Rebecca Whittington, head of news for Yorkshire Post Newspapers, on driving digital content, retaining grassroots news and why PRs need to connect their pitch to the newspaper area.
Firstly tell us about your role.
I help co-ordinate the daily delivery of news for the Yorkshire Evening Post (YEP) and The Yorkshire Post (YP) both in paper and online, working closely with colleagues on the multi-media content desk to make the most of news stories and opportunities as they unfold.
I regularly step up to cover for Mark Casci, the multimedia content manager, when required. I also have a long-term role in working with reporters and other team members to plan and deliver campaigns and projects for the YEP and its products. Team working is everything. It’s a fast-paced, pressurised (at times) but fun environment to work in.
The news teams at the YEP and YP work alongside each other. How do both teams work together in terms of content?
The YEP and the YP are led as one by the multi-media content desk. While I focus mainly on the YEP and my counterpart, Paul Jeeves, does the same with the YP we have one manager, Mark Casci, and we both step up to do his role at times. We have one daily morning conference which looks at the news agenda for both titles, and where there is crossover we make sure we do not double up on work but instead have one journalist writing for both. The same can be said for the online offering for both titles.
Given the reporting line is to the head of multimedia content, is that a sign that online now dominates content for the papers?
The newsroom’s focus is ‘digital first’ for both titles, meaning we are often the first to break news despite the daily paper deadlines and content in the paper may often be the most up to date version of the story appearing online at the time of going to press.
Is there ever any crossover of content?
Yes, not only with news, but also sport and features. However, the two titles are extremely different both in their offering, focus and readership, so while there is some crossover there is a huge amount which distinguishes the separate titles.
What does a typical day look like for you?
It’s busy! On arrival in the office at about 9am we put together the starting newslists for the day. At 10.30am we have a conference, followed by paging up. One of the big challenges is keeping on top of the changing news agenda, making sure we are breaking news online and ensuring everything has a place that needs to in the paper There is usually a bit of juggling that goes on before afternoon conference at 2.30pm.
The majority of the paper will be complete by 5.30pm, but we hand over to the night news editor at about 6pm in case of any late or breaking stories which need to be included. The YEP goes to print at 10.30pm.
How many pages does an average issue of the YEP run to and what’s the makeup of the paper?
It changes depending on supplements etc, but often we run between 40 and 52 pages. The first half is made up of news, letters, opinion and features. We also have an exceptionally strong sports section which covers a multitude of activities, with of course a big focus on Leeds United and Rugby League.
Who is the typical YEP reader?
The YEP covers West Yorkshire with a main focus on Leeds. The city is a diverse and buzzing place which has seen exciting developments and investments in recent years. We have a world-class arena, shops, bars and attractions. Alongside this cosmopolitan city we also have traditional Yorkshire families, working class communities and thousands of Leeds United fans to cater for. It’s important that the YEP reflects these things in its content, and so we are working hard at the moment to ensure the grassroots news which is important to many of our loyal readership is not lost, but instead sits alongside stories which reflect how the city is changing.
Regional newspapers face some of the biggest challenges in print media. How are the YP and YEP dealing with those challenges?
Digital is an increased focus for everybody, and so not only are we working with a ‘digital first’ ethos, but we are also driving digital content and response back into the titles. In the YEP we have also introduced a partnership with Leeds Trinity University which sees their journalism students working in the newsroom on community news pages; both helping the paper achieve its grassroots news aim and giving the students experience and mentorship as part of their qualifications.
Is all content from the paper replicated online?
We break news online throughout the day and we publish much of our paper content online on the day it appears in the paper. We create original content throughout the day for online publication, including video and updating news stories as they change. We have apps for both titles which also allow the reader to read that day’s paper in full online.
How best can PRs help with content?
It’s worth looking at the sites and the papers and identifying the kind of stories we run in both. Tailoring news in press releases to make it relevant to the title and readership always helps and making the connection to Leeds or Yorkshire very obvious is also important as we receive hundreds of emails every hour.
What’s the best way for them to approach them team?
Send an email. If it’s well crafted and of interest it should catch our attention. It’s incredibly busy on the desk and taking dozens of calls to see ‘if we have received the email on…’ can become tricky.
Three tops tips for PRs when pitching ideas?
- Make it obvious the connection to the newspaper area – otherwise it runs the risk of being deleted!
- The more of a breakdown the better – if you can provide figures for Leeds or a breakdown of Yorkshire figures that means it’s much more likely to be given prominence in the paper.
- Case studies – we want real people from our patch and we want to be able to talk to them directly.
Rebecca was talking to Gorkana’s Richard o’Donnell