Category Archives: Uncategorized

New blog URL

Hey everyone, I’m changing my blog to the following URL: Sadly, won’t do a proper redirect so can I ask you to change your bookmarks. All the posts are the same at the new site and this one will remain but new posts will only appear at



Filed under AV, Journalism, Labour, media, newmedia, ONA, Scotland, Technology, Uncategorized, weird

Ex-Scotsman editor on demise of Scottish papers

Former Scotsman editor John McGurk has produced a fascintating investigation for the BBC on the future of the indigenous Scottish quality press. His conclusion is that it’s fucked.

When I was editor of (seven years, ten-fold increase in readerts, ahtankyew) John and I had our differences insofar as he would joyfully have strangled the online edition in its cot. But he has hit the nail on the head with this piece.

As well as exposing the guilty secret of plummeting sales at the Horrid and Hootsmon, John reveals that public sector advertising worth £47m will no longer be placed in the Scottish nationals. To put that the effects of that in layman’s terms: game over, man, game over.

Some thoughts occurred to me:

  • If the Scottish public sector (and the politicians who run it) want native Scottish journalism they should continue to advertise with the Scottish nationals.
  • They are under absolutely no obligation to do so, any more than readers are obliged to buy the papers.
  • This is a lesson that the Scotsman and Herald have not learned. They are owned by companies (Gannet and Johnston Press) that insist on obscenely large profit margins and sacrifice quality to achieve them. Both papers are produced on a shoestring. It shows. The quality of journalism in both papers has fallen drastically. That’s why people don’t buy them. Why should they?
  • At no point did John mention the Metro. On the 26 bus to the centre of Edinburgh people used to read the Scotsman but they now read the Metro – a low quality tabloid packed with wire copy. As that’s what Scotsman has become why should people bother paying money for it? (Oh and Johnston Press does not understand The Scotsman and their much-lauded digital strategy is deeply flawed – no matter how much Tim Bowdler clings to it when the share price falls. Again.)
  • While Andrew Neil and John spoke movingly about the decline of Scottish papers they were strangely reticent about their own contribution. Brillo in particular has been loud in his condemnation of JP’s record at the Scotsman (correctly, by the way). However, the wirily coiffed one is not so hot on his own record. A listener phoning in to BBC Scotland’s Morning Extra to discuss John’s report had this to say: “These two were handed a quality paper and handed back the Beano at the end of their tenure.” McGurk had no answer to that but a joke about how healthy the Beano’s sales were. For years, I tried in vain at the Scotsman to discover the exact decline in sales when Neil was in charge but no-one could ever tell me. I do know that his stewardship was a wasted opportunity. He had the backing and the ambition to take the paper forward but his bloody true believer Thatcherite ideology got in the way and he alienated the readers and lost many, many fine journalists – mostly to Business AM.
  • The Herald and Scotsman will merge soon. Both titles will survive as west and east coast editions of one product. I don’t think either Gannet or JP have the vision (or cash) to do that. As John said in his piece, PLCs are a bad bet for newspapers. I believe the future lies with trusts and family firms. My money’s on DC Thomson or the Guardian to buy and merge them. I have no reason for thinking this other than a feeling in my water.

Finally, readers still care. One lady on the phone-in lamented the demise of the Edinburgh Evening Dispatch. But despite feedback from readers, Charles McGhee of the Herald did not seem to take on board any of their criticisms. And that’s part of the problem too.


Filed under Journalism, Scotland, Uncategorized

Strange places fitba takes us

Hey everyone, I’m changing my blog to the following URL: Sadly, won’t do a proper redirect so can I ask you to change your bookmarks. All the posts are the same at the new site and this one will remain but new posts will only appear at

As someone who has just spent £400 on a Hibs season ticket, I don’t often (read: ever) find myself cheering for Glasgow Rangers. But, tonight, for one night only, I find myself wanting them to win the UEFA Cup final. So let me join with many other non-Ibrox-aligned fans in saying: “Come on, Scotland’s shame!

EDIT: And sadly it seems the “Scotland’s shame” tag is all too accurate. Scottish football fans have spent decades winning a worldwide reputation for gentle good humour. But then along came the Gers to change all that.


Filed under Uncategorized

A belated ‘Merry Christmas’ to all our readers

This festive yuletide season, I kept a pledge that I made to myself a long time ago, when I  used to work in newspapers.

I did not buy a paper on Christmas Day. I did not buy a paper on Boxing Day.  I did not buy a paper on Ne’er Day. I did not buy a paper on 2 January.

I did not buy a paper on these days because I remember how bloody miserable it is to work in a newsroom over the festive season. I clearly remember the lonely misery of having to work Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Hogmanay when every normal person is having fun and relaxing. The misery was made pointless by the knowledge that sales on the festive days are pitifully small.

And I remember harbouring a seething hatred for those selfish morons who created the demand by deciding that what they really, really wanted on Boxing Day morning was to buy a very, very thing newspaper filled with wire copy and half-assed tales scrimped and saved by the newsdesk since October.

Ho ho ho.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized