There is a joke on Merseyside which says that if you dial 999 the operator will say “Emergency, Which service do you require, Police, Ambulance, Echo news desk?” Like most good jokes, it has a basis is reality. If you flick through the Liverpool Echo, you can’t help but be struck by the fact that the lead story on every page is a stabbing, a drugs bust or an armed robbery.
But things may be changing. The Echo has re-launched itself this week, promising that the new look paper will focus more on positive stories. It may be early days, but my initial response to the new look Echo is that, while it does seem to have (slightly) lessened the reliance on crime stories, there now appears to be an emphasis on entertainment listings and features rather than on hard news. It’s probably no coincidence that it feels very similar in substance and appearance to the Metro, the North West version of which is also produced by Trinity Mirror.
The lack of any serious news coverage does concern me. For example, last week the Health Services Journal broke the story that NHS Trusts on Merseyside had paid a total of £135k to terminate their HR contracts with outsourcing giant Capita. The fact that the firm, dubbed ”Crapita” by Private Eye, have been paid a six figure sum of public money to walk away from the contract after a series of foul ups ought to be a gift for a local newspaper. But so far the Echo has chosen to ignore the story.
As I have said before in these posts, I do believe that a city benefits greatly from having a vibrant and successful local press. Just along the M62 from Liverpool, the Manchester Evening News seems to be a bit more interested in scrutinising pubic bodies and holding them to account. And, as the Devo Manc process shows, Manchester is on route to being granted greater powers than any other English city.
But maybe I have to accept that I am in the minority on this issue? After all, a reasonably healthy circulation of around 60,000 per day and a daily online readership of 250,000 would tend to suggest that the Echo is simply giving the people of Liverpool the paper that they want.