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It ain't half hot mum!Newsrooms react to war

The regional press is capitalising on the time difference between Iraq and the UK – and to round-the-clock conflict – by bringing up-to-date news from the Gulf that the nationals can’t carry.

Many are carrying up to 15 pages of centrally-supplied news every day along with local angles, comment and reaction as they bring forward and extend deadlines to produce early editions and late updates.

They are also having to balance coverage of local events with what is happening on the world stage.

At The Citizen, editor Ian Mean and deputy editor Bev Ward spoke on the telephone at 2am on Thursday when it appeared the war was not going to start.

The decision was whether to set up the early pre-planned 7am print run and run the 16-page Citizen War Special. Over the next 25 minutes the entire situation changed – thanks to the CIA. The US intelligence agency reportedly gave President Bush information as to the whereabouts of five key Iraqi military leaders. Bush decided to bomb – and Ian decided to print.

By 3am The Citizen’s war team had arrived in Gloucester – by 6.30pm it had produced five live Iraq pages – and scooped all the nationals in the process. After a breakfast at a nearby hotel staff came back to The Citizen and began bringing in new pictures and copy for the Forest of Dean edition – 9.30am deadline – again for the Stroud edition at 10.30am and again for the City Final at 11.30am.

A team worked through the night to ensure that The Northern Echo produced an historic 5am war edition to cover news of the start of the war on Iraq.

The North-East morning paper had news of the outbreak of war right from the first of its five editions.

By the fifth edition, the Echo headline had changed from “First Shots of War” to “Bombed At Dawn” as news broke in Bagdhad of an unexpected daybreak attack.

As well as its normal five editions, the Echo came out with a sixth “5am War Special” edition with eight pages of news and analysis.

It was able to capitalise on extra sales opportunities with an extra 10,000 war specials added to its normal print run.

Editor Peter Barron said: “Quite a few of us haven’t had much sleep but it was an outstanding team effort in the best traditions of The Northern Echo.”

And it’s not just the dailies changing their content.

In Taunton – home of 40 Commando Royal Marines – the Somerset County Gazette devoted its first five pages to coverage of the conflict.

The front page featured a picture of Marines landing in the Kuwaiti desert, taken shortly before the paper went to press.

And the County Gazette also carried interviews with officers, troops and their loved ones as well as coverage of anti-war protests in the area.

“The team did us proud and it was a cracking paper,” said editor-in-chief Ken Bird.

A newsroom team from the Leicester Mercury produced an early edition as war broke out in Iraq.

More than a dozen key editorial staff were in just after 3am.

The Mercury carried nine pages about the war on Iraq including four pages of local coverage. Pages at the back were rejigged to get in the latest breaking news from Leicester. The paper was printed at 6am.

Within minutes of the first strikes against Iraq, the team at the Colchester Evening Gazette were in work to produce a special 6am edition of the newspaper.

The paper went on sale at the railway station, superstores and corner shops as people went to work and school, just over three hours after the first missiles hit Baghdad.

The Gazette is normally on the street from 12.30pm.

Editor Irene Kettle said: “I felt it was vital that, as the community’s newspaper in a garrison town, we brought the news to the people as soon as possible.”

The Grimsby Evening Telegraph produced a 32-page special which was in the shops at breakfast time, as well as printing the normal daily edition.

A special 6am War Edition of the Burton Mail was also published, with staff arriving before 3am to start work.

And the East Anglian Daily Times war team, which included editor Terry Hunt, assembled within 15 minutes of the first strikes on Baghdad, ready to produce what turned out to be a 5am war edition.

Sister paper the Eastern Daily Press produced a 4am edition with details of the first bombing raids, President Bush’s address and late breaking news.

Meanwhile, the NUJ has reacted to what it sees as the first indication of formal censorship over the Iraq war by a newspaper group.

General secretary Jeremy Dear hit out at Tindle Newspapers’ announcement that its Monmouthshire Beacon would carry “nothing which would attack the decision to conduct the war”.

Jeremy wrote to the paper, saying: “So much for the right to know, free speech and all those other rights which our forefathers fought to establish and which Sir Ray Tindle seeks to demolish at the stroke of a pen.”

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