Steven Gets His Dream Job

Ex-care worker Steven Collins has started his dream job – fulfilling a lifetime’s ambition to become a journalist.

Steven, aged 39, is the first of a legion of 80 Facebook-funded community news reporters to take up a two-year fixed-term contract. Operating from the Worcester office of Newsquest, he will focus on covering stories from the county’s rural communities.

The new jobs are being funded by a £4.5 million charitable donation from Facebook to the National Council for the Training of Journalists.

The training organisation is working with regional publishers to roll out the scheme which, as well as ensuring news coverage for “under-reported” areas, also aims to increase diversity in newsrooms.

Steven, who said he has “Asperger syndrome and is proud of it”, previously worked in the care industry supporting people with mental and physical disabilities. He is halfway through studying for the NCTJ diploma in journalism by distance learning.

“I cried when I was offered the job because it was my life’s ambition to become a journalist and I never thought it would happen. It was a very emotional moment for me. I’m really looking forward to giving a voice to people in rural communities who perhaps feel their views and issues aren’t always heard,” said Steven.

Worcester News editor Michael Purton, said: “I’m really proud that we’re the first to appoint a Facebook funded community reporter, and I’m even prouder that we’ve taken on Steven as it’s fantastic to help someone realise a lifelong ambition that they thought would never come true.

“During the recruitment process, I was blown away by Steven’s passion for local journalism and his determination to become a reporter. He’s going to be a huge asset to our newsroom.

“We all know how important Facebook is for helping local newspapers connect with their community, so for Facebook to fund these roles is fantastic for our industry.”

Pictured: Steven (right) with Michael Purton, editor of Worcester News

Pictured: Steven (right) with Michael Purton, editor of Worcester News

Press Club visit to BCU media suite

Networking night is back on the Press Club programme – but this month it’s a different format from that of our traditional “First Thursday” event. Instead, we’ll be taking a close look at the state-of-the-art facilities being used by next-generation journalists and broadcasters who are studying at Birmingham City University. 

The University’s School of Media is a recognised centre of excellence in providing media education in the UK and we’ll be able to find out why it is held in such high regard when members visit BCU on 19 March (6.30 pm start).

Sarah Jones, who is head of the School of Media, said: “We are pushing the boundaries of media practice and research and through a range of courses, we are redefining media landscapes. Students come here to study journalism, film, media production, media communication, PR and music industries. They graduate with core media skills - but with an edge and flair allowing them to adapt in an ever-changing media landscape.”

More than 400 students enrol every year with the School of Media, which is based at the university’s city centre campus, Millennium Point.

If you would like to visit the School of Media (Post code: B4 7XG) please e-mail Press Club vice-chairman Fred Bromwich at fred.bromwich@btinternet.comto reserve your place.

Preserving Photographic Past Online

A Midlands newspaper has made 3,000 archive photographs – some of them more than 50 years old - available free to the public online 

The Wolverhampton-based Express & Star has uploaded the images as part of a project which eventually aims to preserve its entire 140-year-old archive in digital form.

The project was set up in 2008 by the Express & Star, along with the University of Wolverhampton and Wolverhampton City Archives, to ensure photos taken throughout the 20th Century were made available to the public via an online platform.

Development funding of £59,800 was initially awarded to the partnership in 2014, and since then archiving work has been carried out by a group of volunteers, followed by the digitisation of part of the collection and the development of the website.

The first images to be published on the website include photos from the 1960s taken at steel industry operations across the Black Country, images from the final years of mining and pictures of workers for brands with local heritage including Cadbury’s and Chubb.

Express & Star editor Martin Wright said: “We are delighted that the first photos have been brought back to life for local people to revisit their shared history, all on a website made available for free.

“We are grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for supporting our partnership with the University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton City Archives and local community groups.

“Some printed images are deteriorating over time so the preservation work is vital. Thank you to all of the readers and members of the public who supported the project during the painstaking work needed to preserve the photographs.”

