Naomi de Souza (2022): one year at the Mail – a royal celebration

It’s been a red-letter month at the Birmingham Mail for Naomi de Souza (2022). As she celebrates her one-year anniversary at the paper, the Senior Reporter reflects on recent highlights and the last year of daily life as a community reporter.

Naomi at work on a story chatting to local community members

Spring kicked off with a few highlights for me at the Birmingham Mail. In April I was sent out to cover a royal visit in Birmingham just weeks before the Coronation and at a crucial time for the Royals, and in May I was a guest editor for Nottingham Trent’s MA journalism students. 

A few days in advance, we were sent a press briefing to say the Prince and Princess of Wales were visiting Birmingham to celebrate its diversity and creativity. The first stop was Indian Streatery, a delicious spot in the city centre, and that was under embargo. The second stop was the Jewellery Quarter, which the public knew about.  

I was asked to cover the first stop, and expected to go down to get a bit of colour and crowd reaction. But when the trip went completely off script, it turned the story on its head, and was a delight to see unfold.  

The road outside the restaurant was fairly empty as no one knew at this point that Prince William and Kate Middleton were stopping by. They arrived in a parade of Range Rovers (a nod to Midlands engineering) – and as word spread they were in the restaurant, the crowds swelled outside.  

Us reporters on the royal rota were allowed to follow the couple and so much happened in a short time. The pair chatted to staff, made rotis, and then, in a hilarious twist, Prince William took a phone order from an unsuspecting customer. I stayed afterwards to chat to (said hungry) customer, who had no idea he had spoken to the future heir to the throne.  

I found it fascinating to see the engagement on my tweets from Royal fans. As well as writing for print and online, I shared snippets of the visit on my Twitter to give a bit of an insight into how it was covering the visit. More than 80,000 people watched clips I shared, and there were reams of comments from ultra-loyal fans.

Coverage wise I worked with reporters on the ground to publish a live blog, and a number of breakout stories, from an interview with the customer who spoke to Prince William to everything the couple ate. It will really be a day that I remember, and was fascinating to see a royal visit in action at such an important for the Royal family. 

May also got off to a exciting start, I went down as a guest editor for Nottingham Trent’s MA journalism students. I didn’t study journalism at university, so it was great to see how the newsroom environment is replicated for students, and it was a day of top stories, energy and talent.  

The newsroom at Nottingham Trent University

May 11 marked my one-year anniversary at the Birmingham Mail / BirminghamLive and my fourth as a journalist. 

I cover Solihull with my colleague (and JST 2023 Fellow) Josh Sandiford, as well as breaking news across Birmingham and the wider West Midlands. 

From how the cost of living is impacting Solihull residents, the HS2 development and rumblings at Birmingham Airport, to hidden characters living across this vibrant borough – it’s been quite the year.  

People sometimes are surprised that patch reporters still exist, but we are out there in communities, knocking on doors and building contacts alongside all the other digital demands.  

It has also been a year of challenge – redundancies have hit the industry hard, and navigating what feels to be constant change has been big.  

There have been deeply challenging stories to cover, such as the Babbs Mill tragedy in December, which saw young lives lost and a community in despair – a story I will never forget covering. 

Some highlights of the year include covering the Queen’s Baton relay for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, and more recently, the Prince and Princess of Wales’ visit to Birmingham.  

If the last year has been anything to go by, I am really excited to see what’s ahead. 

Naomi and Josh on their patch