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.

Ex-Space Agency man lands senior role at HSBC UK

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HSBC UK – overall sponsor of Birmingham Press Club – has appointed Stuart Haire (pictured) as Head of Retail Banking & Wealth Management (RBWM), following his appointment as Acting Head in May. Stuart was previously Head of Customer Value Management for the UK Retail Bank. 

Stuart will be responsible for leading the UK RBWM multi-brand strategy, which includes first direct and M&S Bank as well as HSBC UK retail banking, with a strategy sharply focused on investing in digital, simpler customer journeys and better customer interaction.

Ian Stuart, HSBC UK’s chief executive officer, said: “Stuart’s broad range of experience in financial services makes him ideally suited to drive forward our strategy.” 

Commenting on his appointment, Stuart said: “I’m excited to take on this challenging role. Driven by digital technology and changing consumer expectations, the retail banking industry is going through a period of heightened competition that will be really positive for customer service. With trusted brands and a singular focus on the customer, I will ensure HSBC is well-positioned to improve the experience for people who already bank with us and to attract new customers.”

Prior to joining HSBC, Stuart was leader of the Direct Bank for personal and SME customers of NatWest, RBS and Ulster Bank. The Direct Bank was made up of Digital, Digital Support and Service Centres.

Previous roles at RBS included responsibility for Credit Risk, Compliance, Operational Risk, Product Management, Commercial Performance, Strategy, Capital Management and Treasury.

Prior to his time at RBS, Stuart was a consultant leading projects delivering enterprise scale data warehouses, data mining capability, customer relationship management and sales and marketing systems. He has an academic background culminating in a First from The University of Glasgow in Physics and Electronic Engineering followed by a short time at the European Space Agency.

Apprentice makes TV history

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A BBC journalist, who received training at the City of Wolverhampton College, has made history by becoming the youngest-ever person to report on the News at 10.

Twenty-year-old Izin Akhabau, pictured here with Huw Edwards, the programme presenter and newsreader, was among the first ever group of digital journalism apprentices taken on at BBC News in 2015.

Her on-screen report was about spoken-word poetry.

Former Birmingham Press Club director Sue Green, who is NCTJ College Lecturer for BBC Apprenticeship Course, said: “This is a huge achievement particularly for someone so young.  Izin is a star and I am absolutely delighted for her.

“The City of Wolverhampton College, as the top performing NCTJ accredited FE centre in the UK, was selected by the BBC Academy to take up the challenge as the provider for this  alternative and demanding route into the highly competitive industry.  

“It is aimed at those who are resilient, determined, persistent, inquiring, committed, hard-working with a lively interest in current affairs and enthusiastic about all things digital. Anyone with any type of university degree should not apply.”

Sue added: “Izin is among dozens of young people who have now grasped this new opportunity in journalism education and training as BBC newsrooms across the country open up to junior apprentices.”

The apprentice scheme attracted over 3,000 applicants, and just ten were selected for the 18-month course, which culminates in a diploma accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists and allows participants to work in departments including BBC Politics, Newsnight and BBC News.

“It has been amazing to work with the team from the Six and Ten, and learn a new skillset,” said Izin. “In the future, there are so many things I want to learn how to do, including coming back to work at the BBC full-time.”

The BBC took on another 22 apprentices in October, and 10 have started at local radio stations, and 12 at network news.

“Izin’s story was superb,” said Paul Royall, editor of BBC News at Six and Ten. “She reported with flair and imagination and brought an original story to the Ten. We hope to see her again.”

Christmas Lunch – The Date is Fixed

Here’s a date for your diary – Thursday, December 14.

It’s the eagerly-awaited Birmingham Press Club Christmas Lunch. And this year the function will be held at Birmingham Hippodrome’s Circle Restaurant, which is the proud holder of the AA Rosette, awarded for culinary excellence.

Press Club chairman Llewela Bailey said:  “Christmas lunch is always one of the social highlights of our year. It’s a real fun occasion – and this time will be no exception.”

