Thursday, January 23, 2014
I do hope those on Oldham Hall Street have got over their self-induced hysteria after the first edition of the Sunday Echo. Prior to its arrival Echo editor Ali Machray was in bullish mood when talking to the Press Gazette (http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/editor-says-rise-digital-has-helped-pave-way-launch-new-sunday-paper-liverpool ): "The Liverpool [sic] Echo is a great success and it is a very strong and trusted brand in the city."
Digest that bold claim, if you can. You certainly couldn't accuse Our Ali of lacking chutzpah.
However, those hoping for stories which required a reasonable span of attention would have been disappointed when he declared, "We're not going down the road of long Sunday-like features."
Translation: If you want a broadsheet feature, stick to the "posh" papers; we're a local version of The Sun. Get used to it. I suspect that point was already acknowledged by many.
Al's audacity persisted in the Press Gazette piece as he claimed, "The readers want a Sunday edition and hopefully so do the advertisers."
Ah, yes, the advertisers. Ali will very much hope that the paper's, ahem, content draws in sufficient advertising revenue.
One local blogger who isn't so sure about the quality of the product dangled temptingly before potential readers (& those important advertisers) is David Lloyd of SevenStreets (http://www.sevenstreets.com/sunday-echo-review/ ).
This blog doesn't always share SevenStreets' take on developments in the city, it should be said. However, Lloyd's review exuded delicious disdain for the new arrival:
"First there's the identi-kit Ali Machray splash: 400 Cannabis Farms Smashed in a Year.
"That's not news, that's anti-news. A story about cannabis busts in Liverpool would only pass as news in a parallel universe where everything is upturned, where The Echo is shut down and The Daily Post survives."
He goes on to skewer the Echo's attempt to reintroduce 70s sexism in a piece which, appropriately for the Scouse Version of The Sun, appeared on page three. You'd think that neanderthal was the new normal & Jimmy Savile was still around to host Top of the Pops.
Lloyd, it should be said, forensically picks his way through the surfeit of tat & trivia that makes the Echo "a very strong and trusted brand in the city", in Ali Machray's immortal words. A "feature" on the "Wisdom of our Scouse Nans" invokes amused disdain & light sarcasm.
Another piece in Sunday's edition displayed the best that local journalism can deliver (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/lifestyle/things-say---what-your-6510579 ).
It's fair to observe that the (sickly?) Sunday sister to the weekday offering was merely trotting out a well-worn & tiresome trope with the "Scouse Nans" & cute kids. Monday's Echo featured a jolly little parochial piece by our old friend Paddy Shennan (hello, Paddy!) which conformed to this predictable pattern (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/lifestyle/vote-your-greatest-merseysider-time-6524669 ).
Paddy helpfully informed us that "the Merseyside [sic] with the most votes overall will top our table."
We're grateful to Paddy (& his chums on Oldham Hall Street) for acquainting us with the workings of a voting competion.
It remains to be seen, of course, how the Sunday edition fares in this web-savvy world. Ali, Paddy, et al will be desperately hoping that the mix of local dope, peurile titilation, Scouse nans, cheeky kids & self-congratulation is wolfed down over Sunday "brekky" by a grateful army of readers.
Wednesday, January 08, 2014
We can always rely on our friends at the Oldham Echo to highlight the issues that are most relevant to Merseyside, can't we? Yes, forget about the impact of the cuts on a region which never truly recovered from the 80s, forget about the Machiavellian machinations between the city council & Peel Holdings over Liverpool Waters, forget, too, the disfigurement of the city's waterfront. Instead, let's revel in the Scouse accent (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/liverpool-sayings-top-26-things-6463028 ).
Peter Guy's peurile apologia for journalism goes through the sort of tiresome phrases & terms which convey the impression that every person on Merseyside is a walking, talking caricature, the like of which Harry Enfield portrayed. Guy's piece lists 26 such utterances. [Funnily enough, he doesn't list the 27th, "Why is the Echo printed in Oldham?"]
