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Gallows humour at Press launch

Media entrepreneur Chris Bullivant may have branded regional publisher Trinity Mirror as ‘barmy’ at the champagne launch of his new Birmingham Press title last Friday – but not all the partygoers were quite as gung-ho.

As our mole at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens event revealed, some of the Press team are already resorting to gallows humour. Here’s his special report.

From Our Own Correspondent

The editor of Chris Bullivant’s newly launched paper in Birmingham has revealed the true scarcity of his resources.

Speaking at the launch of The Birmingham Press on Friday at the city’s Botanical Gardens, Tony Lennox told a group of guests how he was hoping his “single laptop doesn’t blow up."

After one or two giggly media types laughed this off, Lennox insisted: “I’m not joking, the entire newspaper – content, pictures, design templates and all – is on a single laptop in my kitchen. 

“I keep on waking in a sweat that the bloody thing’s crashed or that someone’s nicked it. If they did there’d be no edition next week.” 

One IT-style boffin advised Lennox to acquire an external mini disc-drive as a back-up, which appeared to leave the veteran print hack confused. 

“My lads will sort something out, they’ve got a portable CD player for their band,” Lennox assured his audience. 

Earlier, Lennox came face-to-face with former Birmingham Post editor Marc Reeves, who had given the Press “six months” to survive. 

In typical Lennox fashion, he slapped Reeves on the shoulder and corrected him: “I’d be happy with six weeks, mate!” 

Meanwhile, Lennox’s many new freelance writers – most former Post and Mail journalists and many made redundant in the last 18 months – started to tell all and sundry how pleased they were to be back in print. 

Until one or two started to compare linage rates, that is… 

One stalwart old hack commented they didn’t really mind that it was a pittance, it “was just chuffing to see my byline again”. 

This brought a snort from former Post business editor and ex-John Bright Street columnist John Duckers, now penning his Duckers and Diving column for the Press. 

Well known for putting his foot in it, Duckers commented loudly: “I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m being paid quite well for my contributions, better than the Post used to pay for my column.”

 Several new Press freelancers were seen heading in the direction of formidable NUJ northern organiser Chris Morley (yes, Chris too was supping the bubbles at the launch of Bullivant’s ‘no office, no staff’ newspaper). 

Finally, the 150-odd guests at the party heard Bullivant himself, adorned in a three-piece grey pinstriped suit, attempt a triumphant launch speech. 

There were many scratched heads as Bullivant meandered on a long description of him and his wife’s hobby of collecting old silver in France. 

But he saved the day when everyone realised he was referring to precious trophies like newspapers, and to the skills of the Lennox couple who’d managed to put week one together (Tony’s wife Marsya handled the property copy). 

Bullivant, thumbs in his waistcoat, ended with: “You can’t hope for a launch edition to be 100%, but I think it’s already in the 90s and will only get better.” 

One cynic was heard to mutter: “Yeah, the 1990s!”, before calling for more Pomagne. 

Former Birmingham Mail editor Steve Dyson will be reviewing the Press, alongside Trinity Mirror rival Birmingham Post Lite, on his HTFP blog tomorrow.