Chris Leggett, marketing and communications director of Express & Star publisher Midland News Association, who chaired the project steering group, said: “On behalf of everyone who worked on the project, I would like to thank all our partners and supporters for their combined efforts in preserving these photos for future generations. We are especially grateful to our volunteers, who gave a combined total of 260 days of goodwill time to help organise the physical archive ready for its transition to digital.”

Work will now begin on securing funding to preserve other historic photos, including local and mostly unseen images of World War II, as well as landmarks and places.

The collection includes wartime images which were not published due to government censorship and a photograph of American civil rights activist Malcolm X visiting Smethwick in 1965, nine days before he was assassinated.

Following digitisation, the original images have been transferred to Wolverhampton City Archives where they will be preserved for future generations.

Mercury links up with basketball champs to recruit journalism student

Journalism student Samuel Gill has become the first recipient of a new basketball internship, which has been launched by the Leicester Mercury in partnership  with current British champions Leicester Riders.

As part of his internship, Samuel, a first-year student at De Montfort University, will work with the Riders to learn marketing and content production techniques and with the Mercury’s sister website Leicestershire Live to learn digital publishing. In addition, he will be reporting on the Rider’s games.

“As an aspiring journalist, I see this as a perfect opportunity for me to further my experience in the industry while gaining an insight into two hugely reputable organisations in the Riders and Mercury,” said Samuel, whose coverage is set to complement match reports and coach columns which are carried by the Mercury.

Editor George Oliver said: “De Montfort University in Leicester is hugely keen to get its students effective work experience in industry. Leicester Riders are the British basketball champions and are hugely keen to reach more people through increased coverage on Leicestershire Live.”

Kevin Routledge, chairman of Leicester Riders, added: “We believe this is a great partnership, working with the Leicester Mercury and DMU, to develop a new source of digital content promoting the Riders, but also increasing the reach of the Leicester Mercury in a world where digital content is so important.”

“We believe this is an excellent way of working innovatively to address current market challenges, while providing a great opportunity for a DMU sports journalism student to develop their skills and experience.”

Local radio breakfast shows off the menu

About 95 local radio presenters could lose their jobs as a result of plans by Global to launch UK-wide national breakfast shows on Capital, Heart and Smooth radio.

Staff teams affected include regional commercial, regional programming staff & presenters, regional news, regional engineering and regional marketing.

The re-organisation means that the highly-popular breakfast show hosted on Heart West Midlands by broadcaster-journalist Ed James (pictured) is to be dropped after being on the airwaves since 2002.

Last year, Ed, a former Birmingham Press Club chairman, co-founded a creative agency, HDY, which is based at the Custard Factory in Birmingham.

Following the changes, Global say they will be creating the three largest commercial radio breakfast shows in the UK, with 4.8m, 3.7m and 2.7 million listeners respectively each week.The changes mean, however, a reduction in locally-produced programmes.

The first network breakfast show will be launched by Capital in April with Heart and Smooth following later in the year. Heart will have a single breakfast show across England, Scotland and Wales instead of the current line-up of 22 breakfast shows. It will also have ten drivetime shows instead of the current 23 separate drivetime shows.

 Smooth will create a new national breakfast show replacing breakfast programmes in East Midlands, West Midlands, North West, Lake District, North East, Scotland and Wales

Global says local news and travel information "will continue to air on a local licence level as per legislation requirements". But it also said its news teams would see "refreshed structures" along with engineering and marketing.

The companies have been given the go-ahead by broadcasting regulator Ofcom, which relaxed its rules on how and where stations make their programmes last October. Ofcom removed the requirement for locally made weekend programmes and redefined regions to align with ITV regions.

 Informing staff of the news, Ashley Tabor, Global's founder, said it "would mean change". But he also said "the ability to lead the commercial radio sector's next huge step, and to properly compete with BBC Radio 1 and 2 at breakfast time" was "a huge opportunity".

