80 years of the Bristol Evening Post

18 04 2012

The Evening Post is marking its 80th anniversary with an exhibition that opens today in The Galleries. But the celebrations are muted because it was only last week that editorial staff at the newspaper were told that 19 of their number would be losing their jobs. This includes every single photographer being made redundant, with the lucky few re-employed on freelance contracts.

At the launch of the exhibition yesterday, a demonstration was organised in Broadmead by the Bristol branch of the National Union of Journalists to protest at the imminent changes, instigated as further cost-cutting measures by Northcliffe, the regional newspaper arm of the Daily Mail & General Trust.

Visitors to the exhibition’s launch, including Bristol’s first confirmed mayoral candidate George Ferguson and – bizarrely – some of the Evening Post’s own reporters whose jobs the protesters were campaigning to save, were barracked on their way inside The Galleries at its Greyhound Hotel entrance.

The Evening Post was founded in 1932 by ordinary members of the Bristol public: “The paper all Bristol asked for and helped to create”.

I should state my own involvement with the newspaper. I began working Saturday shifts in 2005, before being employed full-time as a reporter between 2007 and 2010. I still write gig reviews, and count many of the reporters as my best friends in Bristol.

Their number will, however, be decimated in the cuts which will also see the Evening Post renamed the Post (it has not been an evening newspaper since 2009 when two editions were reduced to one) and losing its Saturday edition.

In among the carnage at Temple Way, Venue will become an online only product after more than 30 years as a print publication and only one year after its very future seemed secure following a public outcry. Venue’s contents and listings will be merged into the Post’s in a bumper Friday edition.

In this BBC Bristol story from 2009, Bristol Culture was named as a contributory factor to Venue’s woes. But that is rather wide of the mark, as although Venue’s web presence could still do with a kick up the proverbial, there is no way that a publication ran by a team of me in my spare time can compete with a well-resourced professional product.

The same goes for the Evening Post and its news rivals in the city. Once upon time, Bristol had many daily newspapers: the Bristol Post Boy, Felix Farley’s Bristol Journal, The Bristol Evening News, the Bristol Times & Mirror, and the Evening Times & Echo, to name but a few.

100 years’ ago, Bristol had six daily papers and six weeklies (read more here). Now the Evening Post is the solitary survivor, with only the BBC as a serious rival, online, on the airwaves and on the gogglebox.

Bristol 24-7 has ambitions to be a rival, but a website run by one person, Chris Brown, a former sub-editor at the Evening Post, is no serious competition to a newspaper. After a promising start, most of its news articles are now poorly disguised press releases, exactly what Brown set out originally to avoid doing, as he looks to earn money building websites rather than concentrating on providing an alternative news service.

So it is left to the Post to be the primary news outlet in Bristol, which it will continue to be even after its latest round of cost-cutting. It may be losing its Saturday edition, but the paper has got off lightly in comparison to Johnston Press daily titles in Halifax, Northampton, Peterborough, Scarborough and Kettering, which on Monday announced they would all be going weekly in a move to “platform neutral publishing”.

There is no doubt that with fewer editorial staff at the Post, more big stories will be missed, ‘churnalism’ will rise, local politicians will get an easier ride, and the people of Bristol will be more poorly-informed about what is happening in our city.

Bristol 80 years’ ago was a very different place indeed to the Bristol of today. It remains to be seen what kind of local news we will have in the future, not just in decades’ time but in years’ time as the media landscape changes before our eyes.

Click here for more information about the Evening Post 80 year anniversary exhibition, which runs in The Galleries until May 17.


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2 responses

18 04 2012
Marc Cooper

The NUJ were barracking existing BEP reporters whose jobs are currently at risk? That was nice of them

18 04 2012
Martin

The NUJ only seem to come out of the woodwork at times like this. And last night they obviously didn’t know who the reporters are whose jobs they were there trying to save. A sad indictment of the union? Or the reporters’ anonymity? (A guest also found a fingernail in one of the canapes)

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