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Pastures new after 23 years in city journalism

Changing times in the local press from newsroom fisticuffs to a new age of digital journalism - Post editor Stacey Barnfield reflects on his time in local press as he prepares to move on to a new chapter in his life

Birmingham Post editor Stacey Barnfield, speaking at the 2014 Post Business Awards, is leaving the paper after 23 years

It's mid-morning at the start of the working week and I'm doing what everyone does on their first day in a new job: trying desperately to give the impression I know what's going on.

So far so good and the day is ticking along until I hear raised voices a few yards away, which soon escalates to pushing and shoving.

Great... first day at work and I'm one of the few people to see an office scuffle. HR get involved and, thankfully, the matter is dealt with maturely and without further action.

Welcome to the Birmingham Post & Mail , I tell myself. I'm going to like it here.

The 'disagreement' was between a news editor and reporter over coverage of a story.

OK, I admit it's an extreme insight into day-to-day life in a regional press newsroom but does offer a glimpse into the slightly crazy world of print journalism.

Reporters are opinionated, eccentric types guided by short-fused desk editors. It's a toxic combination and can lead to heated, healthy debate when a story breaks on deadline.

And you know what? I'm going to miss it enormously.

I've decided to leave the Post & Mail after 23 years working in a variety of positions serving every one of the company's titles at some point or other.

Man and boy, and all that.

I have been an office runner, a writer, a downtable sub-editor, a page editor, an assistant editor, a deputy editor and, most recently, with enormous pride, an editor - spending two years at the helm of the brilliant Birmingham Post .

I have designed thousands of pages, written hundreds of headline puns (quite often terrible, sometimes acceptable) and helped great journalists break brilliant stories.

I've been part of a company and industry that has changed beyond recognition and I hope you'll forgive the self-indulgence of this farewell piece as I reflect on my two decades at Colmore Circus and Fort Dunlop.

That lively first day in question was the start of my stint as a 'sub' on the Sunday Mercury .

Prior to this, I'd enjoyed spells on a portfolio of fantastic weekly newspapers such as the Solihull News, Walsall Observer and Sutton Coldfield News, all of which had been acquired by Post & Mail parent company Midland Independent Newspapers just before I joined in 1992.

The Walsall and Sutton papers are no more, unfortunately: a reflection of changing times in the regional press as titles have consolidated or struggled to keep up with fast-changing reader habits in the digital age.

My first editor (you always remember your first editor) on those weekly papers was a lovely man called John Connor, who sadly passed away last year.

John saw something in me and took me under his wing, putting me on every training course available and becoming a mentor. For this, I'll always be grateful.

It was John who pushed me to get a foot in the door of the Post & Mail which resulted in the subbing job on 'the Merc '.

Boy, what a paper the Mercury was in the 1990s, doing everything a Sunday paper should be doing with exclusive after exclusive, page after page.

The Mercury was put together in what was known as the Naughty Corner of the Post & Mail newsroom.

Those highfalutin Birmingham Post types occupied 'Cravat Corner' while the engine of the business, the Evening Mail, took out the rest of the space.

It was during this time I had the fortune of working with some of the greatest journalists I've ever known. People like Richard Williamson, a quite brilliant feature writer with whom I'm proud to have shared a byline, and a beer.

I spent four years on the Merc before the opportunity came to help revitalise the company's magazines division with another great editor, mentor and friend, Fiona Alexander, now a top boss at the NHS in the city.

We launched CityLiving, a glossy magazine that captured the booming city centre regeneration in the early 2000s and brought in a healthy financial return with our contract publishing ambitions.

We also published a series of hardback coffee table-style recipe books that featured the new breed of quality restaurants in Birmingham.

In 2005, the Birmingham Mail and its new editor, Steve Dyson, offered me the chance to get back into newsprint as an assistant editor. I jumped at it.

Working with Steve was a blast and I'm glad we remain good friends. He's a passionate Brummie is Steve and outspoken about the fortunes and future of the UK press.

I became Steve's deputy in 2008 and as someone who delivered the Mail as a teenager it was with real pride I landed such a senior role on my home-town paper.

Then, in early 2013, I was offered the chance to edit the Birmingham Post .

Who could resist such an opportunity? It was an immediate yes.

I've enjoyed enormously my time on the Post - pushing its digital presence with an emphasis on web-first publishing and launching a unique app that combines the traditional newspaper with a breaking news feed.

It was always my intention to shape a newspaper that reflects the positive mood in the city surrounding regeneration and redevelopment, while continuing to challenge authority - most notably our campaign to demand the BBC gives the region a fair deal.

I like to think we've had a decent go at it and the incredibly hard-working business writers Enda Mullen, Jon Griffin and Tamlyn Jones, led by Graeme Brown, deserve praise.

Now, it's time for pastures new. I'm not going far and I hope my new ventures allow me to follow and, where possible, continue to be involved in the great things happening in Birmingham and its fast-changing media and creative sector.

Here's hoping I can achieve this without witnessing any more fisticuffs.

Stacey Barnfield is standing down as editor of the Birmingham Post

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