Recently we gave Echo subscribers the chance to ask me, the editor, anything they would like about how we work.

This could be a question about a local issue, our news coverage, how we make decisions or what makes the newsroom tick.

Being the editor used to just mean deciding what we would tell readers in print, but now journalism can and should be a two-way conversation, and I'm happy to answer the questions below, which cover a range of subjects. 

Thank you to anyone who submitted a question and thank you all for your continued support of the Echo, which means we can continue to provide unrivalled local news coverage, sport reporting and features in Southend, Basildon and the surrounding areas. 

Some of our readers also posted questions in the comments section instead of using the form. I've tried to cover as much as possible here.

If you’ve not had a response or would like to discuss anything further please email me at

Here are my answers to your questions.

Do your journalists get out and about to report on stories or are they stuck behind desks?

Our journalists are regularly out and about in the community. You always get a better story going out. However, often these decisions are made daily because no day is the same. We send reporters to cover criminal cases, large community events, breaking news and to speak to people and businesses in the communities we serve about the issues that matter to them. Our sports reporter covers Southend United on and off the pitch and has been at every High Court hearing in relation to the Blues ongoing financial problems with HMRC. However, this must be balanced with the demands of having a strong online schedule and a large paper that has two editions (Basildon and Southend) Monday to Friday. Inevitably this means working in the office so reporters can file copy regularly throughout the day and produce a high volume of stories every day. We're looking at ways we can free up reporters to get out even more and work on unique local stories.

Are news reports and articles proof-read by sub-editors or other staff prior to being published on the website?

In the most part, yes. All stories are edited by a content editor before being published, except for a few instances. Breaking news published early in the morning and after office hours in the evening will sometimes be published by a reporter if it needs to go up straight away to inform readers about an immediate incident e.g. a road closure, and it's the same at weekends in terms of early hours reporting. However, reporters will have at least a few months' experience behind them before they are given these shifts and if unsure, they can always contact an editor to check a story even out of hours. I realise if we’re asking people to subscribe and pay for our online stories like we do the newspapers the quality must be a priority for the reporter and news editor who approves the copy before publication. 

I am a home delivery "subscriber"; why should I pay extra to read on-line articles?

Firstly, thank you for showing your support for the Echo by paying for a newspaper subscription. Both the newspaper and website are incredibly important to us, and the success of the Echo relies on support for both. We don’t currently have a mechanism to enable us to roll both into one package, however, a couple of readers have contacted me about this so I will look into this with the subscription team to see the likelihood of this in the future. I can’t promise anything will change but I will certainly raise the issue and see if it’s possible. Please email me directly on this and I will come back to you with an answer (

Why do we do so many restaurant and business reviews? Same question regarding homes?

There is huge interest in leisure and ‘things to do’ stories. We must balance producing stories that work well for the newspaper and the online audience. We’re also happy to support our local businesses - not just through paid advertising. If they’ve closed for a refit and reopened it’s not just a story for us but a way of helping the business get some positive publicity when times are incredibly tough for them. Likewise, online audiences are keen to read property stories and we will regularly write stories for our online audiences that we know perform well and are of high interest. Food and drink. things to do and property are key topics, aside from the general news reporting we do. The real issue here is balance. Do we do too much of one category? I will keep a close eye on this to make sure news does not take a back seat. However, these stories will continue to be published.

How many of the reporting staff are local?

All our reporters live in Essex but not all necessarily in Southend or Basildon. About half live on patch and the others further out in Essex. The team is made up of about 4-5 reporters a day and they’re responsible for producing stories for the website, running social media channels and creating enough content to publish two editions of the Echo newspaper Monday to Friday. It's important to recruit local reporters with local connections and we do our best to make this happen.

What are you doing about the readers who hijack the comments section on many articles and can they be banned? Why can you not comment on some stories?

Unfortunately, there is a small, but committed, group of people who are intent on leaving nasty comments on our stories. We want the Echo to be a website for everyone to use and get involved in debating news, so we spend a lot of time deleting and blocking these accounts. Unfortunately, at the moment it's relatively easy for these people to create new accounts and continue leaving hateful comments even if they're blocked so blocking them does not solve the problem. Our developers are working on an additional level of verification that will make it more difficult for people to continually make new accounts. At the moment when someone presses the 'report' button on a comment it triggers an email that allows us to review and decide to delete the comment or block the user as a last resort. We’re a commenting platform, however, sometimes we must turn comments off on an article for legal reasons or because the high volume of abuse in the thread. Our rules regarding comments can be found online.

Why is there so much 'copy and paste' and why do you not fact check information?

Clearly, we do handle a lot of submitted content, but ‘copy and paste’ is not what we want journalists doing. Whatever type of information and content a reporter or news editor handles should be well crafted and added to, not just published as it is. We would love to do more investigative journalism. Our stories are fact-checked, however, sometimes errors happen. If you feel a story is inaccurate you can contact me and I will look into it for you.

How are you using AI in your journalism?

We are embracing the use of AI, but rest assured all the articles on the Echo are the work of human beings! We have one AI-powered reporter, Doug Wootton, who covers Essex and uses AI to speed up some of the stories that are important but can slow down the production of news articles, such as handling community-led press releases that might not need developing by a news reporter. We get hundreds of emails a day, so this helps us publish more of these stories that our readers and contributors want to see in the paper and online. He uses AI to speed up the writing process of certain articles, which don't necessarily need any real investigatory work, right of replies or more information from multiple sources. By Doug taking on these stories it allows the rest of the team to spend more time on stories that require more work, more time and working on patch. The bottom line is that human beings will always be responsible for what we produce, so if something is wrong it's our fault! And no computer programme will ever be able to emulate the important qualities of a local journalist - that local knowledge, nose for a story and gut feeling you get when things don't quite seem right.

I know many of you will have more questions about our journalism and the Echo in general. Feel free to email me at and I will do my best to answer them.