Neil Fitzmaurice, pictured left, who is best known for his roles in sitcoms such as Phoenix Nights, Peep Show and Benidorm, has shared his thoughts on how to improve the Liverpool Echo as part of editor Alastair Machray’s #TellAli project.
The scheme was launched last week in a bid to get readers to suggest how the Echo could be made better ahead of a forthcoming relaunch at the end of this month.
Neil, who still reads the Echo, added his belief the paper should try to find a “balance” in the type of stories it prints.
He said: “I’ve always found there are a lot more column inches given over to the music side than the stand up or acting side – that’s great for local bands but I think there could be more pieces on comedians and actors.
“It’s all about getting the right balance in so many areas, isn’t it? You want it to be a good community paper, but not be insular. The Echo has somehow got to appeal to a broad range of people throughout Merseyside.
“There is a lot of crime, as people have said. Is this an indication of the city, or does it sell papers?
“With lots of newspapers, you look at them and they’re based on ‘shock and awe’.
“Again, it’s about balance – you don’t want an entire page on a pensioner’s parrot who can count to 10 in Spanish. A quarter of a page is fine – but if it can do it in Japanese, too, then maybe half a page!
“But when you open the Echo you do tend to read a lot about drug heists, clubs being shut down and people being slashed – surely there must be a way of getting more positive things in.
“There is some crime that must be reported – along with stories about, say, missing drugs, because that’s a community service – but I think you could move away from a lot of it.”
So far Alastair has received calls from readers to return printing of the paper to Liverpool, which led to him warning “myths” about where the Echo is produced could harm its future prospects.
Neil’s career was launched when he won the paper’s Stand Up of The Year competition in 1996, a contest he also called on the Echo to revive.
He told the Echo: “It was a brilliant competition, the absolute start of everything for me and I think it would be great if the Echo could bring it back.
“I won it before all these shows like The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent, which are huge. We’re very much an entertainment-driven country, so I think bringing it back is long overdue.
“It’s great when the Echo puts its name to things like that – and I also remember your pub of the year and fish and chip shop of the year competitions. You’d go into chip shops and see the posters about it on the wall.”