If the days of the week were people, you could pick them out in a line-up, no problem. Thursday would be slightly maniacal, unpredictable and dangerous, played by Steve Buscemi in ‘Days’ – a gritty HBO box set. Tuesday? Borderline depressive, monosyllabic and shot through with ennui. Tuesday Blues – the Woody Allen of weekdays.
Sunday, though, would be languorous, laid-back, curious and captivating – it would be Julianna Moore in an Alexander McQueen frock, sprawled out on a G-Plan corner sofa, the smell of Nicaraguan roast coffee, and the promise of afternoon delight, in the air.
So it’s a shame that Trinity Mirror’s fumbled open its 2014 page-a-day-diary in a post-New Year fug and has made Sunday go all Wednesday on us: that nondescript watershed of a day. The rabbit-in-the-headlights midweek moment when you’re unsure if the week’s half full, or half empty.
Because, on first outing, The Sunday Echo just isn’t Sunday enough to really carve out a place on your breakfast table, alongside the juicy red tops and the supplement-stuffed broadsheets.
First there’s the identi-kit Ali Machray splash: 400 Cannabis Farms Smashed in a Year.
That’s not news, that’s anti-news. A story about cannabis busts in Liverpool would only pass as news in a parallel universe where everything is upturned, where The Echo is shut down and The Daily Post survives.
Real, headline-worthy news would be ‘No Cannabis Farms Smashed in a Year – Liverpool ditches the weed in favour of calisthenics and the natural endorphin-high earned after a bloody good game of deck quoits.’ That would be news.
Page three offers a history lesson in how we used to refer to women in the 70s. Like a mini Operation Yew Tree crib-sheet, we’re treated to a bevvie of Liverpool loverlies under the header: ‘Three of Our Best, and Amy Makes PHWOAR’. You see what they did there? Yep, that’s right, objectify women and use an archaic term that means ‘The lads and I have given these women careful consideration and, yes, we very much would like to hold their chests awhile’ (and carelessly misuse an apostrophe in ‘Miss Liverpool’s’ – but, hey, who used apostrophes in the 70s, anyway?)
After sex, it’s crime time – and we’re treated to page after page of entry-level crime, old crime dressed up as new crime, and crime that wouldn’t even make Crimewatch Extra crime.
But it’s between pages 17-26 that the real story emerges – in a full 10 pages of newsprint, only two are editorial. That’s 80% adverts – a shocking ratio which reveals just how cynical this venture really is. Let’s remind ourselves of Trinity’s promise: “We must repay [readers’] loyalty by ensuring what we publish at weekends is as strong and as relevant as what we publish during the week.”
Well, it’s certainly strong and relevant if you’re after ads for hair removal and coach tours, with occasional press releases fighting for air between the offers.
Non-writer Carolyn Hughes somehow manages to keep her social diary column – apparently, Mike McCartney had a party, and LFC players board trains at Lime Street station. Coool.
There’s an entire page of random facts about Ian Broudie where, we’re guessing, an original idea was supposed to be (we love Broudie, but if we need to find out the minutiae of ‘Three Lions’ it’s fine, honestly, we’ll look at Wikipedia and save you the bother.)
The ‘Insider’ promises ‘all the celeb gossip they don’t want you to know’ – such Edward Snowden-esque nuggets as Rebecca Fergusson admitting she has ‘quite a few celebs following me on Twitter’, and that Abbey Clancy was ‘forced to make an emergency dash to Liverpool Dental Spa. We hope to God The Insider is bunkered down in some Eastern European safehouse, after dishing out 24 carat dirt of that calibre.
Elsewhere, the food review contains the classic ‘We had talked about having a dessert with our meal but both felt full after our mains, so decided to call it a night.’ Brilliant. That’s the culinary equivalent of reviewing King Lear, and saying ‘We talked about staying to see if the old fella lost the plot, but we’d have missed last orders, so we left in the interval.’
Most illuminating of all is the ‘Wisdom of our Scouse Nans’, a clusterfuck of ancient aphorisms, in which such gems like ‘Close the door…were you born in a barn?’ are forensically unpacked, like some scouse Rosetta stone deciphering project – ‘Barns are drafty. Nans tend not to like drafts,’ we’re informed, helpfully.
Or how about:
‘He’s got a gob like the Mersey Tunnel’ – is said about a loud-mouthed person.’ And here’s us, for all these years, thinking it meant ‘he’s got a mouth that you have to pay £2.60 to enter.’ Thank you, Echo. We’ll never think our nans are fixated about oral sex again.
There’s about 400 pages of football punditry, guest columns and conjecture – a review of Liverpool’s game against Aston Villa (at last, something that a Sunday paper can offer.) We don’t really get football, so we’ll just say it’s full of it. And maybe, just maybe, these pages are worth the entry fee. They’re sufficiently stat-packed and soccerball is still something Trinity does with conviction.
The best Sunday papers offer the weekend’s final hurrah, a chance to keep the workaday world at bay for a while: whether it’s with scurrilous gossip, longform features, savvy investigative pieces, comment and analysis or leisurely lifestyle spreads.
The Echo on Sunday offers none of this – the columnists just aren’t up to scratch (save for Keith Carter’s promising tales of a jobbing comic), the news is scrappy and (all too often) heavy with the deathly hand of PR, or plain dull. The layout is frenetic and messy – with headers forced to dogleg around adverts, little islets of national news, stranded like a Somerset village amid the detritus.
The centre spread Dockers’ Umbrella pull-out piece is the only real attempt at something new – a enjoyable jaunt through local history by Jade Wright and Laura Davis on Liverpool’s lost rail route in the sky. More like this, please.
Look, no-one wants Liverpool’s media to be full of gouty old websites like SevenStreets. Christ, how hideous would that be? We get it – The Echo is aimed at a different demographic. But, FFS, this is Liverpool. Where’s the charm? The creativity? The clue? There is not one single ‘wow’ moment in this paper’s 72 spirit-sapping papers.
The Echo – now seven days a week – is stretching a joke waaaay too thinly. Like our wise old Nans say: Don’t come running to us if you break your leg (Sunday Echo translation: ‘A harsh but fair warning’)