Guests will have exclusive use of the restaurant and upon a red-carpet arrival (via the main doors in Hurst Street) will receive a welcoming drink – either a glass of prosecco or a bottle of beer.

A two- course meal will be accompanied by a 1/3 of a bottle of wine per person.

Lunch will be served at 12.45 pm, preceded by a drinks reception at 12 noon. The event is expected to finish at 4.45 pm but, from 5 pm onwards, guests will have exclusive use of the Stalls Foyer bar on a pay-as-you-go basis to continue festivities.

Tickets are priced at £44 each, including VAT.

To confirm your booking please e-mail fred.bromwich@btinternet.com and forward a cheque, payable to Birmingham Press Club, to Fred Bromwich, 10 Dover Avenue, Worcester, WR4 0LA.

Date set for HSBC opening

HSBC UK’s new head office in Birmingham city centre will officially open on 16 May next year – bringing a vibrant new “heartbeat” to the city’s economy.

The announcement was revealed exclusively to media members of Birmingham Press Club when HSBC officials hosted a reception held at the Press Club’s new “home,” St Paul’s Club in St Paul’s Square.

A series of special events is being planned to mark the launch of the bank, which, upon completion of its new head office building in Centenary Square, will have invested more than £200 million and will have a 4,000-strong workforce in the city.

Ian Stuart, who has been appointed chief executive of HSBC UK – the overall sponsor of the Press Club – told guests:  “We have a mandate to grow the business. But we very much care about our customers and our role in the community.”

He said that the bank’s investment in the city would provide it with an exciting new heartbeat.

Press Club president Bob Warman and Press Club chairman Llewela Bailey, who welcomed Ian and his team to the Press Club, said the city, being a major economic force, expected to attract other significant investments, one target being the relocation of Channel Four.

HSBC UK will serve the bank’s personal and business customers. The creation of the ring-fenced bank has been in response to the Financial Services (Banking Reform) Act 2013.

Birmingham was chosen as its base following a review by the bank of a number of possible head office locations.

Both the Press Club and HSBC were founded in 1865.

 

Journalists experimenting with “significant change” on Twitter

Karyn Fleeting

Karyn Fleeting

Twitter’s new 280-character limit has the potential to be a “very significant change” in how journalists engage with readers, according to a regional publisher’s digital chief.

Karyn Fleeting, head of audience engagement at Trinity Mirror Regionals, says the company’s journalists are being encouraged to experiment with the new format on the social network.

However, she has also warned newspapers and journalists may face increased competition for screen space on the website as a result of the switch.

The move by Twitter follows a trial among a small group of users which allowed them to expand beyond the traditional 140 character limit.

Describing the change as a “landmark” event for Twitter, Karyn told media website Hold The Front Page: “We’re encouraging journalists to experiment. It has the potential to be a very significant change in how they go about engaging with their Twitter followers.”

She said: “Looking at what other publishers on Twitter have started doing, football clubs in particular seem to be having a lot of fun with this but one wonders if there is a way we can use it more meaningfully. One potential challenge is, with screen real estate so limited, particularly on mobile where more of our readership is coming from now, whether this increased competition for screen space will make Twitter more of a challenge in terms of reaching our audience.

“I think it’s good to have a shake-up of things on Twitter, it’s been the same way for a long time now.”

Birmingham Mail editor Marc Reeves wrote: “Today I shall mostly be unfollowing people taking the p*** with the new Twitter limit.” And former Derby Telegraph and Bristol Post editor Mike Lowe commented: “I’ll never understand media companies who willingly destroy their USP for no good reason.”

 

Burton’s Best, say Media Awards Judges

Helen Kreft, Rhea Turner, Emma Turton, Julie Crouch of Burton Mail 

Helen Kreft, Rhea Turner, Emma Turton, Julie Crouch of Burton Mail 

Tabloid daily the Burton Mail was last night (2 November) crowned as Newspaper of the Year at the Midlands Media Awards – capturing the title from fellow-Staffordshire newspaper the Tamworth Herald, which had won the accolade for the last two years.

