Liverpool Echo

The senseless death of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel, a little girl shot dead in her own home, shocked the nation.

Heartbreakingly, it happened exactly 15 years to the day 11-year schoolboy Rhys Jones was gunned down as he walked home from football practice. Olivia’s death meant Liverpool was once again in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons and, while we were determined not to let it define our city, we needed to acknowledge we had a problem. We knew instinctively that reporting on the tragedy was not enough and we appreciated early on we had to reflect the emotions of our readers, to empower them and give them a voice. Because the despair, disbelief and anguish felt by the people of Liverpool when they woke up to news of Olivia’s death was quickly replaced by anger and a determination to do the right thing. The Echo has been the voice of Liverpool and the wider city region since our newspaper first hit the streets in 1879. We use our Voice of the Echo opinion column sparingly - only when we have a right to be part of the conversation and only when we have something to say. On this occasion it was clear we needed to use our platform to articulate the voice of our communities. Our front page on Wednesday, August 24, 2022, was a powerful interpretation of that leader column asking the people of Liverpool Whose Side Are You On? It placed the Echo at the heart of the call for people to do the right thing and share any information they had with Merseyside Police. It was also a very public condemnation of the so-called ‘no-grass’ culture which had prolonged the agony of Rhys Jones’ family before justice was finally served. When discussing the front page we knew the shocking details of Olivia’s death had been widely reported and we had a responsibility to centre the tragedy on our city, to speak to, and on behalf, of its people. The emotion came naturally - our task was to distil it into a front page that conveyed the horror of what had happened while stating clearly what must happen next. We tried to put the reader into the minds of Olivia and her mum during those tragic, terrifying moments, then pull back and ask them to examine their conscience. In asking Whose Side Are You On? we were answering the question for ourselves - the Echo was on the side of Olivia and her family and the stunned population of a wounded city. While our future clearly lies in digital journalism, nothing quite beats the impact of a powerful front page. And the impact was immediate. Our reporting team was deluged with requests from interviews from national and international media which allowed us to amplify our message. There was praise from our peers and gratitude from Merseyside Police’s Chief Constable and local politicians. But the real vindication came from our readers who thanked us for giving them a voice.