In a week when the Manchester Evening News was discarded by the Guardian Media Group, its beleaguered news journalists demonstrated their worth with some agenda-setting crime scoops.
The MEN’s exclusive string of stories on the shooting dead of a Porsche driving mobster at the Cheshire mansion of an intriguing businessman followed the paper’s strong tradition of crime exclusives.
With police remaining tight-lipped about the details of how murder came to leafy Cheshire and the identities of the dead man and the businessman householder, who was in hospital with stab wounds, the MEN team went underground, contacting police sources and underworld snouts.
By the first edition they were able to publish unreleased identities of both men, who were well-know figures in the Manchester and Cheshire areas and other fascinating details which are now sub-judice.
News editor Sarah Lester rang Cheshire police press office to tell them what reporters had uncovered and to check nothing they were about to publish would compromise the police investigation. The response was a grilling about sources of the story and Lester was told nothing was being released at that stage.
As the Cheshire force sought to plug the leak, the MEN had an exclusive splash about the death of a champagne swigging, high-life gangster known as King of the Hill, whose car had the registration AK47.
They also revealed exclusive details about the background of businessman Arran Coghlan.
The splash was followed up by most of the nationals the following morning. The MEN stayed ahead of the pack with three more exclusives, including an exclusive picture of the dead mobster which was later sold to The Sun.
Another splash revealed Aki was behind a murder in Manchester eight years ago, which six people witnessed, although none would testify.
The MEN’s tenacious story hunting was rewarded with a boost to newspaper sales and to web figures.
The first story had 26,000 hits and three successive stories got more than 70,000 hits
The website of sister paper, Stockport Express, also had a surge in hits.
News editor Lester said: “This was a story of real interest to the people of Manchester – and we were the only news organization telling it in all its detail. We knew that the readers would hunger for every detail and we were right. Interesting crime stories really do sell, both on the street and on the web.
“It also shows the importance of solid, trustworthy and well-placed contacts – and experienced journalists – as absolutely nothing was coming from the official channels. Most importantly, it was a bloody good read!”
Meanwhile, MEN journalists are preparing for a move out of city centre Manchester to the Oldham base of new owners Trinity Mirror.
Steve Panter is a former crime correspondent for the MEN who now teaches journalism at Salford University.