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.”

Owned by Staffordshire Newspapers Limited, now part of the Trinity Mirror Regional stable, the Burton Mail, which covers East Staffordshire, South Derbyshire and North West Leicestershire, is edited by Emma Turton. Emma, who started her career at the South London Press, joined the Burton Mail in 2002 after having previously worked at the Nottingham Post and Derby Evening Telegraph.

Burton Mail editor Emma Turton told guests: “I am delighted that the hard work of the Mail team has been recognised. I am incredibly proud to lead the team and want to thank everyone who plays a part in the day-to-day production of our paper.”

Two former winners, the Express & Star and Derby Telegraph, were both commended by the judges – the Black Country daily for living up to its reputation as one of the best local ‘papers in the country with a high story count (breaking local, regional and national news), rammed with news and a strong sports section doing wonders for circulation; the Derby publication for its strong splashes and page leads always well projected with good headlines and strong local news which often went national.

Sponsored by HSBC, the Awards, organised by Birmingham-based Lotty Harper Events on behalf of Birmingham Press Club, were also supported by Bareface, Core, Russell Printers, Staffordshire University, The High Field and Milk and Mayo.

Birmingham Press Club, which is now celebrating its 152st anniversary, is the oldest Press Club in the world. The Awards are the highlight of the Club’s event calendar.

This year attracting more than 200 entries, the Awards take place annually to acknowledge the achievements of the region’s leading journalists, photographers, broadcasters and bloggers.

For the second year running, double honours went to Jonathan Gibson, from the BBC’s Inside Out West Midlands programme, a winner in Television Journalist of the Year and Story of the Year categories, while Neil Elkes, the Birmingham Mail’s local government correspondent took the News Reporter of the Year (Daily) award.

The hotly contested Newcomer of the Year Award, which attracted 25 entries from university students and trainee journalists, was won by Gemma Davies from Quidem Radio, which broadcasts across the South Midlands including Warwickshire and Oxfordshire.

Photographic honours went to Richard T Harris of Central Independent Newspapers.

The full results are:

Blogger/Columnist of the Year:  Winner – Anton Rippon, Derby Telegraph. The judges said Anton is a long-standing columnist, who, whether he is in a whimsical mood, deadly serious or downright controversial never fails to entertain and inform. Highly commended, Mike Lockley, Birmingham Mail; Jenny Amphlett, The Sentinel.

Business Journalist of the Year: Winner – Enda Mullen, Coventry Telegraph, for a portfolio, which examined the past and future of the Coventry/Warwickshire automotive industry. The judges praised Enda for providing much-needed business coverage in the city and particularly liked his series on the restoration of Coventry as Car City. Highly commended – Les Reid, for continuing his great work in breaking stories for the Coventry Observer

Campaign of the Year:  Joint winners – Birmingham Mail for “Justice for the 21” and Express & Star for “Zombie Knives” investigation. Highly Commended – Tamworth Herald’s “Forgotten Warrior;” Tamworth Herald/Lichfield Mercury’s “Save the Hospital Unit” and The Sentinel’s “Stoke-on-Trent City of Culture Bid.”

The judges praised the Birmingham Mail’s long-running pub bombing justice campaign, which eventually forced a change in British law to allow the families of those killed to get legal aid.  The Mail impressed with its persistent drive for truth and justice for the victims of the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings. They also described the Zombie Knives campaign as one of the most successful ever undertaken by the Express & Star in recent times.  The newspaper’s investigation into a shocking legal loophole, which made Zombie knives freely available, resulted in a change in the law that finally banned such terrifying weapons. Unlike some of the entries, this one ended in a successful conclusion to the campaign.

