When not breaking "exclusive" stories which were already known to the local cognoscenti -- prior to yesterday's splash (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2009/11/09/liverpool-mp-jane-kennedy-to-quit-at-next-general-election-100252-25121715/ ) it was strongly rumoured around Liverpool that the Telegraphed MP for Wavertree wouldn't serve beyond this parliament --the Daily Ghost & Oldham Echo proceed on their merry way, recycling PR releases, claiming credit for saving endangered buildings (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/views/our-view/2009/11/06/time-to-celebrate-another-of-the-echo-s-stop-the-rot-successes-toxteth-s-former-welsh-church-100252-25102977 ) & glamourising small-time local hoodlums.
A timely reminder of the role & function of many local papers, including those churned out at Oldham, is provided by George Monbiot on the Guardian's Comment is Free pages (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/nov/09/local-newspapers-democracy ).
Monbiot states, " For many years the local press has been one of Britain's most potent threats to democracy, championing the overdog, misrepresenting democratic choices, defending business, the police and local elites from those who seek to challenge them."
Think that's over the top? Think again, as Monbiot relates a tale about his local rag which raises uncanny parallels with the papers which claim to serve Merseyside:
"I'm prompted to write this by a remarkable episode in my home town, Machynlleth, which illustrates the problem everywhere. A battle has been raging here over Tesco's attempt to build a superstore on the edge of town. Its application received 685 letters of objection and five letters of support, but the town council, which appears to believe everything Tesco says, supports the scheme. The local paper, the Cambrian News, appears in turn to believe everything the council tells it."
Monbiot goes on to assert: "Most local papers exist to amplify the voices of their proprietors and advertisers and other powerful people with whom they wish to stay on good terms. In this respect they scarcely differ from most of the national media. But they also contribute to what in Mexico is called cacquisimo: the entrenched power of local elites."
As the 17 editorial positions are axed, to use an Echo term, & the final salary pension scheme is no more, those remaining on Oldham Hall Street would do well to read Monbiot's piece; it will drive home the reality of the nature of their employer.
9.50 UPDATE: Ronnie was there before me in a comment he left on my post from last Thursday.