The heart has been peremptorily ripped out of the editorial team at one of Scotland's leading daily newspapers, The Herald
, with the news that nine of its key staff have accepted vountary redundancy (VR). And, with the prospect that compulsory redundancies may still be sought at The Herald
and its sister paper, the Herald on Sunday
, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has announced that journalists across five of Newsquest Scotland's Glasgow-based newspaper titles have voted by a margin of nearly eight to one to take strike action. The other titles involved are the National
, the National on Sunday
and the Glasgow Times
. All five titles are owned by Newsquest Scotland, which also owns a number of magazine and business titles, and a significant number of weekly newspapers across Scotland.
I understand that the NUJ's full-time Scottish-based officers were meeting Newsquest Scotland management yesterday (11 December) to discuss what other measures are being sought on staffing levels at The Herald
and Herald on Sunday
. The NUJ is concerned about the threat of compulsory redundancies as management have never yet specified how many redundancies are required. When the VR programme was announced in November, editor-in-chief, Donald Martin, who edits The Herald
, said that although the titles had made major savings through recent non-replacement of editorial staff, they remained 'significantly short of the level of savings required'. It is understood that the saving being sought is £500,000.
The voluntary redundancies at The Herald
include chief reporter David Leask and social affairs correspondent, Stephen Naysmith, both described by The Guardian's
Scotland editor, Severin Carrell, as 'great reporters' and 'serious losses' to The Herald
. The remaining seven voluntary redundancies are understood to include an assistant editor, head of sport, chief sports writer, two senior features writers, a sub-editor and a business correspondent. Eight wil leave on 31 December, with the business correspondent departing in January.
According to media industry website, HoldTheFrontPage (HTFP), which obtained a copy of a memo to staff from Donald Martin, he told them: 'Although I will be very sad to lose such a wealth of talent and experience, I much appreciate the gesture they have made as it means we are making significant progress towards achieving the savings required. However, to avoid any compulsory redundancies, I am looking for some of the new roles proposed in the structure I outlined for The Herald
and Evening Times
(now Glasgow Times
) to be filled internally'. He then listed eight roles on The Herald
and Glasgow Times
, and sister weekly group Clyde and Forth Press, some, but not all, of which he said would need to be filled internally.
NUJ Scotland organiser, John Toner, commented: 'Such a firm vote in favour of industrial action demonstrates the strength of feeling among our members faced by yet another round of job cuts, and the increased workloads that reduced staffing levels brings. We have already begun constructive talks with Newsquest management and we are confident that these will continue. I am in no doubt that the employer will take on board the anger and frustration that has been expressed through this ballot'.
A Newquest Scotland spokesman said: 'Whilst we are disappointed that NUJ members are contemplating industrial action, constructive dialogue is ongoing with both the union and the staff'.
In a move which has taken the industry by surprise, Scottish Provincial Press (SPP), which owns 18 weekly local newspapers in the Highlands and north-east Scotland, has been bought out by a new joint venture following a brief period in administration – a procedure not unlike that which was followed when Johnston Press was bought out by JPIMedia. HTFP reports that Edward Iliffe, of Cambridge-based Iliffe Media Group, has teamed up with Peter and Rory Fowler, majority shareholders in SPP, to take over the Inverness-based group.
Reports HTFP: 'SPP briefly went into administration before the buy-out by newly-formed Highland News and Media Ltd – a joint venture between Mr Iliffe and Mr Fowler. The move safeguards 135 jobs at SPP which publishes 18 weekly titles and nine news websites'. The new company now owns titles including the John O'Groat Journal
, Ross-shire Journal
. and the Badenoch Strathspey & Herald
in the north, west and south Highlands respectively, the flagship bi-weekly Inverness Courier
, and the Northern Scot
, Banffshire Journal
and Inverurie Advertiser
in north-east Scotland.
For Iliffe and Peter Fowler, this is their second such buy-out in recent months, having previously bought the Newbury News weekly. Iliffe Media Group's core titles are in the east of England, but it expanded last year by buying the KM Group from the Allinson family. Commenting on the new ownership, Fowler said: 'With an impressive portfolio of iconic and much-loved newspapers, numerous special publications and rapidly growing digital activities, Highland News and Media is in a very strong position to deliver modern news and advertising solutions across the north of Scotland for many years to come'.
SPP will now trade as Highland News and Media Ltd but its new owners say there will be no changes to its portfolio of weekly newspapers, special publications and websites.
The Financial Times
editor, Lionel Barber, who is leaving the title in the New Year after 14 ultra-successful years at the helm, will depart with the sweetest of accolades with the FT
becoming the first newspaper to win the News Provider of the Year category two years in a row at the Press Gazette British Journalism Awards. The prizes were presented at a gala dinner at London's Bankside Hotel on Tuesday evening when 23 awards were handed out. And there was even more sweet success for Barber when his business title also won the technology and political journalism categories. The judges said that the FT
'combines consistent high-quality journalism across its various platforms with an enviable ability to secure jaw-dropping exclusives. It has also been at the forefront of journalism innovation and proved that it is possible to turn a profit whilst investing in quality'.
The British Journalism Awards, now in its eighth year, are decided by a panel of 60 judges who judge on the basis of three criteria: revelation, journalistic rigour and public interest. This year there were 560 entries from every major news organisations in the UK. Robin Barnwell was named Journalist of the Year for his work with ITV Exposure
and Hardcash Productions, shining a light on China's use of detention camps for Muslims and the battle against oppression for women in Iran. Judges praised his 'incredible journalism' and 'impressive' undercover work to shine a light into secretive overseas regimes. Barnwell also won the Foreign Affairs Journalism Award for his films.