Digital/Online Journalist of the Year:  Winner – Caroline Lowbridge, BBC East Midlands. Highly commended, James Sharpe, Leicester Mercury.  The judges said that Caroline was an outstanding candidate, providing great content and demonstrating imaginative use of the digital medium, one of her entries showcasing her skills as a drone pilot as well as her creativity with text and video!

Feature Writer of the Year:  Winner – Richard Ault, The Sentinel. Highly commended, Jessica Labhart, Express and Star. The judges said that Richard had submitted a very strong portfolio, including an exclusive Remembrance Day article about a Staffordshire man killed fighting with the US forces in Vietnam, which resulted in the man’s name being added to the war memorial in his home town of Stoke on Trent

Magazine/Supplement of the Year:  Winner – Venture (Kathryn Emerson, University of Worcester). Highly commended – Birmingham Mail’s Birmingham 2022 supplement and Shropshire Business magazine. The judges said that Kathrny, a journalism student at the University of Worcester and a broadcast assistant at BBC Radio Shropshire, had produced an outdoor adventure magazine packed with great originally, flair and creativity. A one-woman enterprise from start to finish, crammed with her own features, designs and photographs.

Newcomer of the Year:  Winner – Gemma Davies, broadcast journalist, Quidem Radio, encompassing Touch FM, Rugby FM and Banbury Sound. Highly commended – Jack Furness, trainee reporter, The Sentinel. Michael McCann, Staffordshire University sports broadcast journalism student/freelance journalist and Rhea Turner, trainee reporter, Burton Mail. The judges said:  “This was a very strong section, reflecting the rapidly changing face of Midlands media with entries from across the spectrum of print, social media, radio and the blog sphere. In her first year as a full-time broadcast journalist, Gemma contributed greatly to a small Newsteam covering five radio stations; one of her main achievements putting together a 30-minute special about a key local issue, the downgrading of hospital services. The judges were impressed that she persuaded a local MP to be driven from a hospital earmarked for severe cuts to the alternative hospital her constituents would have to go to in a nearby town. Good content and a good idea.

News Reporter of the Year (Daily): Winner – Neil Elkes, Local Government Correspondent, Birmingham Mail.  Highly commended – Enda Mullen, Coventry Telegraph. Jeanette Oldham, Birmingham Mail.  The judges said that Neil had produced a string of exclusives, which not only attracted the attention of national media but also made a difference to the citizens of Birmingham and held political leaders to account.

News Reporter of the Year (Weekly): Winner –   Mike Lockley, Sunday Mercury. Highly commended – Jordan Coussins, Central Independent News and Media. The judges said Mike – a man with more contacts than Yellow Pages - consistently comes up with hard-hitting, investigative-type stories, particularly citing his article about an anti-abduction charity

Newspaper of the Year:  Winner – Burton Mail.  Highly commended – Express & Star; Derby Telegraph.

Radio Journalist of the Year:  Winner –  Jennie Aitken, of BBC Radio Stoke, for her probe into the use of mamba (psychoactive drugs) in Stoke-on-Trent and the impact of the homeless people who are using it. Also, her coverage of reaction to recent terror attacks and Islamophobia being experienced by some Muslim women. Highly commended – Louise Easton, of Free Radio. Alex Hulse, of Global’s Newsroom Midlands.

Story of the Year:  Joint winners  – Jonathan Gibson of BBC Inside Out West Midlands, for his “NHS Repeat Prescription Fraud” investigation which prompted national debate and calls for greater scrutiny of the issuing process. And Isaac Crowson, Derby Telegraph’s crime reporter for the “Horrors of Aston Hall” article, which exposed the horrific sexual, physical and emotional abuse suffered by children at a mental hospital in the 1960s and 70s. The story began with a tip-off from one of Isaac’s contacts and the abuse only came to light after a long-running and determined investigation and campaign by the Telegraph, resulting in Derbyshire Police’s biggest-ever child abuse probe. More than 100 alleged victims came forward and so far police have identified 58 crimes.

