The answers have ranged from the definite: 'Yes, if the Mercury is to have a future'; to the more common: 'It doesn't really matter providing they are a good writer'.
The former came from AJC who helpfully suggested on his own blog how I might improve my chances of survival:
'So what's a struggling editor supposed to do? Well, the first thing is to employ a couple of undergraduates over the summer to show them how to produce a Kindle edition, then in the autumn, roll out trials of downloads and hyperlocal print-on-demand terminals. And of course, the most important thing of all is to get serious about the website and change it from a low rent car boot sale to a conduit that the local community cares about.'But more of that later.
Returning to the question of the football writer, about 10 years ago I set up a website aimed at regional journalists: www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk (HtFP). It is very widely read by said journalists and is now jointly owned by the UK's four big regional newspaper publishers - Northcliffe, Trinity Mirror, Newsquest and Johnston Press. Today, HtFP picked up on my question about the football writer and re-phrased it:
'What do you think? Should football writers' jobs always go to fans of the local side - especially in one-club cities - or do writers who are more dispassionate about the game generally do a better job?'To be honest, I wasn't that bothered about what the journalists thought - my guess was that they would all, predictably, think the same as me: it doesn't matter, all that is important is that we get a great writer. And, surprise, surprise, that's pretty much what they all say on HtFP. Equally predictably the conversation collapses into a discussion around the use - or misuse - of apostrophes by a recent graduate looking for a break into the profession:
'If newspaper's only employed football writer's who support the club they cover on their back pages, then how are the journalist's who have taken sport journalism degree's meant to break into the industry?'Quite. (Although, I'm not sure that isn't a fake post aimed at riling journalists!)
Anyway, as I said, I was more interested in what the readers of the Mercury thought and I'm grateful for those who expressed a point of view even though there was no consensus. As is the way of my blog, most of those who replied did so either via Twitter (@tipexxed) or email. There's still time to add your thoughts.