Industrial action could be looming over the festive period at Newsquest Scotland after journalists on its five newspapers opted for an industrial action ballot following the threat of compulsory redundancies at The Herald
and the Herald on Sunday
unless 'a number' of journalists volunteer to leave with a redundancy package. The company had initially imposed a deadline of Monday (18 November) but this was extended to last Friday (22 November). The ballot will cover editorial staff on The Herald
, the Herald on Sunday
, the Evening Times
, The National
and the National on Sunday
, and closes on Monday 9 December.
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said the ballot comes after Newsquest Scotland unveiled a series of 'structural changes' which staff fear will have a 'detrimental impact on the quality of their work, health and family lives'. The possibility of industrial action blew up after Newsquest Scotland's editor-in-chief, Donald Martin, had told staff on The Herald
and the Herald on Sunday
: 'We need to find further cost and efficiency savings in our budget for 2020 to minimise the impact on profitabilty'.
As well as voluntary redundancies, Martin said the company would consider requests for 'flexible working and reduced hours and days'. However, he warned that if voluntary redundancies were not forthcoming from 'a number' of journalists, the company might be forced to make compulsory redundancies. He appealed to the editorial staff that he would 'appreciate your continued professionalism and commitment at this difficult and worrying time'.
John Toner, NUJ national organiser for Scotland said: 'Our members are very committed to providing Scotland with quality journalism, and a survey demonstrates that commitment despite the severe reduction in staffing levels over many years. This latest blow has galvanised them, and they don't believe it is possible to work harder than they already do, with fewer people than they already have.
To add insult to injury, it was reported that Newsquest has made a substantial bid for JPIMedia's portfolio of regional newspapers, while at the same time making cuts of up to £500,000 (at Newsquest Scotland). This news was met with incredulity by the beleagured staff. 'These papers and brands have been mainstays of Scottish journalism for more than a century, and staff are no longer willing to tolerate these constant and destructive cuts. As always, we remain willing to talk to Newsquest management.'
A Newsquest Scotland spokesman said: 'We are disappointed that the union has taken this stance – particularly as they are well aware that the environment for news publishers remains very challenging due to the sustantial loss of revenue to other digital advertising platforms. At Newsquest Scotland we are focused on ensuring that news brands have a sustainable future – which means we need to continue to restructure how we operate to ensure we work as efficiently as possible across the business. Whilst these potential redundancies are regrettable, it means we can continue to invest in quality journalism for many years to come'.
Aberdonian Jonathan Russell, a former editor-in-chief of The Herald
, Sunday Herald
and Evening Times
, a Scottish editor of the Daily Mirror
, editor of the Paisley Daily Express
, and an assistant editor on the Daily Record
, has left his role as commercial managing director of Media Scotland – part of Reach plc – and becomes the latest senior manager to leave following the regional publisher's restructure of its commercial operation.
Russell, who began his career on the Evening Express
, Aberdeen, joined Media Scotland as publishing director in 2013. According to media industry website, HoldTheFrontPage: 'The restructure has seen commercial directors report in to a central Reach commercial team instead of regionals MDs – some of whom have left and some of whom have transferred to new centralised roles within the company'.
Russell's departure was revealed to staff in an announcement by Reach chief executive Jim Mullen. He said: 'Commercially we must evolve in order to allow us to drive performance in a consistent and efficient manner and help to protect the longevity of our Reach Scotland portfolio. Helena Morrow and her team will report in to our existing regional commercial structure and continue to drive revenue for the whole portfolio. Both Ian MacGillivray and Jackie McGuigan will now report in to Reach Solutions, continuing to support both our regional and nationals' commercial teams.
'Editor-in-chief, David Dick, will continue to make sure that our newspapers and website are at the heart of the national conversation in Scotland. As the senior executive in Reach Scotland, David, assisted by Maureen Collins, will assume co-ordination and communication responsibilities for the location. By aligning our considerable commercial resource and maintaining Reach Scotland's editorial dominance, we will continue to grow our opportunity and ensure our future is bright.'
There has been a major boost for women in journalism with the appointment of Roula Khalaf as the new editor of the Financial Times
– the first female editor in the FT'
s 131-year history. Khalaf has been at the paper for 24 years, and deputy editor since 2016. She takes over from Lionel Barber who steps down after 14 years as an editor with a superb track record at one of the world's leading financial newspapers. Barber began his career as a reporter on The Scotsman
, before moving to the Sunday Times
three years later and joining the FT
in 1985 as a business reporter.
