A new-look Leicester Mercury building has been officially opened by health minister Patricia Hewitt.
She was among guests to celebrate the completion of a £12m redevelopment, and cut the ribbon before unveiling a giant commemorative front page of the Leicester Mercury above the building’s front entrance.
Lord Rothermere, chairman of parent company Daily Mail And General Trust; Alex Leys, managing director of the Leicester Mercury; and editor Nick Carter greeted guests with speeches, and were joined by colleagues from the newspaper industry, as well as politicians, sports stars and religious leaders.
The event was held in a giant marquee on the lawn outside the Mercury’s St George Street headquarters, and kicked off with a fanfare of trumpets from The Royal Logistical Corps.
And guests were soon able to ‘read all about it’ when copies of a special live four-page edition about the event were delivered.
Editor Nick Carter said: “Six years ago, we carried out what was effectively a relaunch of the newspaper as a much more modern and accessible title, better equipped to play its important role in the life of our city and county.
“I’m delighted that we now have a building to match – a building for the future.”
In his speech, Alex Leys said: “The challenge was enormous – to reconstruct the offices without missing one edition of the newspaper. That required the building of a wooden inner skin to enable the builders to strip away the outside.
“The upshot was that the staff lost natural light for up to 10 months. We never missed an edition. Praise indeed to the resilience of the staff at St George Street.”
Lord Rothermere said the official opening was an important step in Leicester’s media history.
He said: “Today, we stand at a vital crossroads for newspapers as technological change promises to revolutionise our business.
“We are proud to open a new building as we approach a new world for local media – one that will embrace the Internet as much as the printed word.
“Our investment in this building will help us better serve our readers here in Leicester, whether they read us on paper or online. We have updated our presses to have greater capacity for colour printing.
“But a large part of the future of local journalism will not be on paper – it will be on the Internet. Going forward, the Mercury will be producing more and better journalism online. We are investing in Internet technology as well as printing presses.
“It is, of course, only a change in delivery. At its heart, great local journalism – on paper or online – is about people. It is rooted in its community.
“Everyone these days talks about Internet communities. Nobody is better placed to help deliver real online communities than journalists on great local newspapers such as the Mercury.”
Patricia Hewitt, MP for Leicester West, hailed the building as a landmark in the regeneration of the city.
She said: “I never thought the day would come when I would look at the Leicester Mercury building and say ‘Doesn’t it look fabulous!’
“It’s wonderful that the Leicester Mercury has made this commitment to our newspaper and our city.”