We recently chatted to Key Area Editor, Dominic Brown, to find out more about his role at the Halifax Courier and get his views on how the world of journalism is changing for local papers.
Can you tell us a bit about your career history and your current role at the Halifax Courier?
I am currently working as a Key Area Editor in the Advance Content Hub at JPIMedia, covering titles across Yorkshire and the North of England including the Halifax Courier, Brighouse Echo and Todmorden News & Hebden Bridge Times. As a team we deal with all the material that readers send in, such as press releases, letters to the editor, columnists, Local Life district news and readers’ photos.
What does a typical day look like for you?
In the first half of the week a typical day is very busy, selecting the content for the upcoming issue and getting everything ready for our deadlines on Wednesday. Once the papers have gone to press, the second half of the week sees us planning for the week ahead and also making sure we’ve got a good digital offering on our websites.
What do you love most about your job?
There are two things that I love most about my job. The first is the variety – we never quite know what interesting stories are going to come our way each day, and it’s always good to find a hidden gem in a press release! The second thing I love most about my job is the teamwork and the buzz of working in a newsroom. It’s a great feeling to get home at the end of the day and know you’ve created a good product which hopefully our readers will enjoy.
What are the biggest challenges/pet hates in your role?
The biggest challenge I find is trying to manage expectations and still giving the readers what they want and providing the level of service they deserve. Newsrooms aren’t as well staffed these days, so it can be difficult to cover everything. I wouldn’t say I have any pet hates really; I always try to look on the bright side.
What is the most memorable story you’ve ever covered?
I once interviewed Derren Brown while he was filming a new show in Todmorden. What I didn’t realise at the time was that I was being filmed interviewing him, so I had a brief cameo in the show!
How would you say the industry has changed to accommodate digital developments?
The industry has changed massively to accommodate the digital side of things, it is now such a huge part of the day. These days it is as if we are writing for three audiences – print, website and social media – whereas previously the main focus was the print audience.
What important factors would you say have contributed to your success?
Being surrounded by some really talented and inspirational people when I was starting out in the industry, some of whom I still work with today. It’s always good to have someone respected, who knows their stuff, on hand to advise and discuss ideas with.
What tips would you give someone who was following you career path?
You must have those digital skills. Shorthand is important too but now it is vital to be able to use social media, to film video content and write for the online audience. Be prepared to add to your skills as the industry develops.
Is there anything you would have done differently in your career?
I don’t think so. You might start out with an idea of where you want to be, but you have to take the opportunities as they come. I have been really lucky to progress in an area that I am familiar with and find really rewarding.
If you could travel back in time and write about a historical moment as it was happening, which moment would you choose?
I am massively into jazz and swing music so I’d love to go back to when Frank Sinatra was at his peak, it would have been great to have interviewed him back then.
How do you view the relationship between a PR and a journalist?
The relationship between a PR and a journalist is very important these days. It’s no secret that newsrooms aren’t as well-resourced as they used to be, so having good relationships with PRs who have the contacts is really important. I view it as a symbiotic relationship: journalists need PRs to provide the contacts and the upcoming stories, and PRs need the journalists to help get their clients’ achievements out there and provide coverage. It’s a partnership.
Would you say that relationship has changed throughout your career?
Yes, definitely. In recent years, more space is given to stories that come through as press releases from PR agencies, and I think businesses are realising the importance of securing coverage too.
What advice would you give to PRs when dealing with the media?
Make sure your press releases have a strong local angle; you would not believe the amount of calls we get that are not really relevant to the areas we cover. If you can highlight the local interest of a story, that’s a big help and it is far more likely to be noticed.
What makes a press release stand out to you?
The first paragraph. We can usually tell if the story is of interest by reading the first paragraph, so make sure that is strong and contains the key information, so it grabs our attention. Also, highlight the human-interest angle – it is all about the people behind the story, that’s what resonates with readers. It is important for local papers to shout up about what local people are achieving and take pride in where they are based.
How do you prefer to be contacted? Phone, email, social media, etc…
It depends really, social media is quite an easy way to reach out but sometimes on busy days notifications might not get spotted immediately. I am always checking emails, so that’s a good way to get in touch. And we still like a traditional phone call – it’s always nice to actually chat to the people we’re working with.