Paul Caurana Galizia, son of murdered Maltese journalist Daphne Caurana Galizia, who became a journalist as a way of paying tribute to his mother, was named New Journalist of The Year. He wrote about the assassination of his mother, Britain's opioid crisis, and the corporate failings that led to the collapse of bakery chain Patisserie Valerie.
Scoop of the Year went to Anthony Loyd, of The Times
, for his world-exclusive interview with ISIS bride, Shamima Begum, and Investigation of the Year award was won by Claire Newell and the Daily Telegraph
Investigation Team for their work on revealing Britain's MeToo scandal involving retail tycoon Philip Green. There were three awards for The Guardian
, for comment, features and business journalism.
The Campaign of the Year award was won by the Daily Mirror
for Helen's Law, which successfully changed the law so that killers who refuse to reveal where they dump victims' bodies will be denied parole. The judges said: 'This was campaigning journalism at its best. Fiona Duffy stuck with this story like a limpet over many years and has achieved a result'. Louie Smith was also associated with the campaign and was a joint winner with Fiona Duffy. A BBC Panorama
team of Mark Daly, Calum McKay and Murdoch Rogers were highly commended in the Sports Journalism category for three features – including How Celtic Boys Abuser Was Convicted For A Second Time
Other category winners included: Innovation of the Year – Tortoise; Health and Life Science Journalism – Deborah Cohen, BBC Newsnight
; Interviewer of the Year – Decca Aitkenhead, Sunday Times
; Technology Journalism – Mehul Srivastava, the Financial Times
; Features Journalism – Simon Hattenstone and Daniel Lavelle, Guardian News & Media; Arts and Entertainment – Tom Bryant, Daily Mirror
; Business, Finance and Economics Journalism – Rob Davies, Guardian News & Media; Comment Journalism – Marina Hyde, Guardian News & Media; Photojournalism – Javier Fergo, freelance; Science Journalism – Nada Farhoud, Daily Mirror
; Sports Journalism – Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuthnott, Sunday Times Insight;
Local Journalism – Adam Cantwell-Corn, Matt Woodman, Will Franklin and Alon Aviram, The Bristol Cable
. Specialist Journalism – John Dickens, Schools Week
. Marie Colvin Award – Josie Ensor, Daily Telegraph
; and Crime and Legal Affairs Journalism – BBC News
I had initially intended to write a sizeable preview piece on this week's General Election but two factors curtailed me. One was the two major breaking news stories (items 1 and 2 above) which are extremely important to the health and well-being of the Scottish newspaper industry. But, to be brutally frank, I am angry and totally dispirited with the shenanigans of all
the political parties. I just want it all over and done with, and then we can all start thinking anew on Friday – dependent on the outcome of one of the most unpredictable General Elections in modern times. There is one piece of good news – the BBC, ITV and Sky have agreed to collaborate on all the onerous work that goes into collecting the raw material for the exit poll.
Former Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, has indicated that she may return to politics, if and when the Tories might be in opposition in Westminster – and even suggested that she could lead the UK Tory Party. In an interview in Stella
magazine, she said: 'It may well be that my time in politics doesn't come again until we're in opposition. I've probably got more experience than anyone in the party on how to lead from opposition'.
Davidson is currently an MSP until the Scottish elections in 2021. She stood down as Scottish Tory leader in August. Earlier this year, she accepted a £50,000-a-year job from a lobbying firm. However, after opposition politicians fiercely criticised her decision, claiming it was a conflict of interest, she decided not to take the job, although she emphasised that the Scottish Parliament's officials had clearly stated it was not
a conflict of interest.
I immediately suspected that Davidson, a former BBC Scotland journalist, turned down that attractive lobbying job with gritted teeth, and vowed to herself that her political opponents might live to rue the day they had blocked a possible new career for her away from politics. It seems I could be on right lines as she does not plan to stand for re-election in the 2021 Holyrood election. She told Stella
magazine on the possibility of a career at Westminster down the line: 'If someone tapped on my door and asked me to help, I'd be there in a heartbeat. But at the moment, I've got four or five years when my son isn't at school and that is not a time that I'm contemplating moving 450 miles away for the majority of the week. It's just that some things are more important than politics'.
She and her partner, Jen Wilson, had a son, Finn, last October. She has previously ruled out wanting to be Prime Minister because she valued her 'mental health too much'. She told the magazine that she had learned to be 'a bit of a street fighter' in Scottish politics, and pointed out that she could get up to 1,000 abusive tweets a day. She had an incident where someone got her phone number and made threats, but she explained: 'It turned out to be not that sinister, but I didn't know that when I was being told they wanted to burn all gays'.
I thought I would end on a light note. The Sun
and the Sun on Sunday's
journalists are universally agreed to be the best headline writers in the newspaper business. This week, the Sun on Sunday
wins the Mackay Award for the Cleverest Headline of the week so far. The story was about former Blue Peter
presenter, Peter Purves, 80, being sacked by Channel 4, without any previous warning or intimation, from his presenter's role at Crufts
, after 40 years in the job. A shell-shocked Purves said: 'I don't know when I last felt so upset. The producers won't admit it, but I'm convinced it is ageism, pure and simple. My voice and my ability are as good as ever'. And that Sunday on Sun
three-word heading: It's Blue Peter