The judges said: “This was a classic dilemma – there were two outstanding entries, both of which deserved to win. On the one hand, we had a hard-hitting, well-presented BBC investigation into prescription sale abuse put together by a team that regularly has its work on national networks. In the opposite corner – a great scoop on illegal and barbaric medical experiments, meticulously researched with great interviews with victims and well illustrated with photographs from now and then. Clearly the Derby Telegraph doesn’t have the resources of the BBC and one journalist’s byline appeared on all their copy.

“That’s why the judges decided upon a joint award to reflect that they were two great journalist scoops from opposite ends of the media market.

“In the end, David drew with Goliath.” Highly commended:  Michael McCann, Staffordshire University; Jonathan Gibson, BBC; Audrey Dias, BBC Midlands Today

Sports Journalist of the Year: Winner –  Lewis Cox of the Express & Star. Highly commended – Steve Clamp of ITV Central.  Michael Sibert of ITV Central. The judges said Lewis – the first trainee journalist to win a major category at the awards – saw off strong competition from experienced journalists to win with an exclusive about Shrewsbury Town FC being the first football club in the country to re-introduce safe standing - a story that was later picked up by other media outlets. Lewis arrived at the Express & Star on work experience but so impressed that the paper took the unusual step of employing him without the NCJT diploma – something which he is now taking. Lewis transformed the Star’s grassroots sports coverage so significantly that he was quickly promoted to cover a League One team.

Television Journalist of the Year: Winner – Jonathan Gibson, of BBC Inside Out West Midlands. Highly commended – Mark Gough, ITV Central; Michael Sibert, of ITV Central and Sian Grzeszczyk, a senior political reporter with the BBC.  The judges said Jonathan demonstrated outstanding investigative journalism by expertly delivering the goods with his investigations into a major flaw in Tesco’s pricing procedures and NHS patients selling their repeat prescriptions at a profit despite the health service being under huge financial pressure.

The Tony Flanagan Photographer of the Year Award:  Winner –Richard T Harris, of Central Independent Newspapers, whose portfolio included a Tamworth Herald front cover shot of the famous Shrove Tuesday Ball Game in Atherstone.  Highly commended – Steve Bould, of The Sentinel and Nick Wilkinson, of Birmingham Mail. The judges said that Richard’s entry demonstrated emotion and great variety.

The President’s Award: (Chosen from the category winners) went to Mike Lockley – the man whose keyboard never goes cold - of the Birmingham Mail/Sunday Mercury. For sheer all-year-round consistency, entertainment value and ability to capture the reader’s interest.

MADE IN BIRMINGHAM SETS UP HOME IN CITY’S ‘MEDIA MILE’ 

Made in Birmingham, the regional television channel available to viewers nationwide, is celebrating an office move to new premises in Birmingham’s ‘Media Mile’. 

Taking prime position in the Gas Street Basin area of the City, alongside the likes of the BBC, ITV, Heart FM, Free Radio and numerous production companies, the move has taken place in Made in Birmingham’s first year of broadcast. 

The Made in Birmingham team spans all areas of television, including TV pundits, presenters, technicians and journalists, all tasked with producing content and programming for the 24/7 channel. 

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Chris James (pictured), Group Head of News and Programming at Made Television, said: “We are thrilled to have moved to new offices and to have invested in state-of-the-art equipment and studios, which will enable us to provide even more great programming for our viewers.”

Made in Birmingham – which broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, -attracts over one million monthly viewers and will be releasing new programming details shortly for its winter schedule.  It is available on Sky Guide 117, Freeview 7 and Virgin 159.

No Naga Chillies – but curry competition was hot stuff

Who said people in Birmingham the Black Country and Coventry don’t get on? (well, quite a few have actually).

However, it must be said the fledgling West Midlands Combined Authority is helping to create a positive working relationship in the region.  Now an even newer “alliance” of the Big Three has reaped its own success – by winning Birmingham Press Club’s prestigious Curry Cook-Off Challenge!

