MEDIA Profile: Field marshal of the PA army - Paul Potts, editor-in-chief, PA News

So PA News has finally seen off UK News by buying it up. As media battles go, it didn’t really make the headlines. It was no Sky versus BSB and no fight for Channel 5’s frequency. But for the newspaper industry it was just as big.

So PA News has finally seen off UK News by buying it up. As media

battles go, it didn’t really make the headlines. It was no Sky versus

BSB and no fight for Channel 5’s frequency. But for the newspaper

industry it was just as big.



UK News was set up by subsidiaries of Associated Newspapers and Pearson

to provide a cheaper alternative to PA News and its collapse two weeks

ago returned the lion’s share of news provision to PA. Now everything’s

back to normal with Paul Potts, editor-in-chief of PA, at the helm of an

even bigger ship.



Observers say that UK News was dealt its fatal blow at the end of 1995

when Express Newspapers and the Mirror Group signed up - prompting a

huge recruitment of journalists - only to pull out and return to PA at a

greatly-reduced rate. Although UK News limped on for a while after that,

its demise was inevitable.



The man who convinced the Express and the Mirror to switch back was

Potts.



He helped steer PA through its battle and restructured the editorial

operation.



PA now has an Internet site, is selling page-ready news to regional

dailies and even some nationals, and it continues to provide all the

news for Teletext. PA has also begun to offer a picture delivery service

to outside companies, issuing publicity photos to the media via the PA

computer system.



Potts loves this technology and wants to develop it still further

despite being one of the old school. If you cut him, he would probably

bleed black ink in a Times Roman typeface.



He is a passionate advocate of journalists learning their craft through

the regional press. He thinks a journalist without shorthand is only

half-formed and he will not accept inaccuracy. That’s why he concedes

that cutting prices was his heavy artillery against UK News, but

hard-working reporters were his essential foot soldiers.



He argues about the benefits of Mirror Group chief executive David

Montgomery’s recent speech where he said that more and more of

newspapers’ work would be ’outsourced’ to news agencies, allowing

publishers to cut costs. Did that not mean that investigative and

campaigning work would suffer as it was not within PA’s remit to do

either? Potts starts pacing the room, his journalistic instincts vying

with his managerial diplomacy.



’I don’t tell customers how to run their business,’ he says

carefully.



’They tell me what they want and I deliver it. I think David Montgomery

was principally talking about the duplication of resources. It’s about

not needing to have a PA reporter and a Mirror reporter at the same

press conference. It’s about freeing up resources for other things.’



However, Potts is clear that any news Montgomery should get from his

team will be unimpeachable. ’All the Teletext and Internet and news

pages that we are sending out, all the broadcast material that we are

involved in - that is worthless if we are not first with the accurate

facts,’ he says. ’The journalists I have here will always deliver that.’



HIGHLIGHTS

1982

Political editor, News of the World

1986

Political editor, Daily Express

1988

Deputy editor, Daily Express

1995

Editor-in-chief, PA News



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