Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kept In The Dark

It certainly isn't easy for those scribes on the Daily Ghost. Last week's announcement that the paper would go the way of the Dodo must have been a bitter pill to swallow after all those reassurances that things were hunky dory & there was nothing to fret over. All those times when advertorials for Peel Holdings were tolerated with gritted teeth by most hacks because they'd been told it was all for the best must have seemed like a sour series of grotesque pranks played on them. However, the indignity didn't end there. Other media sources were tipped off about the paper's demise before the staff were informed ( ). 

By Your Friends Shall Ye Be Known

The Leveson Inquiry has teased out less than appetising tales from the diverse cast of characters who have already given evidence & it's difficult to dispute the view articulated by Nick Davies, the Guardian journalist whose investigation into tabloid culture was crucial ( ). 
Those who are media-savvy won't be surprised by how low most of the national press can & will go. Alas, their regional counterparts, whilst distancing themselves from the nationals' tactics & tales, as the Oldham Echo strove to do earlier this month ( ), protest just a little too much on the issue. The Oldham Echo declared boldly in its editorial which accompanied its, ahem, "Corrections and Clarifications" column:
"Our readers can trust us to source our stories and content in the correct and proper manner. The ECHO doesn't hack people's telephones -- regional newspapers don't hack people's telephones."
Far be it for me to question the second sentence in that quote. As for the first, well, let's just say it warrants greater scrutiny.
Indeed, the much-vaunted veracity of the regional press is set against the illegality of the national tabloids. Compare & contrast, as they say. However, the trouble with championing your own record is that it can attract some unlikely (& unwelcome) allies. Like David Cameron. Before Leveson was called to chair his inquiry & ex-News of the World hack Paul McMullan revealed his truly venal set of values ( ), "Professor" Phil Redmond's mate was effusive about the regionals' merits ( ):
"David Cameron thinks that regional newspapers exhibit 'a sort of calm and reasonableness' that is rarely found in national papers."
When Oldham Hall Street has Cameron as an ally who praises its calm & reasonable quality, it makes you wonder what sort of surrealistic milieu you've entered.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Last Post

Well, it limped on doggedly, looked at with pity & sympathy by a bunch of incredulous onlookers. How much longer could it survive, they wondered. Outside the boardroom of Trinity Mirror the reaction was equally mystified. Today, however, the last rites were administered to the Daily Ghost; it will soon be no more ( ).
The Ghost will become a weekly one-hundred page publication in the new year, retailing at a humble quid. To change from daily to weekly publication would be seen by many as a retrograde step. Not on Oldham Hall Street, though, where bullishness is presented as confidence; Roy Greenslade is moved to comment:
"Editor Mark Thomas did his best to put a good face on the decision."
The "good face" is, to be frank, a brazen denial of reality which would have shamed Comical Ali during the last days of Saddam Hussein's rule in Iraq ( ):
"Post Editor Mark Thomas said today: 'It is never easy to lose jobs but the changes to format and to staffing sets the Post up for an exciting new future.
" 'We are lucky to possess one of the great brands in journalism and we've been serving our city for 156 years. This change sets us up to serve it for the next 156 -- in print and online and through whatever channels readers seek to receive it.' "
Hear that, all you naysayers & cynics? It's "an exciting new future" that awaits the staff at the Ghost. I'm sure their initial reaction when they heard the news was "yippee, that sounds like an exciting new future for us!"
The sour reality is that the Daily Ghost has been on Trinity Mirror's life support system for the last few years. Today the tubes were withdrawn from the patient. Contrary to the view held by Messrs Machray & Thomas, I take no pleasure in seeing the paper's demise (jobs will be lost); this is no time for schadenfreude. Nor, however, is it a time for management bollockese when the paper's staff know full well what this "switch" really means. To entertain the conceit that those who still regularly purchase the daily paper will maintain their habit on a weekly basis is delusional. Weekly papers rarely succeed, particularly in the UK. Moreover, dated content on the newsstands every Thursday will not be an enticing prospect.
Larry Nield remarks on Liverpool Confidential's coverage of the decision ( ):
"Let's hope its switch to a weekly is not a case of placing the Post into a media hospice to await its final demise."
Yet that is precisely what it is. Isn't it, Larry?
And yet, and yet, and yet...
It could all have been just that little bit different, as Wayne pointed out earlier ( ):
"Alastair Machray has let a lot of people go, some skilled and with the experience of decades of writing, with a knowledge of the locality that would be hard to replace."
Retaining such staff wouldn't have saved the paper from its eventual demise, but Big Al's decisions, at the behest of Trinity Mirror, certainly hastened it.
There are those who tonight assert that the Ghost has been less sensationalist than its grotesquely downmarket sister, the Oldham Echo. Not always, as the front page at the top of the screen demonstrates. The city urgently needs balanced, informative reporting without fear or favour, & where certain business interests are not treated with a lack of rigour which borders on the servile.
The death of the Daily Ghost does nothing to change that.              

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cast Aside

Recommended reading: Adita Chakrabortty's Guardian piece last week on the de-industrialisation of the north-east (
Although the piece focused on that particular region, there were stark parallels with Merseyside. Like the north east, Merseyside has a large number of people working in the public sector & the cuts will markedly increase the unemployment figures for the region. With the number of NEETS (young people not in education, employment or traning) rising perhaps exponentially, the gravity of the situation will deepen even further. We can all see the social consequences of having what is already acknowledged to be the lost generation ( on street corners. Indeed, Tony Schumacher recently essayed a dispiriting encounter with an unemployed (&, sadly, unemployable) NEET (

Oldham Hall Street Admits It Might Be Wrong

As the Leveson inquiry begins to lift the lid on press practices that range from the dubious to the downright illegal (
it's nice to see that Oldham Hall Street has moved with the media Zeitgeist for mea culpa & admitted that the veracity of its contents are, shall we say, open to question
So if you feel that the Daily Ghost or Oldham Echo falls short in this regard, you can phone 0151-285 8476 or email Echo editor Alastair Machray ( Go on, you know you want to. (Some cynical souls may sneer that this is no more than lazy PR. The very thought!) I suspect the minion saddled with this thankless task is in for a busy time.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's Good To Be Back

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. Indeed, I suspect that my time away from this blog (been helping Joe "Tea & Sympathy" Anderson to mobilise mass opposition to the cuts) has had that effect in the oasis of calm deliberation known as the Oldham Echo's editorial office (such a shame about Ian Hernon getting the boot, btw). Well, Al, Mark, all the gang on that Titanic of local "journalism" (not forgetting you, too, Paddy!), you'll be delighted to hear that I've returned. Refreshed, reinvigorated & raring to sing the praises of Oldham Hall Street, swear an oath of support for our courageous civic leaders & congratulate Peel Holdings for their continued good work on our World Heritage Site.
There's so much to cover & that's what I intend to do.