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Sleuth: 18/08/2008

Local papers go mad and is the Salford Council Leader an alien from the future...plus a huge load of balls

Published on April 18th 2008.


Sleuth: 18/08/2008

Shooting yourself in the foot
Sleuth thinks it was awfully good of the Manchester Evening News to give a full page interview and plug, for new book The Manchester Compendium by Ed Glinert (we review it on Monday). This is published by Penguin next week and follows the streets and districts of Manchester picking out key historical details and commenting on the modern city. But had the MEN read the book? Probably not all of it, or at least the entry about themselves.

This is part of the entry about the Manchester Evening News.

‘After the paper became a tabloid in 1983 sensationalism replaced populism. Succinct news and well-researched articles on Manchester life soon gave away to an excess of features on celebrities, with a manic obsession with Coronation Street and predictable 'lifestyle' spreads.

‘These factors plus the Evening News' inability to keep abreast of the dynamic new developments locally in music, fashion and design, and its refusal to comment analytically on the appalling social and architectural problems to be found in Manchester, cost it a vast number of readers.

‘As sales declined the owners realised they had to give the paper away to attract back readers. Consequently, early in the twenty-first century the Manchester Evening News began to adopt bizarre give-away schemes (a free chocolate bar with every copy sold, for instance), culminating in the decision to make the paper a freebie in the city centre but with a cover price in the suburbs. Meanwhile, the Guardian–Manchester Evening News publishing group has voraciously brought up local titles, mostly to stifle any possibility of a vibrant independent voice commenting on city life.’

Bit harsh, even for Sleuth's taste perhaps. Still it seems fairly clear that the MEN hadn't read that entry before plugging the book so fulsomely.

South Manchester Reporter goes mad
Meanwhile the hysterical South Manchester Reporter covered Glinert’s book – see story above - with the headline: ‘Lawless streets and crackdens: A new guide to our suburbs’. The opening line was, ‘Residents have reacted furiously after districts of south Manchester came in for a bashing in a new guide book.’ Interesting this as the book still isn’t published, so how did the residents know about the alleged comments? Guess what? The Reporter rang several of them and read out a few choice sentences without any of the context. In part of the description of Didsbury, Glinert writes that it is ‘shorn of character’ with ‘rough pubs’. The South Manchester Reporter tells how the landlord of the Royal Oak ‘took umbrage at the comments’. He told them, "It’s not rough, some of the pubs might occasionally have a bit of trouble but that’s the exception, not the rule." Sleuth, ventures to suggest, that this isn’t ‘reacting furiously’ in any way. Maybe the South Manchester Reporter should remember it’s a local paper not the News of the World.

Sleuth’s name of the week
With reference to the South Manchester Reporter, in the above story, Sleuth confesses he may have fallen in love. With a name. The writer was Laura Thistlethwaite. Superb. Listen baby, can we meet for lunch sometime, maybe in one of those South Manchester crackdens you refer to? Sleuth’s never been to one, it might make for a story. Waddaya think Laura?

Sleuth Campaign of the Week
Staying with the local press, Sleuth must congratulate the MEN on their campaign against the restaurant scam of providing only costly bottled water...even going so far as to refuse to serve jugs of tap water. Very well done indeed. Confidential highlighted this last year in its review of Wings in Lincoln Square which at that time followed the ludicrous practice. Maybe this indicates a change in MEN policy away from crime obsessed front pages. For instance, yesterday, (Thursday) they splashed with 'Water Waste' about the bottled water story, whilst on page 15, they buried the headline, '£700,000 raid at Harvey Nicks and Selfridges', in which at 11am an armed gang smashed display cases and ran off with jewellery and watches. How refreshing.

Sleuth’s Restaurant of the Week
Last week Sleuth was unnerved by the revelation that Al-Bilal, a restaurant in Rusholme he’s visited several times, had ‘been fined £13,200 after an environmental health officer found around 20 pests in the kitchen, bar and restaurant area. Cockroaches were even found to be living in the pipework in the kitchen.’ Now back in business Al-Bilal has advertised in Manchester’s Student Pocket Guide for Summer 2008 with a ‘20% student discount and loyalty card scheme’. There’s no flys on them. Anymore. We hope.