Captained by Coventry Telegraph business correspondent Enda Mullen, who was joined by Black Country-based Peter Brookes and Steve Rainbow, fund-raising officer at Birmingham charity St Basils, “The Bucc-a-Sag-Paneers” (whoever thought of that as a team name?) created a dish that not only tickled the taste-buds but also delighted chef Sanju Shrestha, who judged the entries.

A flavoursome and well balanced chicken curry, combined with fresh tomatoes, shallots and cavolo nero, took the honours.

Enda said:  “It was a really top night – very enjoyable and very, very competitive! Winning was a fabulous bonus.”

Indian chef and author Anita Sharma-James, who organised the event, held at the Jojolapa Nepalese restaurant in Newhall Street, Birmingham, said:  “Each of the four competing teams had its own interpretation of a chicken curry. One thought that by adding copious amounts of red wine they would be able to present a dish that was ‘extra special.’   But it simply wasn’t to the taste of the judge!”

Before the competition, Anita provided inspiration to the contestants by offering expert advice in the form of a short cookery demonstration, as well as organising a culinary quiz – which ”The Bucc-a-Sag-Paneers” also won, to complete a memorable double on the night.

Hot-spot:  No naga chillies (the legendary superhot ones) were used in the making of the curry – even though Steve Rainbow created a three-minute documentary film about them for Channel 5. Watch “Quest for Fire” by logging onto https://vimeo.com/164968199

Afternoon tea, an overnight stay and much more

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An overnight stay at a stylish boutique hotel in Edgbaston is one of the star raffle prizes on offer at the Midlands Media Awards on 2 November.

The High Field Town House, which has been converted from an elegant Victorian villa into a quality hotel with 12 individually-designed en-suite rooms, will be the location for bed & breakfast for two people.

The hotel, situated in Highfield Road, is run in conjunction with The High Field, a smart and popular gastropub next door, which opened in 2004.

A real treat is also being provided by The Edgbaston – another chic boutique hotel, which is offering afternoon Tea for Two.  One ticket-holder will be able to discover just why the judges at this year’s Midlands Food, Drink and Hospitality Awards voted the hotel as serving the “Best Afternoon Tea” in the region.

Luxury department store Harvey Nichols is to provide a hamper full of quality goodies, while Simpson’s, one of Birmingham’s Michelin-starred restaurants, will tantalise the taste-buds with a six-course tasting menu (with a bottle of wine) for two guests to enjoy.

And for sports fans, event sponsor HSBC has donated a presentation shirt signed by Olympics cycling star Sir Chris Hoy, MBE.

The Midlands Media Awards, organised by Birmingham Press Club to acknowledge the achievements of the region’s journalists, photographers, bloggers and publications, take place at the Canalside venue at The Cube on 2 November.

Proceeds will go to The Journalists Charity, which was founded in 1864 to distribute grants and other forms of financial assistance to those in urgent need. In 2015, the charity, which runs its own care and retirement homes, paid out over £330,000 to beneficiaries whose ages ranged from the 20s to the 90s.

Press Club is linking up with Europe

Solidarity for Free Turkey Media

Solidarity for Free Turkey Media

Birmingham Press Club has been admitted to membership of the European Press Clubs Federation following a presentation by Press Club chairman Llewela Bailey and fellow-director Adrian Kibbler to members attending the Federation’s annual general assembly, held in Warsaw.

The Federation represents the interests of journalists in Europe, including Belarus, which has the youngest press club, having been formed in 2012.

Birmingham Press Club chairman Llewela Bailey together wit ... (right) and Dr Martyn Bond from the London Press Club

Birmingham Press Club chairman Llewela Bailey together wit ... (right) and Dr Martyn Bond from the London Press Club

Llewela said:  “It was a great opportunity to meet our European counterparts, exchange experiences and to bring them up to speed about our own Club, the oldest one of its kind in the world.”

