Welcome to The Dispatch, Birmingham’s new quality newspaper, delivered straight to your email inbox
We publish thoughtful, rigorous, independent journalism about this wonderful city and the West Midlands more generally. All you need to do is join our free mailing list below to start getting our news briefings, long reads and local recommendations in your inbox. More than 10,000 people have already joined up.
You will find that The Dispatch is a new kind of local newspaper — focusing on quality rather than quantity and giving you the context you need to understand what is really going on. And you can read our stories without wading through any irritating pop-up ads or mindless articles about celebrities.
Each morning, we send you our Brum in Brief — a useful roundup of stories you should know about and a couple of great things to read or to do around town. On top of that, every week we pick a few stories about local politics, culture, business and social affairs that we think really matter, and then dig into them properly, writing an in-depth piece.
We’ve already published great reads about Birmingham’s relationship with the car, the proud history and uncertain future of the Express and Star and a major investigation into a Wolverhampton property entrepreneur who said he was going to end homelessness. Sign up now.
"Birmingham has needed something like The Dispatch for years. The city is full of untold stories, which hopefully now will be told."
— Daniel Knowles (Brummie, Economist magazine reporter and author of the book Carmageddon).
“Delivered in newsletter format to the recipient’s email inbox, The Dispatch will offer three heavily researched pieces a week on local matters of political and cultural importance. In an epoch where so much local “news” takes the form of celebrity clickbait, salacious crime round-ups and video clips repurposed from social media, the new title is surely meeting a need.”
The Dispatch was started by me, Kate Knowles, and a passionate team of journalists who are taking a fresh approach to local news. Before this, I was a Local Democracy Reporter at the Birmingham Mail, where I reported on local politics. But I always knew I wanted to write longer, more in-depth pieces that try to connect the dots about local issues to explain what is really driving the changes we see around us.
As a reader, I have also grown deeply frustrated with the direction of local news, where chasing online “traffic” has become more important than telling interesting stories and local newspapers have become virtually unreadable.
I was born and bred in Birmingham and lived in Harborne until I was 18, attending Lordswood Girls School and Cadbury College in Kings Norton, before heading off to London for university. After some time teaching English abroad, I came back to Birmingham and worked for the charity sector then returned to uni for a masters degree in English. Four years ago, I made my home in Bearwood, Sandwell and I love it here.
About two years ago, I discovered a set of local news publications called The Mill, The Tribune, and The Post — covering Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool — and was so excited about what they were offering for their home cities. The journalism was delivered by email and the stories felt very different: in-depth; they respected the intelligence of the audience; featured beautiful writing about a local person or cultural event one day and then a brilliant investigation a few days later.
These new titles have been cited by a parliamentary inquiry into the state of local news and received coverage in the US media as an example of a new model for high-quality local journalism. The Observer recently wrote that the company might be the “saviour of local journalism in the UK”.
I approached the Mill Media Co’s founder Joshi to see if he would be interested in starting something similar in Birmingham. He said the company would need to raise a bit of money first, but a few months ago they did just that, receiving financial backing from an incredible list of media figures, including Mark Thompson, the former director general of the BBC and chief executive of the New York Times.
That’s when we agreed to launch The Dispatch. There was no guarantee it would come off and it’s already been a huge amount of work to get to where we are today. But here we are, throwing ourselves into an adventure.
In the coming months, we’re hoping to hire a second full-time reporter here in Birmingham, but for now, it’s me plus a roster of brilliant local freelancers. We are being supported by a brilliant team of journalists on our sister titles, including editors who have written for the Guardian, the Times, the Washington Post, the Spectator and the New York Times.
Please join our free mailing list below to get our newsletters in your inbox.
Our reader-powered model
The Dispatch will be funded and powered by readers — people who love the stories we produce and believe that proper in-depth journalism is what Birmingham and the other communities of the West Midlands need. That means that instead of chasing after millions of online readers every month, we can focus on really serving our community of readers.
Now, we are always going to publish a lot of free journalism. If you join our free mailing list today, you will get high-quality journalism in your inbox every week, which is a big part of our public service mission. But if you want to get all of our stories and support our work financially, you can become a paying member for just £8 a month, or £80 a year (just £1.50 a week). Members will not only get extra editions (email newsletters) from us every week but they will also be invited to our members-only events and can comment on our stories.
We will turn on our paid memberships soon — around the start of December. But if you want to show your support, you can “pledge” to become a member today via that button below or the green one at the top right of your screen.
Why The Dispatch?
Our name is inspired by The Birmingham Evening Despatch — a historic newspaper which was in circulation between 1902-07 and known as the Evening Despatch until 1955. Our logo — designed by the brilliant Jim McDougall — is a nod to the Georgian-style letter boxes which you can still see embedded in the brick walls of buildings in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter today. These were used to deposit precious stones and metals. Look out for them when you are next walking around there — some are painted in bright colours, including a similar green to ours.
How to get involved
Write for us: We’re on the lookout for great reporters and writers who want to contribute stories to The Dispatch, ranging from beautiful cultural pieces to news scoops or investigative long reads. If you’re interested, please pitch your ideas and introduce yourself to me via email.
Help us out: If you’ve got some way to help us in the coming months as we get this thing off the ground — from marketing to flyering in your neighbourhood to a way that we can get the word out via your organisation or newsletter — please get in touch too. We’ll need all the help we can get!
Spread the word
Once you have joined our mailing list, we would be incredibly grateful if you would share the word about The Dispatch with anyone you think might be interested. All you need to do is share our link down your groupchats, on social media or to friends you think might like what we are doing.