John Merry, leader of Salford City Council and the Space Marines
Sleuth appreciates the cheeky Salford Star, the most controversial and campaigning local paper in the country headed up by Stephen Kingston and his extraordinarily dedicated team. The latest edition has an interview with John Merry, Leader of Salford City Council. The Star has attacked Merry, relentlessly, over what they see 'as Salford's surrender to fat cats' – in otherwords property developers. Merry, bless him, was big-hearted enough to consent to an interview despite the dubious arguments of the Salford Star over this. Sleuth loved the revelation that Merry used to run a Games Workshop outlet and even had his own Sci-Fi shop in the Corn Exchange. His town hall office in Swinton has bookshelves of 'hard-core geek sci-fi and fantasy books.' Excellent. Sleuth has always thought council officers were somehow other-worldly. At last we have proof.

What's in a name
The publisher, Mark Garner, and the chairman, Howard Sharrock, were out schmoozing with Dave Dee, he of the sixties group, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Titch. Dave kept referring to his mate, Dozy. Howard Sharrock said, “Doesn't he get fed up with being called Dozy?” Dave thought for a second before retorting, “It's a bit more distinctive than his real name.” “Which is?” asked Howard Sharrock. “Trevor,” said Dave Dee.

Having a ball – for life
Sleuth was down at the IKEA 21st birthday party in London on Thursday. It was a right laugh, all sorts of unexpected things happened, and he met some intriguing people. One of the unexpected things was when some IKEA special agents asked Sleuth if they could offer Confidential readers a lifetime supply of Swedish meatballs. Sleuth said yes - we'll be giving full details of how readers can win this surprising prize next week. Those crazy Swedes eh?

Sleuth's picture of the week
Confidential's Kelly Ormesher did the London Marathon last weekend, raising money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Well done to her. At one point she managed to capture this picture of a shocked lady obviously distressed by the nudity of the gentleman runner in the foreground. Sleuth knows the real story. The lady was really reacting to Kelly, taking the photo, who was running stark naked. Or maybe Sleuth misheard and got that part of the story wrong.

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33 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Mark Garner, The PublisherApril 18th 2008.

And, did i mention the readership? We have 68,000 people who have asked us to email them every day with news and ideas, whilst another 200,000 or so read us online 4.6 times each month, making us the biggest weekly by far in the North West. Wagamama, fabulous marketeers, told us that we are the second most succesful marketing medium in Britain. OK, hopefully the booze from last night will eventually get out of my system. Cor....

eddy rheadApril 18th 2008.

I have read Glinert's book and frankly it is rubbish. It seems he spent an afternoon in the library, cobbled together somes facts lifted from other books and just filled the rest up with his own whining and rhetoric.I was almost tempted to take it back for a refund. Buy Alan Kidd's and John Parkinson Bailey's books on Manchester and its architecture respectively instead.

crazyjohnApril 18th 2008.

Meatballs, huh? Alright!

WasserApril 18th 2008.

That John Merry, I think of him more like a Superman for the BBC and Mediacity. So still effectively an alien then.

Zoe WattersApril 18th 2008.

Al Bilal is always been terriblegive me the Simla any day

GrandwazooApril 18th 2008.

Barnett - your so wrong - City life was crap in the 1990s and 2000s - it became a lifestyle magazine that focused almost entirely on Chorlton retail outlets and eateries. The circulation had dropped to around 2000 per issue by the time it was binned in 2005. I used to work at the MEN and had access to free copies. Me and my colleagues would flick through the magazine in 3 mins. It was often commented upon that it was not worth paying for. Yet I certainly remember back in the days of pre MEN ownership that it was interesting and informative. I even remember the Manchester Review before that. The MEN is really poor and has been for years - they can't even give it away now. This site and others like it are the way forward.