The good folk from Oldham Hall Street, however, believe that what they serve up warrants a Sunday edition of the paper (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/liverpool-echo-launch-sunday-echo-6476727 ). It breathlessly proclaims:
"In what will be seen by the industry as a bold, exciting and surprising move, the Sunday Echo will hit the streets on January 19 and signal a step change in our online offering across the weekend."
The industry may well view the move as "bold" in much the same way that a senior civil servant views a foolhardy political measure as "brave".
The Echo piece, intriguingly lacking a byline, refers to the paper's editor "Ali Machray". Ali, to go along with his cool, new moniker, says he is determined that "what we publish at weekends is as strong and as relevant as what we publish during the week."
Presumably that means more hard-hitting pieces on our wonderful Scouse accent & how blessed we are to reside on the banks of the Mersey. It goes on to declare:
"It is fully intended to capitalise on the huge and devoted support for Liverpool and Everton football clubs that is so important to the Echo both in print and online."
Such a stated intention shouldn't be confused with investigative sports journalism; as with its, ahem, business coverage, its football reporting amounts to parroting banal quotes from players & managers; it took the Echo long enough to realise that Hicks & Gillett were charmless charlatans whose antics landed Liverpool FC in near ruinous levels of debt while supporters' groups like the Spirit of Shankly had already cottoned on to developments. Nor has the paper confronted the club about the way in which it has engineered the decline of the Anfield area, a topic commendably covered by reporters from the national media, most notably the Guardian's David Conn (http://www.theguardian.com/football/david-conn-inside-sport-blog/2013/may/06/anfield-liverpool-david-conn ).
However, we return to the honeyed words of "Ali" Machray: "We can't wait for January 19. The fact that we can do this is testimony to to what an amazing city Liverpool is.
"Its news and sports potential are outstanding and we're determined to give its people a Sunday Echo they can savour."
It sounds so appetising, doesn't it? The perfect paper to accompany your Sunday fry-up. Drool over the tales of small-time local crooks while "Ali" & his mates exhort you to show some Merseypride. Consume heartily the article about the woman who accidentally stepped on George Harrison's foot at the Cavern in 1962.
No doubt the gang on Oldham Hall Street hope this "bold" launch does the job & arrest the further decline in the paper's sales over the last year (http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/2013/news/abc-figures-how-the-regional-dailies-performed-6/ ).
If, however, this boldness falls under a mandarin's definition of bravery, the Scousers' answer to The Sun (http://condensedthoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2009/11/inspired-comparison.html ) might feel, to use one of our beloved Scouse sayings, like an unwanted brekkie.
Tuesday, January 07, 2014
Banging the drum for your home city is all very well. It's normally commendable, signifying a strong sense of civic consciousness & identity. However, there are (sadly too) many times when it curdles into petty or poisonous parochialism. Many may well surmise that Joe "Tea & Sympathy" Anderson is employing petty parochialism to distract attention from what's happening on his watch to the city he's keen to champion.
Joe was more than happy to give the NME a few words of response when London's Mayor Boris Johnson leapt with typically provocative gusto into mindless controversy recently. Johnson, the putative successor to David Cameron & good friend to Samantha Cameron, opined that the Beatles owed their success not to Liverpool, nor even to Hamburg. They owed it, Johnson declared, to London. Joe, being Joe, rose to the bait (http://www.nme.com/news/the-beatles/74671 ). Joe's mates on Oldham Hall Street weighed in for good measure, realising that any Beatle-related story, however manufactured or tenuous, is too good to ignore (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/mayor-liverpool-joe-anderson-demands-6464928 ).
That Joe should demand an apology from Johnson for this dreary bout of playground politics says much about his sense of priorities. Joe regularly wrings his hands & bewails the cuts while dutifully implementing them; he charmingly calls his critics "scum" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcNLz8C5RAw ); & he dismisses the objections of those who wish to see Sefton Park Meadows spared from the bulldozer despite the reasoned & unarguable case they present (http://www.liverpoolconfidential.co.uk/News-and-Comment/Unearthed-map-challenges-mayors-Sefton-Park-building-plan-Liverpool ).
