The media fraternity and some of the general public have been intrigued by the ding-dong battle between the parliamentary media corps and Boris Johnson and his advisers over access to the PM himself, the No 10 Downing Street apparatchik, and the civil servants who actually run the Government. It is a complicated issue, with many nuances, and I am grateful that I can pass on an excellent insight into just what on earth is going on in Westminster from a leader article in The Times,
headed 'Truth and Power'.
The leader article kicks off beautifully with a devastating quote from a celebrated playwright. 'I'm with you on the free press,' wrote Tom Stoppard in his play Night and Day
. 'It's the newspapers I can't stand.' The leader shrewdly continues: 'This appears to be the position of senior figures in the government who on Monday [3 February] denied entry to political journalists to a press briefing in Downing Street.
'There are admittedly many valid criticisms of the lobby briefing system. There is a tendency to groupthink and prominent news sometimes looms larger than important news. The Government's hostility, in the end, will serve nobody's purpose, however. When unforeseen events crowd in on the Government, the prime minister will want to put his argument across. Notwithstanding the unmediated digital platforms that he favours, closing off the print and broadcast media will quickly look like self-harm. Downing Street risks looking shifty, cowardly and secretive and a hostile press can be extremely unpleasant for when the Government inevitably hits trouble.
'There are, in any case, plenty of other ways for information to emerge than from a press briefing. If the objective of the Government is to create a cadre of journalists who will take everything at face value, this step is both disreputable and unlikely to work. Clearly the stance does not serve the interest of the fourth estate either, but the most important point is not the interest of either the Government or the press. It is the public interest. The public has a right to know in a democracy how they are being governed and what the Government is saying.
'It is not as if Downing Street does not have other things to do than start a pointless squabble. It has made some big promises, and fighting the press was not one of them. Nor will it be much of a distraction over time from the course of events. Mr Johnson's advisers ought to think again before they look even more foolish than they do already.'
West Highland Free Press
) reporter, Keith Mackenzie, was named Diageo Journalist of the Year at the annual Highlands and Islands Media Awards in Inverness. Keith was the unanimous choice of the judges for his strength of writing across a number of disciplines, including news, features and sport. He was also awarded the Jim Love Memorial Trophy for winning the Reporter of the Year category.
Judges chairman, Gordon Fyfe, said: 'Keith's work is consistently of a very high quality and contributes hugely to the excellent service the West Highland Free Press
provides to its readers'. Ian McCormack, who is retiring as editor of the WHFP
, was given a special recognition award to mark his approaching 44 years at the helm of the Skye-based weekly.
Journalists from the recently-formed Highland News and Media Ltd picked up four awards. Callum Mackay was named Photographer of the Year; Eric Cormack won the Top Shot of the Year award; Louise Glen produced the Top Story of the Year; and Val Sweeney was named Feature Writer of the Year. Highland News and Media Ltd embraces 18 weekly newspapers covering an area from Caithness to Aberdeenshire.
The Press and Journal
) collected three awards. Both Chris Maclennan (Young Journalist of the Year) and Andy Skinner (Sports Reporter of the Year) retained titles they won last year, while Stan Arnaud picked up the newly-introduced Top Business Story of the Year award. The Shetland Times
was crowned Newspaper of the Year and Rudhach
, based in Point, Lewis, took the Community Newspaper of the Year title.
The full list of award winners is: Top Business Story of the Year: Stan Arnaud, P&J
. Best Use of Gaelic: Shona Macmillan, Fios. Best Use of Digital Media: Stornoway Media Centre. Young Journalist of the Year (Alex Main Trophy): Chris Maclennan, P&J
. Sports Reporter of the Year: Andy Skinner, P&J
. Photographer of the Year: Callum Mackay, Highland News and Media. Top Shot of the Year: Eric Cormack, Highland News and Media. Reporter of the Year (Jim Love Memorial Trophy): Keith Mackenzie, West Highland Free Press.
Top Story of the Year: Louise Glen, Highland News and Media. Feature Writer of the Year: Val Sweeney, Highland News and Media. Community Newspaper of the Year: Rudhach
, Lewis. Newspaper of the Year: Shetland Times
. Diageo Journalist of the Year: Keith Mackenzie, WHFP
. Barron Trophy for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism: Iain Grant, freelance, Thurso. HIPBMA Special Recognition Awards: The Orcadian
and Ian McCormack, WHFP.
Murray Foote, a former editor of the Daily Record
, is the SNP's new head of communications and research. Murray was editor of the Scottish tabloid when it published its striking 'The Vow' front page ahead of the Scottish independence referendum. He replaces Fergus Mutch who left the role after failing (by 900 votes) to be elected for the SNP in West Aberdeenshire in the last General Election.
'The Vow' saw the leaders of the three main parties at Westminster at the time – David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg – sign a pledge to devolve more powers to Scotland if the country rejected independence. It was published on the front page of the Daily Record
just two days before the referendum in response to an opinion poll which suggested that Yes was on course to win.
Former first minister, Alex Salmond, has argued that 'The Vow' played a crucial role in Scotland rejecting independence – although some polling experts have questioned how big a part it played.
The eponymous Fleet Street this week has more national newspapers edited by women than at any other time in its history. And media website Press Gazette has done a fine job pulling all the strands together in a feature article.
Among a rash of new appointments, Victoria Newton has been promoted to editor of The Sun,
but will continue to oversee The Sun on Sunday
, where she was editor. Former Sun
editor, Tony Gallagher, has moved over to UK News stablemate, The Times
, as deputy editor. Over at Reach plc, Daily Mirror
editor Alison Phillips takes the Sunday Mirror
and Sunday People
under her wing in her new role as Mirror
Earlier this year, Roula Khalaf became the first female editor of the Financial Times
, while Emma Tucker is the new editor of the Sunday Times
. The Guardian's
editor, Kath Viner, has been in the job since 2015, bringing the total number of female Fleet Street editors to five.
Press Gazette points out: 'This means that of the 22 audited daily and Sunday national newspapers in the UK (excluding Scotland), eight of them will be edited by women – more than a third (36%). Among paid-for titles (excluding the Metro
, Evening Standard
and City AM
) the figure rises to 42% edited by women.
'Taking the 10 daily national titles alone (The Sun
, The Times
, Daily Mirror
, Daily Mail
, Daily Telegraph
, The i
, The Guardian
, and the Daily Star
) 40% are now edited by women. Women in Journalism chairman Eleanor Mills said: "We have been campaigning for more women at the top of newspapers for 25 years. We are delighted by the swelling of the female ranks at the top and long may it continue to and we wish them great success".
'Mills, who is editor of the Sunday Times
magazine and editorial director at the weekly paper, added of Tucker's appointment: "To have any female editor of the Sunday Times
in the modern era is a fantastic milestone". The number of female journalists in the top print jobs equals that in 2015 when Dawn Neesom was still in post as Daily Star
editor, Lisa Markwell was Independent on Sunday
editor and Sarah Sands was at the Evening Standard
. Newton was at The Sun on Sunday
with Viner at The Guardian
Outside of the printed press, Cait FitzSimons is editor of 5 News
and Rachel Corp is acting editor of ITV News
, while Fran Unsworth is director of BBC News
. And Jess Brammar is the new editor-in-chief of Huffpost UK
. Press Gazette adds: 'However, diversity continues to be a broader issue for the news industry, particularly at senior editorial levels. Women in Journalism research from 2017 found that two-thirds of senior roles in UK newspapers are held by men'.