I’ve rarely made repeat visits in more than four years of writing this blog, but as soon as I’d read the Bournemouth Daily Echo on Wednesday 16 April I knew I had to review it again.
How could anyone resist its strong ‘FIND JOHN’S KILLER’ headline, its striking use of the murder victim’s black and white image, and its useful sub-heading: ‘UNSOLVED: Fiancée’s fresh appeal over 1991 murder’.
But mainly, I wanted to highlight my grouch with what was otherwise a simple, well-designed splash: the gratuitous ‘ECHO INVESTIGATES’ stamp in red above the headline.
Why? Because while there was an interesting account of Lori de Carteret’s Facebook campaign for more information about John Green’s murder, with a handy panel of recall about the case, there was nothing that warranted the word ‘investigates’.
That word suggested some kind of exposé, leading me to initially think that the Echo had reached new witnesses, uncovered fresh evidence or had been let in on some gripping detail by police investigators.
In fact, the spread on pages four and five revealed that they had investigated nothing other than a Facebook page, with the police declining any comment other than saying the case was still ‘open’ which, of course, it would be.
I make this point because papers all over the UK are too often using such tags of embellishment which can annoyingly over-promise to expectant readers, (‘EXCLUSIVE’ is another common irritator).
That said, this new appeal was still splash-worthy and a good enough read, and was joined by a selection of other decent stories including:
- ‘No challenge to the Tory council leader’ leading page two, reporting on a threatened ‘no confidence’ vote that failed to materialise on Poole Council;
- ‘Head injury caused man’s death in road’ leading page four, telling how a Romanian called Gheorghe Igna probably died after jumping or falling from a moving car;
- ‘HGV ban is moving in a good direction’ leading page 12, noting a 500-plus petition against lorries travelling through Burton village; and
- ‘Angry mum blasts water torture hell’ leading page 14, reporting on the multiple buckets needed to cope with leaks at the home of a vulnerable 27-year-old woman.
I also thought the ‘HAVE YOUR SAY’ spread was well designed on pages 18 and 19, a main headline on the lead letter giving the spread an impact that can often be lost on correspondence pages.
As in my last Echo review, I rated the space given to the ‘IN THE DOCK’ court reports on page 23, providing 11 convictions in a half page: ranging from theft to drugs offences, and from drink-driving to criminal damage.
And as with the splash, a proud use of black and white made the six-page ‘ECHOES’ nostalgia section stand out on pages 65 to 70; I particularly liked the ‘Decade of drama’ spread on local theatrical appearances over the years.
There were 200-plus stories on 36 news, features and sports pages in the main 48-page book, the paper then boosted by a 40-page ‘Location’ supplement for homes in and around Bournemouth, Christchurch, Poole, Swanage, Wimborne and Blandford.
Despite the mostly sound editorial, the Bournemouth Daily Echo lost 21pc of sales in the second half of 2013, compared to the same period in the previous year, selling a daily average of 19,022.
This, of course, won’t have been helped by publisher Newsquest’s aggressive cover price policy: what was 45p an issue in 2012 became 65p in 2013, an insulting 45pc rise for recession-hit readers.
One surprise, however, is the unusual buoyancy of the Echo’s Saturday sales: at the even higher cover price of 85p (65p in 2012), its average sale was 21,580.
While, for whatever reason, this was noticeably higher than the weekday average sale, it was still a 19pc drop on the 2012 Saturday average of 26,741.
HoldtheFrontPage readers’ views on why the Echo sells more on a Saturday are welcomed; Newsquest giving local readers every reason to stop buying its papers is not.