Columnist gets thumbs-up vote from readers

By Sarah Lagan

South Manchester Reporter columnist James Chapman-Kelly has narrowly escaped the chop after his editor put the decision whether to back or sack him to a public vote.

The cruel Big Brother-style stunt was sparked by a reader contacting the paper asking for Chapman-Kelly to be “put out of his misery”. In the following days, more than 100 letters arrived at the newspapers offices either criticising or praising Chapman-Kelly’s weekly insights into life in south Manchester.

Local MEP Den Dover called for him to go, while one reader created a T-shirt backing him.

In the end, a majority of Reporter readers voted for Chapman-Kelly to stay. A local film-maker has now approached the paper to capture the columnist’s reaction on camera.

Reporter editor Lawrence Matheson said: “Newspapers are wondering why their popularity is declining to the internet, but you can get feedback and interaction and this is an example of how newspapers can get readers involved.

“It’s made James into a bit of a local celebrity, though it is like putting him in the stocks and throwing rotten veg at him.

“He should take notice of the feedback and try to make his column more relevant by focusing on local issues rather than the idiosyncrasies of life in general.”

Chapman-Kelly said he would not make any changes to his column “whatsoever”.

He added: “As I was writing my next column, I realised it’s the Ides of March, so I’ve survived Julius Caesar’s problem, and on the same day Attila the Hun died of a nosebleed, so thumbs and noses – that’s what I’m doing to my detractors, really.”

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