Media Student Awards are a “Priceless” Experience

Conor Rees, the University of Worcester graduate who won the 2016 Media Student of the Year accolade, is advising those entering this year’s awards that just getting their entries before the panel of judges can be a “priceless” experience.

Conor (pictured), who picked up two category awards as well as the prestigious Student of the Year trophy, now publishes the high-quality 99 Percent Lifestyle magazine.

He said: “I truly believe that award schemes are worthwhile entering if you get the opportunity to do so.  Even if you don’t think you have any chance of winning, getting your work in front of a panel of experts can be priceless if you are able to get feedback.

“When I entered the Midlands Media Student Awards, organised by Birmingham Press Club, I didn’t think I would get on the shortlist let alone pick up three awards. Since then, I have kept in close contact with a number of the judges and those at Birmingham Press Club, who have given me access to a lot of opportunities, including one year being a judge at the Midlands Media Awards.” 

Conor’s award-winning magazine started life as a university project but is now sold in shops around the UK, Europe and Asia – and through its own online store has achieved sales in over 25 countries.

He said: “I produced the magazine as a portfolio piece and entered the awards thinking it would be good for my CV. After winning, it opened my eyes to the fact that people liked my work.  Head judge Peter Lowe, Managing Editor of Sky News, gave me great feedback and made me realise that this particular piece of work had a life outside of education. It really made me want to give it a go and see if anyone else would be interested in my magazine.

“Over the past year, together with fellow-Birmingham designer Luke Tonge, I have redesigned the magazine and developed a set of brand guidelines that define what the magazine is about and its mission. I’m glad to say that since its ‘birth’ the magazine has been growing every single day.”

The next issue of 99 Percent Lifestyle  ( – focusing on the world of travel – will be published in March, with contributions from Youtuber Dance Mace, who shares a gripping story of oppression during an Indonesian drug scam, and Ben Page, who draws attention to the duality between solitude and loneliness on solo travel trips.

The magazine’s mission is to focus on the world’s best creators and entrepreneurs and through interviews with “inspiring” individuals around the globe opens up a world of enlightened stories and experiences.

·     Categories for this year’s media student awards include broadcasting, culture, data journalism, features, news, photography and social media. The deadline for entries is 7 March.

·     The awards ceremony takes place on 10 April at Mama Roux’s, Digbeth’s latest leisure venue. Individual tickets are priced at £30, including VAT. To make a booking visit

·     Entry details are available by going to

Awards Enquiries - Jo Jeffries:    

Press Club enquiries - Fred Bromwich:

One of the spreads in the March issue of Conor’s magazine.

One of the spreads in the March issue of Conor’s magazine.

BBC Presenter Lined Up for Media Student Awards

A talented young radio presenter will be guest speaker at the Midlands Media Student Awards, being held in Birmingham on Wednesday, 10 April.

Alex Noble (pictured), a graduate from the University of Nottingham, showcases new musical talent on the radio programme, BBC Music Introducing in the West Midlands.

BBC Music Introducing, first launched in 2007, is dedicated to discovering and supporting new music. It allows undiscovered artists to have their tracks played on BBC local radio shows and also provides up-and-coming artists with broadcast opportunities on TV and online, as well as the chance to perform at major festivals and showcases.

Alex, who has also worked as a BBC producer in the East Midlands, said: “Showcasing some of the best in new music from one of the most vibrant areas in the UK is a delight. But, as a freelance social media strategist myself, I’m also well aware of the emerging talent amongst the region’s media sector so it will be great to meet and discuss the future with our next-generation media specialists.”

The Midlands Media Student Awards, originally introduced in 2015 to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Birmingham Press Club, the event organisers, are this year being held on 10 April at Mama Roux’s, Digbeth’s latest leisure venue.

Individual tickets are priced at £30, including VAT. To make a booking visit

Award categories include broadcasting, culture, data journalism, features, news, photography, social media and photography. Event organiser Jo Jeffries said that the deadline for receipt of entries was 7 March.

