These are tough times for the newspaper industry. The situation was grim enough, what with TV, freesheets ("Metro") & the Web forming a formidable Triple Alliance against papers around the globe. Now the credit crunch has joined the fray. However, all is not lost, the fightback has begun with the good old Oldham Echo; it is on the verge of a relaunch after consulting its readers (no, really): (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/oct/24/trinity-mirror-liverpool-echo ).
Apparently, there will be increased coverage of environmental issues (but don't expect any Grauniad or Independent-style pieces, too many long words for a start). The coverage of Liverpool & Everton will, however, reach overkill proportions (expect more inane comments from footballers).
The Guardian's report quotes Echo editor Alastair Machray. Hoping for a few gems? Well, he doesn't disappoint (no mention of that PCC complaint, though):
"The relaunch came out of an extensive brand research programme we did. We went to the readers and asked them what they thought the Liverpool Echo stood for."
Well, I could provide a whole list of things, Alastair, but do go on:
"We asked what the essence of the Echo was and we were told it was seen as the voice of Liverpool. As you can imagine, as editor it is gold dust to be told that in an era of fragmented and multifarious media."
Stop, stop, my sides are hurting! The "voice of Liverpool"? Oh, please!
There's more, much more, in fact of Alastair's self-congratulatory sermonising. It seems readers want the Echo to be "more modern", not so difficult a task when you consider that the paper still sees the internet as a suspicious phenomenon familiar only to teenagers & carries missives on its letters page which belong to the 60s...the 1860s, that is.
Think that's bad enough? How about this:
"A 'positivity programme' would be introduced, [Machray] said, so that editorial better reflected the good aspects of the city rather than focusing rigidly on bad news.
" 'We have [also] introduced something called the "truth project", it will be run by a senior assistant editor and the purpose is to ensure that every word that we write, every promotion we are launching does not betray the faith our readers have placed in us,' Machray added."
It's hard to know where to begin with that lot. A "positivity programme"? A "truth project"? Ever read Orwell, Alastair?
How about admitting in your own pages that Capital of Culture year hasn't been the unalloyed triumph you've claimed it to be? No? Thought not. Oh, & by the way, the faith your readers have placed in you is dwindling even further; between August 2007 & August 2008, the Echo's circulation dropped by 7,000. You'll need a lot more than a "positivity programme" to counter that.
Good luck, Alastair...you'll need it.