Joe's wish to champion John, Paul, George &, erm, whatsisname, you know, the one who did the voice for Thomas the Tank Engine as Liverpool's finest musical export would be appreciated were it not for his troubled & contentious tenure of the city that has turned itself into little more than a Beatle theme park (http://liverpoolpreservationtrust.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/mayor-joe-anderson-fails-to-deliver.html ).
Indeed, many would welcome it if "Mr Liverpool" indicated a willingness to stand up for those in the city who find themselves at the mercy of a government which makes Thatcher's administration look benign. They would also welcome a readiness to preserve the city's cultural & civic heritage from "developers". Most importantly, however, they would welcome some candour from their Mayor. As John Lennon might have put it, all they want is the truth (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDDJeM5R4PM ).
Wednesday, January 01, 2014
The season to be jolly has, alas, passed & 2014 is upon us. Some things don't change, though. One of them is the inspired leadership of the city of Liverpool under Joe "Tea & Sympathy" Anderson. Before looking ahead, however, it's worth casting our minds back to 2012 when Joe won an election which attracted a turnout figure of 31.7% (http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2012/may/04/labour-joe-anderson-liverpool-mayor ).
It seems that Joe was helped in his campaign by our old friends Aurora Media (http://www.auroramedialtd.com/ ) which has now resurfaced as Archetype Studio (http://www.archetypestudio.co.uk ). Archetype, by the way, claims to have a philosophy (http://www.archetypestudio.co.uk/Philosophy ) which it expresses at some length. Archetype may wish to view that as information. However, many might beg to differ; PR companies don't do "information", they do promotion & spin.
Bringing ourselves back to the beginning of 2014, Joe looks set to continue his intellectually-challenged dual track approach of bemoaning the Tory cuts whilst implementing them. He was at it again in the Oldham Echo the week before Christmas (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/government-cuts-leave-merseyside-worst-6433422 ). Marc Waddington's piece acknowledged that the further round of cuts mean that "Liverpool will have lost 19.4% of its total 'spending power' by 2015/16 compared to when the Coalition took over, a drop of £122.9m -- the worst hit in the country."
As you'd expect, Joe was in no doubt about the consequences:
"Every single person in Liverpool is going to be affected and every single service will face significant reductions or be withdrawn altogether."
He also warned of the less than blissful ignorance that many in the city display about the further cuts via Twitter just yesterday (https://twitter.com/joeforliverpool/status/418044052869627904 )
Information about the cuts to come is one thing, leadership in the face of those cuts is quite another & Joe's idea of leadership appears to be an awful lot of hand wringing & wailing accompanied by the implementation of said cuts. Joe would doubtless take umbrage at this characterisation; he doesn't take dissent well (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZnc5bGOtJs ). Few, however, can remain unaware of his established modus operandi.
It's been said before but is worth repeating that Joe's approach is a case study in cognitive dissonance; in paying tribute to Nelson Mandela recently he recalled what he felt when visiting South Africa during the Apartheid years (http://liverpoolmayorjoeblogs.wordpress.com/2013/12/06/in-tribute-to-mandela/ ):
"Seeing the divisions and appalling injustice Apartheid created first hand was a huge wake up call for me. My time in South Africa inspired me to get myself an education and develop a strong sense of social justice."
Joe concluded: "Freedom fighter, visionary, president, leader, Madiba; your legacy will never be forgotten."
Part of that legacy included a willingness to fight unjust laws regardless of the hardship & personal risk involved. It would be most welcome if Joe recognised that. After all, Cameron's Guildhall speech last November in which he drooled at the prospect of permanent austerity (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/david-cameron-insists-that-squeeze-on-publicsector-spending-is-permanent-8933539.html ) is the clearest possible reminder of that old phrase, weakness invites aggression. Joe's weakness helps feed the appetite of this ConDem government.
No amount of PR can disguise that. Happy New Year.