She added: “There was an interesting discussion about the challenges facing journalism and the impression was that whilst the decline in paid-for sales and job losses in journalism are factors in other countries the situation in the UK is more serious than in other parts of Europe.”

Adrian added:  “A common issue facing clubs is the emergence of a ‘blogging community’ and the challenging question  is ‘are bloggers journalists?’ The answer - some are some are not, but there was a clear view that clubs have a role in upholding journalistic standards.

“Whilst most clubs have journalists and non-journalists as members the view of other clubs was that press and the promotion of journalism should be at the key to the work of member clubs.”

He said: “It was also apparent that journalism and journalists are held in higher regard in many European countries than is the case in the UK – this is probably a feature that people in the former communist block are very aware of the importance of free speech and a free press that can be taken for granted in the UK.”

Shared best practice, joint collaboration on issues of importance relating to legislation and press freedom, information sharing and enhancement of journalistic credentials are seen as some of the benefits of membership to the Federation.

Next year’s General Assembly will be held in Lille, while Brussels will host in 2019. London will be the venue for 2020.

Youth Media Website locks horns with Mail Online

An interior view of the offices of the Daily Mail and Mail Online

An interior view of the offices of the Daily Mail and Mail Online

It’s not all “jam and honey” being a trainee journalist – but it seems that quite a few can’t stand having to “cut and paste.”

So much so that their objections have created a media storm of their own.

The Tab, one of the biggest youth media websites in Britain, in an article complaining about the workplace culture at the biggest English-language newspaper website in the world, claims that ten of the 16 graduate trainees who joined the Mail Online’s graduate scheme last year have already left.

The Tab quoted one un-named trainee as saying: “What you actually do all day is take an article from a news agency, and copy and paste it over to your article, and then add bullet points and captions. That’s about it really.

“You’re given an hour to do an article. They expect eight stories a day.”

Another former employee was quoted as saying: “On the grad scheme you get the shit shifts. You will work through the weekend, a lot of us were working nights, 5pm-2am, Friday to Tuesday, or Thursday to Monday.”

Now Mail Online has hit back, accusing The Tab of a “hatchet job.”

A Mail Online spokesperson said that it “makes no apologies for being a demanding place to work”.

“Each year Mail Online offers recent journalism graduates placements in its trainee programme, giving them the unique opportunity to learn from the best and brightest in journalism.

“This is a robust and demanding programme that sets them up for success as journalists at both Mail Online and throughout their career.

“Trainees are advised that this programme will be both extensive and exhaustive and that a website that reports the news 24 hours per day, seven days a week will involve working weekend and evening shifts.

“We have high standards which is why we are the biggest English-language newspaper website in the world and why our alumni populate the higher echelons of many other leading news and entertainment websites, both in the UK and US, and why our model has been imitated multiple times but never equalled.”

Preparing for the Cook-Off Challenge

The Press Club’s annual Curry Night will soon be here – featuring, as usual, the Great Cook-Off Challenge.

Organised by Indian chef and author Anita Sharma-James, a former medical research scientist who set up her own cookery school eight years ago, the event is being held on 19 October (commencing 7 pm) at Jojolapa, the Nepalese restaurant situated in Newhall Street, Birmingham.

Tickets for the evening are £20 each, the cost of which includes a two-course meal.

Attendees can pay on the night but anyone who plans to be there is asked to email anita@anitasharmajames.co.uk in advance to confirm their attendance.

2016 winners - Dawn Roberts and Kay Cadman

2016 winners - Dawn Roberts and Kay Cadman

Last year’s champions, Press Club director Kay Cadman and her sister Dawn Roberts, director of PR agency Headline Communications (pictured) are unable to defend their title so there will be a new name on the trophy as six teams compete to be crowned Curry Kings of 2017.

Anita, who is a Press Club director, will be providing inspiration to the contestants by offering expert advice in the form of a short cookery demonstration prior to the Cook Off Challenge. She said: “Cooking is a fun and creative experience – and if previous years are anything to go by some of the dishes may well be funny creations!”