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
He helped steer PA through its battle and restructured the editorial
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
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
’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.’
Political editor, News of the World
Political editor, Daily Express
Deputy editor, Daily Express
Editor-in-chief, PA News