Michael WestApril 18th 2008.

oy Garner, I wasn't having a go - "I doubt that a printed publication like City Life or a Manchester Confidential is ever going to be financially viable." I meant it in terms of paper magazines not web based ones. I was a bit hungover/sliced when I wrote the passage but I was trying to say that only City Life (now dead) and MC carry Architecture. If I want to criticize you I'd do it by email, lest I get petrol bombed. Alexa rank / worldwide net users = ratio 1:2808 not bad for a Manc site. I luv ya not gonna dis ya.

Mark Garner, The PublisherApril 18th 2008.

Mr. West, thanks for your comments. You are right, in my view treeware like City Life, or many of the new 'glossy' magazines are unviable. Confidential however is the 21st Century regional publishing model. Our revenues have grown by 8% per month (yes, month) for the last eighteen months; we motored past break even point last June, 1997, whilst returning an average 16% margin month on month, even after unvesting in LiverpoolConfidential.com, which is just over one year old and went past it's break even point two months ago. Further investment, generated from our profits, has seen Leeds open three weeks ago. This is a partial Web 2.0 play, and we are only exploiting 20% of our possible revenue models. No one in the UK are anywhere near us whilst we have five huge online portals, three in Europe and two in the States, asking us to become consultants (which we have had to decline, too busy.) So, don't doubt our viability! This model is, i believe (and would love to be proven wrong, does anyone know another similar model anywhere in the world that is making money in the old fashioned way?)the only one in the world that is building itself without outside capital, standing on it's own two mousepads. The great thing is it is the only manchester run and owned publishing house left. So, watch this space.

Ed GlinertApril 18th 2008.

I'm going to side with Chris Paul, not Mike Barnett. City Life's golden age was in pre-MEN days, not because Chris and myself were on it, or even because it was then independently owned, but simply because the magazine did what we, the founders, intended it to do: provide an alternative, non-establishment, informed and entertaining view of the city and its life. For instance before the Evening News took over the mag we had a well-researched and analytical news column, but under Mike Hill and Mike Barnett City Life dispensed with news. This left locals at the mercy of the MEN for their knowledge of what was happening in the city and let us remember that as far as the MEN is concerned news begins and ends with "Man turns into human fireball in Wigan" stories. Consequently City Life in its MEN days contained nothing about the way Peel Holdings were taking over Manchester, and running the Olympics bids and Commonwealth Games. Mancunians who wished to find out about such things had to make do with my stories in Private Eye. Nor were City Life readers gaining any insights into local culture as Hill and Barnett dispensed with most of the great writers who had coloured the magazine in the 80s.

Mike, StockportApril 18th 2008.

Has Michael West actually read the MEN coverage of the Strangeways Riots in April 1990? I think not. The first edition of the day the story broke screamed, if memory serves, "20 DEAD." The number kept reducing as each of the day's four or five editions or whatever it was hit the streets. The MEN isn't vile, that's a silly and juvenile insult; it just isn't very good. As Rayno points out, it is written largely by people with little feeling, knowledge, understanding, or experience of the city. Experienced long-serving (and it has to be said over-paid) staffers have been replaced over the last 15 years by fresh-faced youngsters hopelessly out of their depth, and the paper's coverage of so many aspects of life in the city reflects that.

RaynoApril 18th 2008.

It's interesting this about the papers. The description taken from the new book about the MEN certainly strikes a chord...it is a sickening embarassment as a press representative of the city and of the city's heritage. It is anti-intellectual, it is trivial, it is run by people who have no feeling for the city and no deep knowledge of it. Maybe it is for websites such as this to take on the mantle of intelligence thrown off by the MEN. It would be nice for a magazine representative occasionally of it though. Keep up the good work here.

KevApril 18th 2008.

Kev, again with Sunday typo syndrome. I meant to say that maybe Manchester deserves the MEN because that is all the city is intellectually capable of. I don't think this is the case of course, I think several articles that appear on this site and in other media, as well as the satire that appears on this site, shows there is room for intelligent and witty talk in the town. It's refreshing.

Jonathan Schofield - editorApril 18th 2008.

