An interview with Marc Astley, Editor of Exeter’s Express and Echo Newspaper

Over the coming months we will be publishing a series of 60 second interviews, starting with Marc Astley, Editor of Exeter’s Express and Echo Newspaper.

Name and Role

Marc Astley, Editor for Express and Echo News and Media Ltd/Mid Devon Gazette series

What do you do

As well as being responsible for the content of the Express & Echo and Mid Devon Gazette, I am also one of the directors of the parent company South West Media Group Ltd. The editing role involves, of course, deciding upon content but also setting the tone and upholding the principles and integrity of the titles. I also directly manage the editorial teams and budgets.In my director’s role I take a bigger picture view of the business conducted by the group of newspapers in our stable with my fellow editors from the Western Morning News, Plymouth Herald, Torquay Herald Express and the group’s managing director, Andrew Blair.

What’s been your biggest challenge this year

Without a shadow of a doubt the move from daily to weekly. This has not only been a huge project to manage but also meant having to say goodbye to some close colleagues.However, like any transition on this scale, it has also led to a change in culture and created new opportunities. For instance, we are now using social media a lot more to reach our readers on the days we are no longer publishing. The team have fully embraced Twitter, in particular, and have picked up stories through their tweets.

You mentioned that you and your team have embraced Social Media, specifically Twitter, tell us more

A big concern for us when going weekly was not having a daily dialogue with our readers. Twitter allows us to do that but crucially makes it easier for them to contact individual reporters instantly. So far we have our local government reporter @AnneByrne signed up, as well as our health reporter Tom Bevan @tombev81; our news editor @RobSims1; education reporter @FranMcElhone; Exeter City writer Jon Lewis @Echo_Jon and Exeter Chiefs reporter Nic Warren @EchoSportNick. There is of course me, the editor @MarcAstley! Watch this space as there’s more to come.

How else have you found that Social Media has supported your new weekly publication

Twitter has proven to be a tremendous resource for finding new columnists. I wanted to recruit a team of specialists who had skills that were beyond the remit of my journalists but also who could write their own stuff. I turned to Twitter and those that I have engaged with via this platform. As a result we now have on board @katheacrediton – the lovely ladies from Kathea Boutique; @banksy6 – local businessman and entrepreneur Alastair Banks; @home_restyler – interior designer Katey Korzenietz; @ExeterArchitect – architect Rob Hilton; @Marc­_Millon – wine expert Marc Millon; @erbcoach – life coach Emma Ranson Bellamy; @SouthwestMakeup – make up expert Eve Ashby; @mark­_tyler – media observer Mark Tyler and @ccbentos – Exeter Chiefs player Chris Bentley.

Hashtags for certain stories have also helped enormously. My favourite hashtag is #HelloEcho, which was set up by the highly entertaining and witty James Barisic @jamesmb who I did not know at the time and still haven’t met.

#HelloEcho was used to welcome the new weekly title into the world and for people to tweet their comments, which were all very positive. It has now become the forum to discuss any Echo-related issues. I am very fond of it and very grateful to James.

Many thanks to Marc for sparing the time to answer our questions. It’s great to hear how useful Twitter has been, and continues to be, for him and his team.

We’d be interested to hear how you’ve embraced Social Media in your line of work. Please leave your comments or if you’d like to be included in our interview series drop us a line.

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