Mackenzie to save regional paper in reality TV show

The UK's largest commercial television production company is developing a series that could see legendary Fleet Street editor Kelvin MacKenzie become the journalistic equivalent of TV chef Gordon Ramsay.

The programme, currently in development at Granada TV, proposes to follow the former Sun editor's attempts to revive the circulation of a flagging regional newspaper.

The company is in the process of finding a publisher willing to let MacKenzie do to a local paper what Ramsay has done for failing restaurants in his hit Channel 4 show, Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares.

"Can Kelvin MacKenzie cut it in the world of regional journalism? And can a regional newspaper handle Kelvin MacKenzie?" asks an email circulated by Granada to a number of regional newspaper editors.

The chosen newspaper will welcome the former "Beast of Bouverie Street" into its newsroom for around eight weeks and Granada says that MacKenzie's direct involvement will almost certainly be limited to a maximum of one day each week.

One editor of a weekly newspaper who has already been contacted by the production company said he had declined the offer.

He said: "I haven't got the time really and I think such a project would be quite time consuming. I just think that they'd be better off going to a daily paper — that would be much more instant than a weekly paper which is a bit of a slow burn."

Kent on Sunday editor Bernard Ginns said: "I don't know the detail of what he's proposing to do but of course I'd welcome any effort to champion the regional newspaper industry.

"The majority of regional newspapers have a very high profile in their own areas and are an integral part of their communities.

Perhaps a project like this one could help raise their profiles with national advertisers, which would be a good thing."

Steve Anderson, creative director at television company Mentorn, which has worked with MacKenzie on previous television productions, said the editor had a reputation for being outspoken, blunt and funny — qualities which translate well on television.

He said: "He's very straight-talking, he doesn't use any jargon, he gets straight to the point. He's normally very funny with it and has something very memorable to say.

He punches home on all the main points — he's a very good television performer."

In a Press Gazette interview earlier this year, MacKenzie confessed that as an editor he was “an unreasonable bastard”, saying: “I worked very hard to be unreasonable — I went to evening classes.” Former Mirror editor David Banks, who was also MacKenzie’s deputy at The Sun, said he would be attracted by the chance to get his hands on a paper again.

He said: “Kelvin is determined that he is going to be a great businessman.

He’s done radio and telly, but at the core, his great skill is producing newspapers that will sell in large numbers.” Banks warned the regional editor who will end up working with MacKenzie: “He is a one-man show — he writes the headlines, he draws the pages and he doesn’t run a democracy.

“It will probably be exciting at first for the subs and the reporters until they start to feel his tongue-lashing. He will lash out — if they get it wrong in the slightest there’ll be trouble and he’ll arse kick from breakfast ’til suppertime.

“I’d imagine he’d have a huge influence because he’ll throw himself into it body and soul and demand that they follow him unquestioningly. He’s the Shaka Zulu of journalism — if he says march an impi over the cliff, you have to march the impi over the cliff.”

When asked by Press Gazette to comment on the new show, MacKenzie would only say that lots of TV companies come to him with ideas and that most never see the light of day.

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