INSIDE STORY: News Agencies ; Ever Wondered How Big Stories Make the Journey from the Provinces to the Pages of the Nationals? Ed Caesar Introduces Britain's Local Heroes

Article excerpt

MANCHESTER - CAVENDISH

Who are they?

Founded in 1979 by Brian Whittle, Cavendish quickly emerged as the biggest news agency in the Manchester area.

What's their beat?

Primarily targets national newspapers, but also supplies copy to locals. Features, too, have a national focus, but are mainly used by women's magazines. Increasing emphasis on celebrity.

Splash factor?

Harold Shipman. They uncovered the story, subsequently breaking the news that he killed three people in one day, and publishing his prison letters in the Sunday Telegraph. Released pictures of Shipman partying which made the front of the Sunday Mirror - and have the only pictures of the bodies.

BELFAST - LEWIS PHOTO PRESS

Who are they?

Daily Mail photographer Alan Lewis formed this agency in 1993, and has established strong links with local reporters to provide picture and words exclusives for all national newspapers.

What's their beat?

Until a couple of years ago, the Troubles kept the agency pretty busy, but the focus has shifted recently. Traditional news agency fare of court coverage and features have re-emerged, with Irish editions of the Mirror and the Daily Mail being regular clients.

Splash factor?

Lewis's photos from the 10th anniversary of the IRA ceasefire made the front pages of most nationals.

GLASGOW - ATOM

Who are they?

Formed in 1998 by Tom Finney and Ashley Coombes, this photographic agency has since built a portfolio of striking pictures which have been published nationally and abroad.

What's their beat?

Atom swim against the stream of mainstream news agencies thinking by avoiding stereotypically Glaswegian stories. There is, for instance, no football photography in their portfolio.

Splash factor?

Their photo of the Glasgow University fire was used on the front page of the Scotsman and the Telegraph, as well as appearing in all the other Scottish nationals.

BIRMINGHAM - NEWS TEAM

Who are they?

Nigel Iskander formed the agency in 1986, and it now has 25 staff. Two former News Team photographers, Paul Sanders and Kim Scott-Clarke, have gone on to the picture desk at The Times, while Paul Hackett has won awards for his work at Reuters.

What's their beat?

Iskander insists that "you don't have to be a bastard" to get by, and that thinking laterally is as important as persistence.

Splash factor?

Proudest moment was when a schoolboy on work experience took a photograph of Tony Blair campaigning in 1997, which made the front of three broadsheets. Its other big scoop was an exclusive interview with a couple who were held hostage by IRA bombers in 1989, while the captors were in the next room.

CARDIFF - WALES NEWS SERVICE

Who are they?

Formed by Tom Bedford and Paul Horton in 1990, has since gone on to provide news, pictures, and features for the nationals.

What's their beat?

Generally, coverage is limited to South and West Wales, but reporters travel as far as the story merits. Three-man features team works principally for women's magazines.

Splash factor?

This year broke the story of Michael Blake, a teenage father of six making a living from benefit payments.

LIVERPOOL - MERCURY

Who are they?

Terry Smith, now chairman of Emap, founded Mercury in the early 1960s. The agency is now owned by Chris Johnson, who after 28 years with Mercury still heads the 11-strong team of reporters, feature writers and photographers.

What's their beat?

Every national daily and Sunday paper uses Mercury, as do local papers, magazines and TV.

Splash factor?

In 1981, Mercury sold exclusive pictures of the Toxteth riots to every newspaper and television station in Britain, as well as overseas. …