Chalk it up to experience

By Sid Langley on Aug 29, 08 09:01 PM in Culture

Pretty much wall-to-wall misery on the Birmingham Post editorial floor this week when I did one of my regular freelance sub-editing stints. It's how I cover my Council Tax and pay for drugs - how else do you think I get through the night?

But amid all the wailing, insecurity and, frankly, hatred of parent company Trinity Mirror, there seems to be a reasonable amount of sympathy for editors Marc Reeves and Steve Dyson, currently Post and Mail supremos respectively.

One school of opinion casts them as time-serving company men who are just doing what they've been told to do - Steve, in particular is getting some real stick from his bitter and safely anonymous staff commenting on the Mail website.

But most people think they are doing their best to be fair and straight in a bloody difficult situation. And some of us are heartened by the untypical way it's all being discussed (like this) online. This was first commented on by Jo Geary some time back, and it does, indeed, bring brave new depths to the company's websites.

There's plenty of room for debate about what's being planned, but no sensible person can deny that something needs to be done, or the business is in big trouble. Unlike the Guardian, Trinity Mirror is a plc, and money, not ideals, drive the operation. Post-Thatcher and post-Blair, talk of moral responsibility towards staff is, frankly, a non-starter, however cruel that may sound. The bleaters need to wake up and smell the cleverly-marketed and brilliantly-packaged coffee.

Which brings me to a colleague and a conversation we had this week. In the current situation in Printing House Square, she's considering, she said, going over to the dark side. Which, as all hacks know, translates as taking a job in PR.

The comment came flashing back to me as I opened one of my letters this afternoon (morning deliveries are SO last season). Out fell a packet of 12 Superline Chalks, the sort that used to be used by teachers on blackboards, along with a press release for the next big homegrown show at Royal&Derngate.

On the front of the packet of chalks was a sized-down poster for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and the box office number - that's 01604 624811 if you want it.

The show runs from September 12 to October 4 and promises to continue the off-the-wall style set by Artistic Director Laurie Sansom in his first season. He directs and has Frantic Assembly's Georgina Lamb as movement director. She played Mary in the Royal's extraordinary take on the Frankenstein story. And a Northampton High School singing group is also taking part.

As a hardened old pro I was amused by this PR stunt (take a bow, Amanda), a simple trick that made me sit up - and earned the show this plug.

And I ended up thinking what a shame that Marc Reeves and Steve Dyson can't resort to some basic PR stunts to try to win people to their arguments. The Royal press release talks of a 'tale of charismatic leadership, manipulation and betrayal'. They mean Miss Brodie, of course.

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