·      Lincoln University student Natasha Turney, chosen as Student of the Year at the inaugural awards, is now a BBC broadcast journalist, while Worcester University student Conor Rees, who took the accolade in 2016, is publishing a lifestyle magazine.

Entry details are available by going to

Awards Enquiries - Jo Jeffries:    

Press Club enquiries - Fred Bromwich:

Bank’s boost for ambitious exporter

Black Country-based Sirus Automotive, the UK’s leading provider of Upfront Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs), has received a £500,000 refinance package from HSBC UK to support its new Research & Development (R&D) programme and facilitate its ambitious international expansion plans.

The business, established in 2004, has supported over 15,000 drivers and passengers to overcome every-day mobility issues by converting and adapting vehicles. Its compact designs are built for wheelchair users driving from a wheelchair or travelling upfront as a passenger, as well as offering an adaptations service for customers with standard cars.

Sirus, which has set up new distribution contracts in Europe and New Zealand, will use the funding to drive forward its new R&D programme. This will include the expansion of its operations in Wednesbury, where the business has built additional office space to accommodate its expanding team. 

 Simon Pearson, managing director of Sirus Automotive Ltd, said:“We have a dedicated R&D team that takes a fresh approach to vehicle conversions. We are passionate about our continual new product development programme, which aims to meet our customers’ every-day mobility needs. Thanks to our Relationship Manager at HSBC UK, Alex Richards, we will be able to continue on our journey, including our expansion plans in Europe and New Zealand.”

Stephen Peart, Area Director for Business Banking in the Black Country, HSBC UK, said the bank wasactively supporting UK businesses by connecting them to international opportunities. “The vehicle mobility market is growing rapidly and Sirus has proved to be at the forefront of innovative designs and solutions for drivers and passengers who are affected by a disability. Due to its success in the UK, the business has won distribution contracts for Europe and New Zealand,” he added.

Over the last three years, since David Gee and Andrew Ramsbottom of Advert Partners LLP acquired a share of the business, the team has increased turnover by 60 per cent.

Caption: From left to right, top to bottom: Andrew Ramsbottom (Director, Sirus Automotive), Alex Richards (Relationship Manager, HSBC UK), David Gee (Director, Sirus Automotive) and Simon Pearson

Weekly creates online archive

An award-winning Staffordshire weekly newspaper has launched a new video series telling the stories of its older readers about their lives on its patch. The Tamworth Herald – winner of the Newspaper of the Year trophy at the Midlands Media Awards on two separate occasions - has created the online archive, which it hopes will benefit a younger generation.

The Herald is now appealing to people over the age of 60, who have lived in the Tamworth area since childhood, to come forward for the project. The first video in the series is now online, and features 88-year-old Madge Jackson.

Herald news editor Helen Machin (pictured) said: “Madge is a wonderful storyteller with a whole host of memories to share; it all makes for interesting viewing and we are delighted to be working alongside a local professional for this new online feature, which we hope will be a regular slot.”

The films are being produced in association with production company Eternity Videos. Filmmaker Barry Wale said: “It’s a real privilege to be working alongside the Herald on this project. This is the newspaper I grew up with and has been in the family home for as long as I can remember – and it still is.”

Strictly speaking, dance studio gets “thumbs up” from HSBC UK

HSBC UK, which has a £1.1 billion lending fund to support small and medium-sized enterprises across the West Midlands, has provided a commercial mortgage package to the AURA Dance Studio, allowing the Solihull-based ballroom and Latin dance school to acquire the studio it has rented for the last five years.

 The dance school, run by Martin and Carol Cutler and their children Charlotte and James, opened in 1994 and now sees 500 students a week across its ballroom, Latin and fitness classes.By purchasing the studio, the Cutler family has secured the future of the dance school, enabling them to make improvements to the studio space, including a new reception area.

Martin Cutler, AURA Dance Studios Director, said: “We’ve seen a massive uplift in interest in dance in the last ten years, both recreationally and professionally. We’ve developed a high standard of teaching at AURA and are thrilled that HSBC UK has backed the business, in turn enabling us to continue expanding the school. Our HSBC UK Relationship Manager Dominic Smith supported us throughout the application process and demonstrated his clear understanding of our business and aims.”

