A veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has taken on a fresh challenge as the new head of sport for a group of regional titles.
Mal Robinson served in the RAF in the early 2000s seeing active service in the two Middle Eastern conflicts before turning to football writing.
Now he has been given the newly-created role of overseeing sports coverage on Trinity Mirror’s Newcastle-based titles the Chronicle, Journal and Sunday Sun.
And top of his agenda will be to continue to grow the papers’ audience in the face of the ongoing ban
The three titles have been banned from the press box at St James’s Park for most of last season after the club objected to their coverage of a fans’ protest against owner Mike Ashley.
But Mal, whose full title is editor (football, fan engagement & sports development), says it will not stop the papers criticising the club if necessary.
Mal told HTFP: “We’d obviously prefer to have full media access but we continue to provide the most in-depth and independent coverage of Newcastle United regardless.
“Our audiences and social engagement have grown massively since the ban and we’re producing lots more content. The whole team have been brilliant.
“Our focus is to put the readers and fans first. We want the club to be successful and win trophies but we remain free to criticise if they get things wrong.
“If this means our agenda does not always suit that of a football club, then so be it.
Mal began his career as a freelance sports writer for various football magazine and match programmes before joining the RAF in 2003.
After a tour of duty in Iraq and two in Afghanistan, he published one of the fist books about the Afghan conflict in 2007, entitled ‘From Afghanistan to Temazepam.’
In 2009, he published a book on North East football entitled “Auf Wiedersehen Lads” before launching Media73 – a magazine publishing company producing retro football magazines – two years’ later.
His most recent projects have included launching a national England football magazine entitled Sixty6 and helping write a book about Niall Quinn’s time at Sunderland.
Added Mal: “The demands of readers are changing rapidly and we have to adapt with it. There’s far less value now in predictable player quotes available to everyone.
“Fans want instant stats, opinion, analysis and quirky content to accompany their traditional match coverage.
“We aim to be interacting with our audience from the kick-off and we’ll build on this relationship throughout the season, with or without the club’s support.
“Fan engagement is the key to success. We’ll be at the top of our game in this respect in terms of social media, digital and face-to-face rapport.”