Against, what one might say was the run of play, the ITV debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn on 19 November peaked at 7.3 million viewers – the highest audience share of any major political debate on a UK channel since the first one was aired in 2010, also on ITV. The hour-long head-to-head, which was moderated by ITN newsreader Julie Etchingham, drew an average audience of 6.7 million and a 32.3% share of the 8-9pm slot.
The Liberal Democrats and the SNP had lost a legal challenge on the day of the debate – seeking to force ITV to include their party leaders in the ITV debate, arguing that not to would breach impartiality rules. The judge ruled otherwise. Meanwhile, the left-leaning Mirror
was banned from travelling on the Boris Johnson battle bus as it joined the General Election campaign in Manchester, liveried in red, white and blue, and plastered with the Tory campaign slogan 'Get Brexit Done'.
reported that the Tories have attributed the ban to the tabloid's 'critical coverage of the Prime Minister' in recent weeks, including on the NHS, and the Prime Minister's response to flooding in the north of England. The Mirror
's editor, Alison Phillips, said: 'Our journalists have every right to scrutinise the Conservatives on our readers' behalf. Blocking us from doing our job is deeply worrying for freedom of journalism and the protection of the truth'. It is the first time that a Daily Mirror
journalist has been banned from the Tories campaign coach since it was launched in the 1970s. The Mirro
r was also represented on the Vote Leave bus that carried the controversial '£350m a week for the NHS' slogan. The Daily Mirror
, which is its formal title, has a daily average circulation of around 463,000 copies.
In Edinburgh, Brian Taylor, the political editor of the BBC in Scotland, and one of the Press and Journal
's finest-ever graduate trainees, got himself involved in a bourach on the status of the word 'bourach'. It is a word I very much like and frequently use – in the context of a 'mess', 'muddle', 'guddle' or 'mildly chaotic state'. While Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, prevaricated on being asked to name her favourite Scots word, her MSP colleague, the voluble Christine Grahame, didn't hang about and proffered 'bourach'. Brian had earlier warned: 'Tricky times elections. Just one word out of place and you're in trouble, not least with the wicked media. It's a phenomenon which gars oor elected tribunes tae ca' canny'.
Now, as is his way, he expostulated on bourach, commenting: 'It is a fine word. An excellent word. One now thoroughly assimilated into Scots, with variants such as "omni-bourach", describing a guddle of galactic dimensions'. There were immediate claims by some Gaels that it is a Gaelic word, and perhaps it is. Brian continued: 'Ms Grahame is unabashed, exclaiming: "Aye, I know it's Gaelic. But it alliterates with Brexit and that suits me fine". Or words to that efffect'.
Brian recalls that his late father had two favourite words. Despite having long shed his Angus bucolic background, on starting work, he would declare his determination to get 'yokit tae the plew' – to assume the harness of a shoulder-plough. On resting, he would announce that he was 'lowsed'. Or loosed from toil. Then, the pot-stirring Mr Taylor tossed another word into the wordpot – 'clanjamfrie', announcing: 'This I regard as eminently topical. It means confusing, a muddle, a melting pot of uncertainty'. While he worked as a journalist in the Commons, he recalls that he was occasionally called upon by the Press Association and Hansard to translate Scots words, deployed by, among others, Donald Dewar.
I have been selecting excerpts from Kenneth Roy's posthumous book, In Case of Any News: A Diary of Living and Dying,
written in the final four weeks of his life from a hospital bed in Ayr. Kenneth wrote: 'It is official: I am dying of cancer. I know this because The Times
, once known as the paper of record, carries a news story bylined Magnus Linklater and headed: "Scottish Review editor reveals terminal cancer". I avoided using the word in the SR valedictory, no doubt because there may be a tiny furtive part of me that is still in denial.'.
Further on, he observes: 'Today's Times
also carries an only slightly abbreviated version of the SR editorial as its op-ed. A touching gesture for which I thank the Magnuses Llewellyn and Linklater. Close to the end, however, and for some reason I have always had an aversion to qualifying a sentiment with the word "however", too stiff a usage, but I no longer care... I consider myself liberated from all grammatical preferences, mine or anybody else's, and from any general obligation to write "well". Bugger style. All I have left is substance, and maybe not much of that'.