Well done to most of you folks on here for putting your full name. Anonymous comments, or those with silly names, are not very clever when they name other people. If you want to make a personal point about someone, it seems good manners to give your full name, so that that person may respond.

manelApril 18th 2008.

Eddy (or someone else), could you recommend a good book on Manchester history?I'm quite interested and haven't got a clue what to buy! Cheers

ChrisPaulApril 18th 2008.

the MEN is floating in a cess pool of its own making. ed glinert, myself and spinoza began the city life thing in 1983. but the men, the smr and the like, and certainly channel M are a shadow of their various claims.when spin, ed and cp had all left, the city life title was sold to GMEN and they showed how crap they are as publishers by not ever making it paybasically they failed at every turnto be fair the biggest CL USP was the edgy reviews (sometimes anti-advertiser) and the edgy new features (sometimes anti-MCC or anti-powerful-twats) and even the off centre interviews

Let City Life GoApril 18th 2008.

Mike/Ed, don't you think its high time we stopped mourning the loss of City Life magazine?! I know it was part of our lives for many years, but its finished now. Its over and its never coming back. Those who worked for City Life (including myself, albeit in the latter years) will always look on it fondly and we know the truth that the MEN closed it for no good reason, but seriously lets stop having this debate and look to the future of publishing in Manchester!

Mike BarnettApril 18th 2008.

Chris Paul is incorrect if he thinks the only golden age City Life enjoyed was when it was run as a workers’ co-operative of which he (and I) was a member. For the record, Medlock Publishing, which ran the magazine, went into liquidation in January 1989. The receivers sold the title and its associated goodwill to the MEN for £20,000. I returned to Manchester at that point and stayed on the staff until November 1995, and, contrary to the porkies told by Mark Rix and Mark Dodson when they shut it in December 2005, it was certainly profitable when I was on the staff; we were all on profit-share and I still have my payslips to prove it. In my nearly seven years as a City Life staffer under MEN ownership, they never once interfered with any review or feature, and I should know, I wrote and commissioned hundreds of them. The story of City Life is ancient history now, but a little bit of accuracy wouldn’t go amiss.

ApplauseApril 18th 2008.

A lovely pat on the back there Mr Garner and of course we love Manchester Confidential. But what about this passage in the Manchester Compendium? 'Meanwhile, the Guardian–Manchester Evening News publishing group has voraciously brought up local titles, mostly to stifle any possibility of a vibrant independent voice commenting on city life.’ They're not about to snap you up are they?

Michael WestApril 18th 2008.

I'll just add to that and will say that the MEN is certainly (and reasonably) supportive of Urbis and Cathedral Gardens. Its silence on other city centre architecture is only mirrored by a general unawareness. I doubt that a printed publication like City Life or a Manchester Confidential is ever going to be financially viable. However, in the age of WEB 2.0, I honestly believe that rant pages (like this) will have an impact on how news is reported and echo new articles. (or am I dead dead p**sed still?)

Kev McLouglinApril 18th 2008.

Maybe Manchester deserves the MEN, aside from a very few writers it is and astonishingly a child-like read. And as for that water bottle v £700K raid on Harvey Nichols and Selfridges, strange that it was on page 15, had the MEN been leaned upon to effectively kill it.

Salford RedApril 18th 2008.

well-researched articles on Manchester life soon gave away to an excess of features on celebrities, with a manic obsession with Coronation Street and predictable 'lifestyle' spreads. Bloody hell it sounds like you lot.....

Andy FowlerApril 18th 2008.

So what if Mike Barnett hasn't written a book - what on earth has that got do with anything being debated here?

JamesApril 18th 2008.

It all comes down to a lack of top class leadership at the MEN. It's run by deeply provincial people who simply aren't capable of delivering a really top quality local paper. Much of what the Guardian Media Group offers in this city is second rate (Channel M anyone?, Manchester Online's utterly confusing presentation and rehashing of the paper's drivel, the main paper, good God). It reminds me of the time in the eighties and nineties in Manchester, and something that is still happening in say Oldham or Rochdale: the management of decline. The MEN seems to be winding down.

