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Anonymous columnist unmasks himself as he heads for exit

Lee MarlowAn award-winning feature writer has unmasked himself as the man behind an anonymous regional daily column after being made redundant by the newspaper.

Lee Marlow of the Leicester Mercury has penned the last of his Fred Leicester columns after being one of five members of the paper’s feature department placed at risk of redundancy last month.

In his farewell column, Lee, pictured left, finally revealed Fred’s true identity afte five years in which it was kept a closely-guarded secret.

Lee was named Feature Writer of the Year for the third year running at May’s Regional Press Awards, while his alter ego Fred – pictured below – won the Columnist of the Year title last year.

Lee began writing the column five years ago for the Mercury’s Saturday More magazine.

In his final piece, he wrote: “So that’s that, then. My last column. After five years of this – a weekly column-writing marathon I didn’t think I had in me – it’s over. This is the last one.

“There’s a new editorial plan at the Mercury. I don’t fit in it, unfortunately. I can’t really say any more than that. Find me at the nearest bar, though, and I’ll bore you stupid with it. You’d better get ’em in, though. It’s looking like I won’t have a job.”

He continued by waving “cheerio” to various politicians who have featured in the column including Leicester East Labour MP Keith Vaz and “austerity-loving” Tories.

Lee, who has worked at the Mercury for 20 years, added: “Of all the reasons to dislike our politicians – it’s a long list – this smokescreen austerity is the worst. It’s deceit on a grand scale.

“Farewell to the others – the pompous rugby fans, Nottingham, (virtually all of it), the reliably prickly UKIP members, the dwindling band of BNP followers, the Leicester Labour councillor (the one who seemed to be a regular at those BNP gatherings) who asked for a rise in her allowances recently. Good luck with that.”

In the column, he also thanked his family and those who had wished him well since the planned cuts were announced by the Mercury’s new owner Trinity Mirror.Fred Leicester

In particular, he singled out a school teacher who read his terminally-ill father, named Graham, the column on the Saturday night before he died.

Lee concluded: “I never had an idea of who I was writing this for. If something amused me, I wrote about it, hoping it might amuse you, too. It really was as scientific as that.

“But maybe, all along, I was writing it for Graham. That’s what I like to think now. So this is where it ends. Cheerio. Thanks for sticking with it. I hope it’s not been too bad.”

6 comments

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  • June 21, 2016 at 8:50 am
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    A brilliant writer who will be missed by all who enjoy incisive and thought-provoking journalism. They really don’t know what they are doing.

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  • June 21, 2016 at 10:23 am
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    Lee Marlow’s heinous crime is to be a talented journalist for a company that places no value whatsoever on such. When TM took over LW last October, boss Simon Fox said something along the lines of “this is a great day for local journalism”. This sort of thing, one individual in a recent exodus of talented and dedicated editorial staff, is presumably what he meant.

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  • June 21, 2016 at 11:01 am
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    This, in a nutshell, illustrates all that is wrong, and has been for the last decade, with the direction of regional journalism.
    Writers like Lee should be prized, fought for and valued by their newspaper group.
    Instead, this.
    Madness!

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  • June 21, 2016 at 11:03 am
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    The industry sadly places increasingly little importance on quality, skill or integrity. It simply wants young, low-paid churn machines with little time or resource for anything approaching proper journalism. The proprietors don’t want proper journalism. They want ‘content’. Reams and reams of it. For no money.

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  • June 21, 2016 at 3:49 pm
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    I’m only surprised that he has had a piece critical of the company published. Trinity Mirror want redundant staff out of the back door without any hint they were ever there…

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  • June 21, 2016 at 6:27 pm
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    What kind of newspaper group doesn’t want tried and trusted, award-winning writers on the strength? The same newspaper group which used to employ me in a similar capacity, as it happens, until my skills didn’t fit the digital future. Good luck, Lee.

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