Stephen Peart, West Midlands Business Banking Area Director of HSBC UK – which is the Press Club’s overall sponsor - said: “We were delighted to be able to support AURA Dance Studio in purchasing the dance school, which gives the business the security to focus on expanding and improve its dance offering. Dance continues to increase in popularity and AURA has a bright future ahead of it.”

AURA Dance Studio is one of the biggest dance schools in the country and attracts world-class dancers from across the globe, alongside its popular classes for toddlers and adults.


Pictured, left to right, are James Cutler (AURA Dance Studio), Tony Seaton (Blue Sky Corporate Finance), Martin Cutler (AURA Dance Studio), Charlotte Cutler (AURA Dance Studio) and Dominic Smith from HSBC UK.

Stepping up Campaign to help MND sufferers

Birmingham Press Club director Anita Sharma-James has taken on a new role – as chair of the Worcestershire branch of the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA).

One of her first major tasks was to help organise the Association’s annual regional conference. This was held at The Holiday Inn, Bromsgrove, where guests includedex-serviceman, John Davidson, from Malvern, who is planning to row the Atlantic later this year to raise funds for the foundation of his hero, Doddie Weir, the former Scottish international rugby union star who suffers from the disease. He and the county branch of MNDA will be working together to raise funds and awareness of the disease.

The event also marked the official adoption by Bromsgrove District Council of the MND Charter in support of sufferers of the disease and their careers living in the area.

Two Bromsgrove councillors, Rachel Jenkins, an Independent who first proposed the authority should adopt it, and Margaret Sherrey, the Conservative portfolio holder for health and well-being who seconded her proposal, publicly signed the Charter on the council’s behalf at a reception on the eve of the conference.

By signing the Charter, the council has agreed to recognise the right of MND sufferers to an early diagnosis, access to quality care and treatments, to be treated with dignity and respect and to have the right to maximise their quality of life. It also recognises that their carers should be valued, respected, listened to and well-supported. 

Anita, whose own mother died of the disease, said: “I would like to thank the council for adopting the Charter with solid cross-party backing and this is just the beginning of our partnership with you.”

MND, which causes six deaths in the UK every day, is a terminal neurological illness, which kills one-third of sufferers within a year of diagnosis and more than half within two years.

MNDA not only supports sufferers and their carers but is also leading the research to find a cure.

Photo shows (l-r) Councillor Margaret Sherrey, Councillor Rachel Jenkins and Anita Sharma-James

Molly takes on the “heavyweights” at awards ceremony

A final year sports journalism student at Staffordshire University has been nominated in the British Sports Journalism Awards – alongside established football journalists from national newspapers.

Molly Hudson made the shortlist for Football Journalist of the Year after doing freelance shifts during last summer’s World Cup.

After being encouraged to work freelance during her university studies, Molly spent last summer working on the World Cup for the Independent. She now writes regularly for The Times and the BBC Sport website and will be covering the Women’s World Cup in France later this year.

Molly (pictured) commented:  “I am absolutely overwhelmed to be shortlisted for such a prestigious award, alongside many of the sports journalists that I continue to learn from and admire. The Times have supported me and I could not have built the close relationship I have with them without the help of Staffordshire University, particularly Mitch Pryce and Ian Whittell and the depth of contacts they have from years of experience in the industry.

Molly’s course leader Mitch Pryce added: “It’s an astonishing achievement for Molly to be recognised at this level. She’s competing against the likes of Henry Winter and Jonathan Liew – genuine heavyweight professional journalists.”

Death of ex-West Midlands TM managing director

A businessman who held a series of senior roles in the regional press industry has died aged 59 after suffering a heart attack while playing tennis. John Bills (pictured) started out as an advertising rep for the Mansfield Chad in the 1980.