Mike BarnettApril 18th 2008.

Ed, with the greatest of respect, that's largely bollocks. City Life in the 1990s carried stories on Peel Holdings, Amec, goings-on at GMP, the various Games bids, etc. Given that you were hardly in Manchester in the 1990s, the ignorance displayed so clearly in your posting does not come as a big surprise. As for your claim that City Life readers had no insight into local culture, can you tell me which "great writers" of the 1980s, other than yourself of course, we dispensed with?

SazApril 18th 2008.

I think Mike Barnett is being horrible. You've not written any books, have you? And don't give respect if you are then going to use a rude word. Also, how do you know how often he was in Manchester? How often did you see him? If I remember, he had a daughter in 1994, so he must have been in Manchester. Didn't think of that, did you?

lesleyApril 18th 2008.

After trying to tell a few of my colleagues that they should read Manchester Confidential i finally have managed to convert them. How, just showing them the photo of the little old lady 'O'ing' in disgust/shock/remembered pangs of lust. Brilliant!

Michael WestApril 18th 2008.

Dunno can actually anyone remember the broadsheet MEN? My own recollections seem to be that it was a very poor imitation of the Guardian (16 pages and four job pages). The MEN giva-way is a disgrace. Wednesdays and Thursdays is a rehash of all its "sister papers" exclusives. As for book reviews, I am quite sure the reviewers don't read them. Kaufman and even the appalling Mick Middle's did actually comment having actually read them. As for South Manchester Reporter, I think Audrey had a hotline to the NOW long before GMG took it off her - it has always been a vile newspaper. But sleuth is culpabable too here - Ray King enjoyed free lunches and was prosaic in his enjoyment. As I recall sleuth never had a happy meal (no, not the BIG M ones) and it was very painful to read his reviews. It's over 25 years since the MEN went tabloid - sensationalism has only crept in during the last 5 years. Take a trip to Central library and compare its reporting on the Strangeway's riot or the Manchester bomb to its tabloid sensationalists.

Handy AndyApril 18th 2008.

Gastro's gives every customer free still ans sparkling water , long before the MEN article

Ali McGowanApril 18th 2008.

Free or not, I gave up reading the MEN years ago. It's utter trash.

Mike BarnettApril 18th 2008.

Well said Jonathan, a long-overdue appeal. Why should I correct or respond to the ill-informed comments of people hiding behind the mask of anonymity? 'Saz', 'Let City Life Go', and 'Grandwazoo' - what have you got to hide? Criticise me and anyone else you want to by all means, but have the courage to put your real name to your comments!

Simon TurnerApril 18th 2008.

City Life was always patchy but in the 80s it was patchy in an interesting way. I don't remember reading anything Ed Glinert wrote though. However, the Mike Hill years were definitely the worst. It improved even as an MEN title in the second half of the 90s, especially with Chris Sharratt there, but the last few years - the period 2000 til the end it was dire. The editorial content was badly written puff pieces for the mates of the staff and shallow lifestyle rubbish but you'd pick it up and most of the magazine was adverts for apartments anyway. Sadly some of the writers have since gone on to write in the MEN which explains the MEN's current state.

Michael WestApril 18th 2008.

@Mike, Stockport. I do remember the headline that Monday. Think The Sun was still running with the Poll Tax Riot story. Tuesdays MEN had access to the prison and had counted down to 8 dead . While The Sun was still running with castrations and bodies thrown over landings. I was at NUS Blackpool conference when it was unfolding, so I am probably wrong. If Garner buys me a pint, I'll nip over to Central and scan that weeks MEN (Don't think they microfiche The Sun but know they do the Mail) and compare it with a national tabloid. I'm sure we can make an article out of it somehow.

Ed GlinertApril 18th 2008.

Hey, this rant page idea is great! Two totally self-indulgent points. Mike Barnett: I was in Manchester as much as you were in the 1990s. Too bloody much in fact. Simon Turner: if you don't remember reading anything I wrote in City Life in the 80s you couldn't have read it much. Only Andy Spinoza wrote more than me.

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