Southern Daily Echo Media BriefingIt was an enthralling, entertaining, and engaging evening as Newsquest Hampshire editor-in-chief, Ian Murray, in tandem with head of news and content at Gorkana, Philip Smith, lifted the lid on the changing media landscape of 2015.

Previously holding the title of the youngest editor in England at 24, it would be incredibly fair to say that Ian has always been a newshound. Indeed, his informal, witty, and enlightening pitch carried the tone of an editor aware of but unfazed by the changing tides of the new media environment.

Ian’s focus began with his ever-present respect for those who work for him. His leadership of a team that pools expertise and efficiency; pulling pages together quickly with new technology and systems, enables him to study in greater detail editorial content. ‘Managing creativity’ and ‘separating the wheat from the chaff’ fall amongst his favoured metaphors.

As a self-confessed ‘guardian of local democracy’, Ian argues the importance of balanced reporting, noting the importance of entertaining readers, and reflecting the community which he passionately serves. Believing in the brand he heads, Ian is also keen to spot that although an exclusive story might break elsewhere, news consumers likely head straight towards the Daily Echo for more informed and accurate reporting.

Indeed, in an age of increased immediacy, where some breaking news is generated and circulated with reduced editorial intervention over web or social media, Ian points out that there are still editorial responsibilities at hand, shunning ‘quick wins’ in favour of what he terms ‘serious journalism’.

The Daily Echo must run stories subject to a balanced playing field, and Ian’s detailed example of his team’s in-depth analysis of CQC reports, where some establishments may be marked down by ineffective paperwork, speaks volumes of his desire to tell both sides of the story sometimes to the jeopardy of a headline.

Shrinking newsrooms nationally tell a revealing story about ‘men on the ground’, with a growing importance in user generated content. The task has now fallen more than ever to PR’s who are digitally savvy, and those that understand the importance and advantage of providing pre-packaged photography and video to media outlets. Ian envisages a paper rich in content, with less spiked stories, saving the majority of his staff’s time towards reporting investigation.

However, Ian comments that in an age of ‘out there news’, there is still a real place for a printed publication. Fighting off comments in favour of the Echo becoming a weekly or free paper, Ian states that he is adamant not to be the last Echo chief, batting off remarks about how the Echo’s paper could appear an ‘afterthought’, instead offering the view that both platforms offer something unique and different, and that the Echo itself is much more than its top 10 web stories in printed form.

And it wasn’t long before PR’s themselves became an unusual talking point, as Ian pointed out that most of the people sat before him were of course former journalists (myself included), and were not the ‘dark side’, they had a valuable role to play in the delivery of real news content; the conduit provided between journalists and those crucial to their stories being essential. The emerging point suggested that good PR’s know how to speak to the media –speaking the same language, sensing the same nugget or morsel of interest needed to obtain coverage, and knowing what to spare the eyes of ever-busy journalists.

In conclusion, the Daily Echo is more alive than it has been in recent years, with new-media aware journalists accustomed to multitasking and generating leads through social media. The website has revitalised content, readers and interest, with the paper keen to dispel the rumour that only bad news sells – as Ian points out, sometimes success comes in the form of the public’s perpetual obsession for knowing people’s age, and the discovery of five-legged hamsters running across Southampton (this, he’s yet to find).

By Jonathan Beal