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Too much crime in regional daily, says Phoenix Nights funnyman

Neil FizmauriceA comedian and actor has urged a regional daily to “move away” from reporting too much crime in the paper.

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.”


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  • June 15, 2015 at 10:20 am

    Regionals, especially the smaller ones based mainly in one city, rely far too much on cops and court. But rooting out alternative well-researched exclusives needs reporters and cops/court is easy copy. Go on, count the number of times your regional paper splashes with crime or court. It will depress you as it depresses readers, but the story still goes that this sells papers. Not from what I have seen in circulation figures lately..

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  • June 15, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    I recall the same debate about whether a big city daily relies too much on crime being had at the Manchester Evening News perhaps 20 years ago. Yes, too much crime reporting does make the city seem a bit grim, but are you really going to be the editor who puts a smiley feelgood story on page one, and relegates a murder to an inside page?
    As for the Echo’s big discussion with its readers, surely it’s an intrinsic part of the job of a journalist to know what will interest readers in the first place. Have we stopped trusting that instinct? When we start asking people to tell us where we have gone wrong with our news agenda, it makes us look a bit clueless.

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  • June 15, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    Now and again I read other cities’ newspapers on-line, and I was shocked at the Liverpool Echo’s obsession with reporting crime. Admittedly, because of historical reasons, economic or whatever reason, some cities do have more serious crimes. I told someone from Liverpool that I can’t understand why the newspaper would do such a thing as it’s not helping Liverpool’s profile, and they replied that for some reason they’ve always liked to drag the City down. Surely if the reporters were proper locals and loved where they live they wouldn’t do such a thing – it would be like a parent constantly criticising their child, worse if in public (like the paper), and then often the child believes they’re no good.
    The negativity just perpetuates an image, especially to us outsiders.

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  • June 15, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    Let’s sweep crime under the carpet, shall we? Moron.

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