Local students studying arts and media at Sheldon Heath Community Arts College were given an insight into how newsrooms operate within the newspaper and broadcasting industry.
Their news beat was to link in with Environment week in June and three of the students - Levinia Brady, Megan Hicks and Dean Harding - visited the Birmingham Post offices to experience a working newsroom, and to test out the newspaper's environmental credentials.
This is their report:
* When we were asked if we would like to visit the Birmingham Post and find out more about how a newspaper is produced by our teacher we leapt at the chance.
Getting ready to study for our Media Studies GCSEs next year this was a chance to really see what goes on, and we’d had enough of the SATs! We were also given a second not so secret mission. To test the Post’s “green” credentials, as Birmingham hosted the UK’s first ever Climate Change Festival, an event the newspaper supports and covered in some detail.
Clipboards and pens at the ready with our teacher and the staff from Service Birmingham who had made the whole visit possible, we arrived at the Post’s offices. We were stunned to find out that our first meeting was with Marc Reeves, the editor of the newspaper. Marc stayed with us the whole time and it was hard to believe that someone responsible for running a big city newspaper would give three ordinary kids from Sheldon that time and be so great about it too!
Our first job was to interview Marc, this gave us the chance to ask a few of our own questions as well as find out the information we needed for our green mission. For the record, being a journalist can be incredibly rewarding although the biggest stories do not always have happy endings.
It also involves lots of hard work. A top reporter on the Post will write between 4 - 5,000 words a day when covering the news and the hours can be very long, particularly around election time where nobody seems to go home or sleep for days. Some reporters don’t even spend their time in Birmingham: staff are sent to wherever there’s news.
When we arrived the whole sports desk were out chasing stories all over the region and one of them will soon have to pack their bags for a trip to Beijing to ensure that the people of Birmingham are kept up to date with the Olympics.
The whole press room is split into sections with specialists working in each one and each one having its own sub editor. These sub editors meet with Marc twice a day for a conference and we got to sit in on the first of the day at 11 o'clock. We were able to hear what experienced news reporters thought was going to be the main stories for the following day and when Marc asked if we had anything to add, well, that was amazing.
Perhaps best was the fact that a speech by the Bishop of Stafford where he talked about climate change looked to be the lead story for the newspaper, so the question about whether or not the Birmingham Post take Green issues seriously was ticked off straight away.
We were all a bit nervous about asking about the Post’s environmental credentials. It’s a bit like asking someone how tidy they keep their wardrobe at home. If you’re not careful you might get thumped! We need not have worried - Marc turned to the page in the Post (and there is one) where you find a short section that tells you that 80% of the newspaper is produced from recycled material.
So we tried some harder questions and, yes, the newspaper had a 'switch it off' policy for all electronic equipment that wasn’t in use. Failure to conform risks a raid by the “Green Team” who leave stickers on all equipment reminding the culprit of what they should be doing.
Recycle bins were dotted throughout the press room and all mono printers print on both sides of paper to reduce waste. The new printing presses at Fort Dunlop and the use of environmentally friendlier ink makes the newspaper we all read today greener than ever.
But what for the future? Well Marc isn’t resting on his green laurels. He believes Birmingham’s record for manufacturing means the city is ideally poised to lead the way in the creation of new sustainable technologies within the UK and he wants the Post to be a part of that. But for him and his team the first challenge is adapting to the way that we all access the news.
The internet has changed newspaper reporting forever, the team at the Post work hard to ensure that the people of Birmingham get access to the news that’s important to them as it happens.
It is now possible for readers to respond directly to the news reports. One of the challenges for the newspaper is to continue to adapt to this in a way that maintains the Post’s reputation for quality reporting.
We had a great time at the newspaper. Dean now wants to be a Sports Journalist and get to go to the Euros, Levinia wants to report on entertainment and Megan’s still not sure.
The one thing we all agreed on was that we had just had an experience hundreds of other young people would have died for. Thank you everybody at the Birmingham Post and Service Birmingham for making it happen.
We’ll be back once we’ve reported on the rest of the Festival for Climate Change.