He went on to become a regional managing director with two publishing giants, first with Trinity Mirror and subsequently with Johnston Press.

Born and brought up in Mansfield, John left the Chad to join Trinity Newspapers. He later helped oversee the merger with Mirror Group which created Trinity Mirror and became regional MD for the new company’s North West and North Wales division, based in Liverpool.

He then moved to Birmingham as West Midlands regional MD where, in 2007, he was involved in a bid to buy the Birmingham Post, Birmingham Mail and Coventry Telegraph in a management buy-out after TM put the titles up for sale. But Trinity Mirror rejected the bid and shortly afterwards John and the other two executives who had fronted the proposed buy-out left the business

The following year he joined Johnston Press, which by then owned his former paper, the Chad. His career came full circle in 2011 when he was appointed managing director for JP’s North Midlands and South Yorkshire division which included the Mansfield weekly. John was promoted to group managing director in 2014, leaving in 2017. 

He finally left JP in September 2017, prior to its re-emergence as JPI Media last year.

John had recently retired with his partner, Jo, to a new home in Northern Ireland, where he died while playing tennis. 

Local News Coverage Gets a Boost

Birmingham, Coventry, Derby, Leicester and Wolverhampton are amongst the locations of where 82 new Facebook-funded community news reporters will be based.

The social media giant is partnering with the National Council for the Training of Journalists and nine regional publishers to fund new reporters to be based in under-reported communities.

The locations, which also include Derbyshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Lincolnshire, Shropshire and Worcestershire, were allocated according to several factors agreed by NCTJ and the publishers, focusing on areas currently without strong local coverage.

Facebook is funding the 82 posts of £4.5m investment as part of its Journalism Project.

NCTJ chief executive Joanne Butcher (pictured) said: “This project will help ensure that many underserved communities will have the strong local coverage they deserve. Journalists need to understand and listen to the voices in these communities and the issues that affect their day-to-day lives.

“To do that effectively they need to be there and to have the right skills and reporting expertise. It’s great to see a mix of locations, from remote rural communities to big inner cities, that will add diverse views and coverage to our local journalism,” she said.

Nick Wrenn, Facebook’s head of News Partnerships UK, commented: “We’re excited to see the Community News Project come to life. Our hope is that, ultimately, the project helps more people access the news that matters to them most and promotes quality local news in underserved areas of the UK.”

Reach plc, Midland News Association and Newsquest are amongst those who will be employing the new reporters.

Midlands Media Students Awards back on the calendar

Llewela Bailey.jpeg

The talents of the Midlands’ next-generation journalists and photographers are to be showcased at an awards ceremony hosted by Birmingham Press Club.

The Press Club is to revive the Midlands Media Students’ Awards, after a two-year break.

Llewela Bailey (pictured) who is chairman of the Press Club, said: “The region has a wealth of emerging talent that, I am sure, will guarantee the Midlands continuing to be a hotspot for the development of those working in the media industry. So it is with great pleasure that we are able to recognise such talent by bringing back the media students awards, at the same time acknowledging the support of the region’s universities and colleges, whose range of journalism courses are shaping the skills of those who will be at the forefront of their industry in the future.”

The awards, originally launched to coincide with the Press Club’s 150th anniversary in 2015, will this year be held on 10 April at Mama Roux’s, Digbeth’s latest leisure venue situated at Lower Trinity Street, Birmingham, B9 4AG. Individual tickets are priced at £30, Inc VAT.

Awards categories will include broadcasting, culture, data journalism, features, news, photography, social media and photography.Event organiser Jo Jeffries said that the deadline for receipt of entries was 7 March. A shortlist would be announced after a thorough judging process by a raft of existing established journalists and industry professionals.

  • Lincoln University student Natasha Turney, chosen as Student of the Year at the inaugural awards, is now a BBC broadcast journalist, while Worcester University student Conor Rees, who took the accolade in 2016, is publishing a lifestyle magazine.

Full entry details are available by going to

Enquiries: Jo Jeffries:   

Fred Bromwich: