move.

From its new base the Mail will oversee the separation of its print and digital operation. The relocation also coincides with the newspaper’s website being rebranded as Birmingham Live.

Editor Marc Reeves said: “This move has been long overdue and will enable our journalists to spend more time on the beat gathering stories and meeting contacts. Birmingham, and in particular the city centre, has seen huge growth in recent years so it’s great to know we will be back in the core of the action and better able to cover the key news events affecting our readers.

“It will also help our business teams cement their relationships with advertisers and enable them to reach their key audiences through our print and digital products and events.”

 

Our Llew’s a Panto Star!

Birmingham Press Club chairman Llewela Bailey is a panto star. Oh! yes, she is. Here’s what the Birmingham Mail’s Les Robinson thought about the show when he caught up with Llewela in the Tamworth Pantomime Company’s performance of Cinderella

“The show had all the traditional characters and all the old phrases you’d expect to find in a panto

“I’m not usually a fan of pantomimes. But as a doting father and dutiful grandfather – I’ve seen a fair few in my time.

I don’t like listening to all those tired old recycled jokes and I’m definitely not a fan of being surrounded by screaming kids and covered in soft drinks and popcorn.

“But this week, in Tamworth Castle Grounds, all that changed – when I took my eight-year-old grandson to see Tamworth Pantomime Company perform Cinderella. And it was hilarious!

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The cast of Tamworth Pantomime Company's Cinderella.

“I think most people know the story of Cinderella, but what a pity most people haven’t seen this version.

“A pantomime designed to entertain all ages, from children right the way up to adults, the show had all the traditional characters, all the old phrases you’d expect to find in a panto and a superbly-delivered balance of adult humour.

Let’s start with my favourites. The Ugly sisters were brilliant, for me they stole the show.

“Their infectious brand of humour carries you along with them whether you wanted to go on that trip or not… and their jokes are genuinely funny. I found myself barely wanting to give them the traditional boos I liked them that much.

By the way, has anyone told Eliot (Prince Charming) that he has a fantastic singing voice? If not, read it here – he has.

He also has great comedy timing and I loved his: ‘You’re not supposed to boo Prince Charming’ retort!

“Buttons pulled it all together well, laying down the classic panto rules right from the start: “Hiss the baddies, cheer the goodies.’’

“The Ugly Sisters may have made me laugh but he was the one who got me in the right frame of mind to enjoy it.

“Llewela Bailey as Queen Atherstonia – how cool is that? A woman who commands a stage as good as she does the microphone; just perfect.

Llewela Bailey Bailey (pictured here) stars as Queen Atherstonia in Tamworth Pantomime Company's Cinderella.

“Cinderella, beautiful, talented and the perfect girl in the perfect role. So very, very well done.

As for Baroness Hardup. What can I say? Genius, yes that will do. This woman sure knows how to stir up a crowd, she was domineering, cutting, rude and dismissive. I almost felt I was married to her.

“And from ‘Bit-Part’ the Fairy Godmother, right on through to the dancers and the special effects, the whole thing just flowed and before you knew it you were applauding away a brilliant evening.

“I’ve been lucky in life. I’ve had the good fortune to see shows both on Broadway and in the West End, but sitting there with my eight-year-old grandson that Wednesday night (December 20), I realised that Tamworth Panto Company had given me something I never thought I’d feel again – they gave me back the magic of Christmas.”

New Editor at Top Title

As a teenager, Julie Crouch almost joined the Army – now she’s the “commanding officer” at an award-winning newspaper.

Just before Christmas, Julie took over as brand editor at the Burton Mail, succeeding Emma Turton, who is taking a break after 30 years in the industry.

The Burton Mail was winner of the Newspaper of the Year title at the 2017 Midlands Media Awards, organised by Birmingham Press Club. Daily Mail columnist and broadcaster Andrew Pierce, who headed the judging panel, said:  “The winning title, produced by a small, dedicated team, looks and plays the part of a model local newspaper. It is nicely presented with consistently strong local and community focused content – and the judges also felt it benefited from not being overly designed.”

Julie, aged 51, said: “I’m thrilled to be taking the helm at the Mail. And I look forward to continuing the good work and standing in the community that the title and its website have.”

Unsure of what career path to follow after leaving school, Julie eventually decided to join the Army. But while waiting for her call-up papers she saw an advertisement for a trainee reporter at the Ilkeston Advertiser – her home town newspaper.

“I thought that looks interesting – and that was that,” said Julie. “In my first week there was a train fire, an explosion at a garage and the sails blew off the local windmill. I was hooked on journalism – and ever since I have never wanted to do anything else.”

Julie originally joined the Burton Mail in 1994 as deputy news editor, subsequently taking over the role as sub-editor, before leaving 13 years later to become assistant editor at the Derbyshire weekly titles, the Ripley & Heanor News and the Belper News, owned by Johnson Press (JP).

During her six years at JP, Julie eventually became editor of the two titles, as well as working on other newspapers within the JP stable such as the Eastwood & Kimberley Advertiser, Mansfield Chad and Buxton Advertiser.

She returned to the Burton Mail four years ago as deputy to Emma Turton.

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Pictured:  Julie (right) pictured with Burton Mail colleagues Helen Kreft, Rhea Turner and former editor Emma Turton

Lunch helps boost funds for Journalists’ Charity

Brummie comedian James Cook provided the entertainment at Birmingham Press Club’s festive lunch, held at the AA Rosette-winning Circle Restaurant, Birmingham Hippodrome.

Sixty guests, including celebrities from the print world, television and radio, attended the event, where they were welcomed by Rob Macpherson, the Hippodrome’s marketing and development director.

Press Club chairman Llewela Bailey said:  “Guests thought that the lunch was one of our most successful and I would like to thank everyone who, through their support, made it such a great event.”

A prize draw raised £500 for The Journalists’ Charity, which was originally started when a group of Parliamentary journalists, including Charles Dickens, set up a fund to help colleagues and dependents who had fallen on hard times. Since then, it has assisted those most in need with financial help as well as residential and nursing care.

Photographs: Ian Tennant

Editor facing redundancy axe

Newsquest has revealed that it plans to make one of its regional editors redundant – just three days before Christmas.

It is believed the announcement was made prior to editorial staff meeting for their Christmas meal.

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Peter John (pictured), who has edited the Worcester News for the past six years, is the latest in a series of senior Newsquest editors to leave the company over recent months. Peter, who is also regional editor for Newsquest’s Midlands South and Gloucestershire division, was previously publisher at the company’s Stourbridge division.

A memo from divisional managing director Julia Lancett said: “There is a need to reduce costs and deliver efficiencies in the editorial team across Midlands South/Glos, and as a result the company is proposing to make the role of regional editor redundant.

“It is with regret therefore, that under these proposals the role of regional editor for Midlands South/Glos will be placed at risk of redundancy with immediate effect with a proposed termination date of 22 December 2017, although this date is subject to confirmation.”

The memo added: “As with any reorganisation, it is the policy of the company to avoid unnecessary redundancies wherever possible and in an effort to do so it will now undertake a consultation process with those staff affected to discuss potential ways of doing so.”

Over the past month, Newsquest had made a series of job loss announcements at other publishing centres including Blackburn, Bolton, Bradford, Gloucestershire, Oxford, Wiltshire and York, with a total of 34 editorial roles, including Peter’s, set to be lost.

In September this year, a restructure of the Midlands South and Gloucestershire division, saw John Wilson, Peter’s deputy in Worcester, effectively swap places with Michael Purton, editor of three Newsquest weeklies in Gloucestershire.

Michael is now divisional deputy editor for Newsquest Midlands South & Gloucestershire with responsibility for daily operations within the Worcester newsroom, while John has taken on Michael’s old titles and Newsquest’s Herefordshire weeklies.

A Newsquest spokesman said: “Whilst regrettable, we can confirm there is a proposal to make the role of regional editor redundant.”

He was once voted the “funniest man in the Midlands.” Lunch guests will find out if he still is

Pic credit:  Jonathan Lee

Pic credit:  Jonathan Lee

His stand-up comedy routines have wowed audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Birmingham Comedy Festival and clubs around the country.

Now Brummie comedian James Cook (pictured) is planning to do the same at Birmingham Press Club’s Christmas lunch on 14 December.

In 2003, James won a Jongleurs/Spike Milligan award for being the funniest person in the Midlands. That’s 14 years ago - and they haven’t asked for it back. So James is assuming it must still be him!

“I’m told that some members of the audience can give you a hard time at a Press Club Christmas lunch. But we’re all Brummies together so they should appreciate my brand of humour,” said James, who lives in Kings Heath. “At least, that’s what I am hoping!”

One reviewer has described his act as having “scant regard for the hackneyed conventions of stand-up,” while others had said he is “truly original” and “suave and chirpy.”

James’ career has also taken him into radio and for ten years he worked as a presenter on three commercial stations.

The Press Club lunch is being held at Birmingham Hippodrome’s Circle Restaurant.

News partnership will deliver “high impact journalism” to local audiences

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Journalists from across the UK’s local news industry have started work and training secondments at the Birmingham-based Shared Data Unit (SDU) as part of the BBC’s Local News Partnership - its collaboration with the wider local news industry.

The secondments are aimed at developing data journalism expertise in the regional news marketplace while also creating further content for all Local News Partnership-approved partners.

The Unit will share its generated data journalism with news organisations across the local news media industry. It will be staffed by a BBC team as well as a rolling intake of seconded reporters from local news providers.

Three journalists from the Birmingham Post and Mail, Northampton Chronicle and Echo and the Bradford Telegraph and Argus made up the first wave of secondees to work with the unit.

During their time at the BBC they will take part in a bespoke training programme aimed at delivering highly-valued data journalism expertise and skills back into the local news industry.

Working alongside BBC reporters to create data-driven public interest journalism for the next three months, they will also help develop the programme for the benefit of future secondees.

Since launching in September this year the SDU has already shared content with more than 600 media outlets across the UK, delivering stories on a range of issues.

In September, it reported how teacher vacancy rates were at their highest in the most deprived parts of England.

And in October 2017, it reported that the proportion of EU nationals leaving jobs in the NHS is rising, while the share of those joining is shrinking. Both stories were used by partners across the industry including print, radio and television.

Commenting on the development David Holdsworth (pictured), controller of BBC English Regions, said:  “The Unit is already producing stories which have been used across the industry and we are confident of its continuing success, particularly with our partners from the newspaper industry bringing their experience.”

Birmingham Press Club director Eileen Murphy, who is the BBC digital editor with oversight of the SDU, said: “Collaboration around data journalism is essential at a local level to help deliver high impact journalism to our local audiences. By working in partnership with colleagues across local news we hope to deliver not only high impact content but also support the development of the next generation of local data journalists in the UK.”

The Shared Data Unit is part of a partnership agreement between the News Media Association and the BBC that will see the creation of 150 new journalism jobs who will be Local Democracy Reporters as well as a facility allowing local news providers access to relevant regional BBC material.

The BBC is investing up to £8 million in the partnership, which reflects a commitment in the BBC’s Charter to work with local news providers over the next eight years.

It’s been created and agreed by the BBC and the News Media Association, which represents the majority of the UK’s news publishers.