Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Read It & Weep

As Tony Parrish & Professor Chucklebutty have pointed out before, one of the few remaining proper hacks at the Oldham Echo is David Bartlett, whose Daily Post blog (http://blogs.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/dalestreetblues/ ) is worth reading. It's therefore a pity to see Bartlett penning the sort of Echo piece which, typically for the paper, eshews journalism for shallow marketing & hype (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2009/03/12/now-it-s-official-liverpool-is-on-the-up-and-up-100252-23128483/ ).
It seems the city fathers are to re-brand Liverpool in the wake of culture year:
"The news was revealed at the annual MIPIM conference in Cannes on the French Riviera by the city's development agency Liverpool Vision.
"It came as new research revealed how the city is now a very different place in the eyes of the UK following its successful Capital of Culture year."
Note the use of the word "revealed", thus conveying a bogus sense of drama & news value.
It gets better, or worse, if you get my drift; Bartlett pens this almost surreal passage about the city:
"[Liverpool] is no longer perceived to be part of the 'north', and instead is seen as a unique location in its own right alongside places like Edinburgh that have carved out a distinct identity.
"And negative notions like the Militant Tendency, poor industrial relations and unemployment have started to dwindle, according to the data."
One can only surmise that the state of basic geography teaching in schools is seriously amiss if Liverpool is not "perceived to be part of the 'north' ". Additionally, what's all this crap about Militant being a negative notion? Say what you like about Militant, but one thing it certainly wasn't was a notion. The claim that unemployment is starting to "dwindle", just as the biggest slump in the best part of a century kicks in (check out those increasingly empty spaces in Liverpool One) is fanciful, to say the least.
The article states there will be a new logo "and a vision for Liverpool until 2024" from 26th March, leading Bartlett to gush:
"The research was commissioned by Liverpool Vision to ensure the success of Capital of Culture was used as a launch pad for greater things."
(Suppose these findings had not been so rosy. Do you think they would have got the Oldham Echo to splash with the story?)
The methodology employed for the findings is, however, very much open to question; those questioned for this "research" were selected "via a combination of focus groups and online interviews". Focus groups? Online interviews? Where were these focus groups assembled? It wouldn't happen to be, ooh, Merseyside, would it, David? As for the online interviews, we all know about the trolls out there, don't we?
But wait, it isn't milk & honey all the way for the future of the city:
"Although the research was overwhelmingly positive, some businesses regarded Liverpool as a difficult place to operate, which is complex, not outward looking enough, and with too much politicking."
That note of dissention, as you'd expect, comes way down Bartlett's otherwise feel-good piece, which is startlingly similar in tone & content to the blurb on Liverpool Vision's website (http://www.liverpoolvision.co.uk/ ).
An Echo editorial seized on Bartlett's article (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/views/our-view/2009/03/12/much-done-much-to-do-100252-23128034/ ):
"It's official - Liverpool is the new Edinburgh!"
No, really. It goes on rather surreally:
"Instead of being seen as an archetypal stronghold of decay and dissatisfaction, Liverpool is associated with passion, spirit and big investment. And it's up there with Edinburgh and York as a cool destination."
Of course, no-one doubts the city's passion & spirit. But big investment? In the heat of the credit crunch & a global recession?
The Echo editorial contradicts itself in the final paragraph when it thunders rhetorically:
"Because regeneration isn't about research and logos - it's about stretching, meaningful targets and real progress towards them."
Er, hang on, wasn't Bartlett's puff-piece predicated on the glitzy launch of a new city logo? Is the Echo celebrating it even though it doesn't see it as a catalyst for regeneration?
More muddled thinking on Old Hall Street, I fear.

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