The problems facing Scottish journalists in accessing information during the current COVID-19 pandemic is to be scrutinised in a discussion – part of the Society of Editors Virtual Conference for 2020. It is titled: 'Information in Lockdown: The importance of a free press and the difficulties of reporting in a pandemic', and will be staged on the evening of 24 November.
The Society of Editors (SOE) explains: 'The free discussion will hear from frontline journalists and press freedom bodies in Scotland about the difficulties around accessing and conveying accurate information during the pandemic when devolved governments continue to operate separately, and whether UK and Scottish pandemic briefings have been effective from a Scottish media perspective'.
The event is being chaired by Donald Martin, editor-in-chief of Newsquest Scotland, and also taking part are David Clegg, editor of The Courier
; Lorraine Herbison, head of news and sport, Scotland for Hits Radio Network and Greatest Hits Radio; the Scottish Newspaper Society's director, John McLellan; and Joy Yates, interim editorial director of JPI Media Scotland.
SOE executive director, Ian Murray, said that with devolved governments leading on different approaches to COVID-19, the discussion was an opportunity to hear from journalists in Scotland about the challenges and experiences they have faced in reporting on behalf of Scottish audiences.
Murray points out: 'From the start of the pandemic, the Scottish Government has led on its own strategic approach to suppressing the virus and, as such, journalists in Scotland have faced their own unique challenges and experiences of accessing and conveying information to the Scottish public. We look forward to hearing first-hand the reality of these challenges and, in particular, the difficulties around accessing and conveying accurate information when devolved governments continue to operate differently and implement their own restrictions'.
The 'Information in Lockdown' is free to register and is part of the SOE's Virtual Conference for 2020 which will include four 'In Discussion with...' keynote talks as well as eight panel debates in the nations and regions held virtually during November and early December. Details of all the panels and how to register is available on the SOE website.
Donald Martin has more than 30 years' experience editing UK national, regional, Sunday, daily and weekly titles. He is currently editor-in-chief of Newsquest's Scottish titles and editor of The Herald
and Herald on Sunday
. Previously head of publishing for DC Thomson's magazines, including The People's Friend, My Weekly
, Scots Magazine
, Scottish Wedding Directory
and No1 Magazine
, and editor-in-chief of DC Thomson Newspapers and editor of The Sunday Post
and Weekly News
, he is a former editor of the Evening Times
in Glasgow; Evening Express
in Aberdeen; the North West Evening Mail
in Cumbria; deputy editor of the Cambridge Evening News
; and group editor at Thames Valley Free Newspapers. He earned his first editorship, aged 24, launching the Edinburgh and Lothians Post
David Clegg was appointed the editor of The Courier
in October 2019, returning to the newspaper he had started out on as a reporter in 2007, before serving as its political editor between 2010 and 2012. Immediately prior to his appointment, David was assistant editor and political editor of the Daily Record
. He is a four-time winner of political journalist of the year at the Scottish Press Awards and was Scotland's journalist of the year for 2018.
Lorraine Herbison heads up all news and sport output for Bauer Media's eight radio stations in Scotland. Before that, Lorraine was responsible for the news and sport department at Radio Clyde. Originally from Northern Ireland, she began her career in newspapers at the weekly Lennox Herald
before moving to the Evening Times
John McLellan is an honorary professor of journalism at Stirling University where he lectures in media law. He was formerly editor-in-chief of Scotsman Publications Ltd, and over a 15-year period edited the Edinburgh Evening News
, Scotland on Sunday
and The Scotsman
. He also served as a Press Complaints Commissioner. After leaving The Scotsman
, he worked as director of communications for the Scottish Conservative Party, along with Ruth Davidson. He is currently a City of Edinburgh Scottish Conservative councillor.
Joy Yates is the interim editorial director for JPIMedia Scotland titles – The Scotsman
, Scotland on Sunday
, Edinburgh Evening News
, Falkirk Herald
and Fife Free Press
. Prior to her secondment, Joy was editorial director for the North East daily titles – the Sunderland Echo
, Shields Gazette
and Hartlepool Mail
– and the weekly Northumberland Gazette
Newsquest, which owns daily and weekly newspapers in Scotland under the Newsquest Scotland umbrella, has announced plans to buy and launch more products despite recording a very significant drop in profits from £78.2 million in 2018 to £9.7 million in 2019. However, despite that significant drop in profits, it says it remains 'optimistic' about its prospects following this year's COVID-19 pandemic.
Newsquest Scotland publishes The Herald
, Glasgow Times
, Herald on Sunday
, The National
, Sunday National
, and Greenock Telegraph
. In 2015, it bought the Romanes Media Group which emerged after Dunfermline Press went into receivership. In the same year, the Romanes Media Group owned 18 paid-for weeklies and nine free newspapers.
In a strategic report, group finance director, Paul Hunter, said: 'During 2019, the trading environment for regional newspapers, particularly free newspapers, remained challenging as audiences and advertising moved to digital solutions while the unit costs of production and distribution continued to rise. During the year, the company closed 10 free newspapers that were no longer viable. There has been no significant changes in resolving the question of how funding for independent local journalism on a systemic scale can be achieved. The company's strategy is to leverage economies of scale by acquisition and product launches, develop its news brands' digital revenues, and diversify into digital marketing services. Despite the success of the efforts to develop the business, currently the declines in print revenues outweigh the growth in digital revenues, resulting in the need to continue to find cost savings'.
Outlining the company's response to the pandemic, noting revenues have been 'significantly impacted', Hunter points out: 'Measures taken included furloughing staff, while management staff have taken pay reductions and unpaid leave. While the pandemic has brought significant disruption, the company remains optimistic about its ability to emerge from this crisis'.
The report shows that the average number of full-time equivalent employees had dropped from 2,413 to 2,125 between 2018 and 2019, with editorial and staffing numbers decreasing from 746 to 676. Newsquest is owned by Gannett Co, Inc, a US mass media holding company headquartered in McLean, Virginia. It is the largest US newspaper publisher as measured by total daily circulation. Its revenue in 2019 was $1.86 billion.
Celtic FC manager Neil Lennon has slammed the Scottish media – saying there is 'no justification' for his job to be under threat as he railed against media 'hysteria' over his team's form. His outburst came after a 3-3 draw at Aberdeen left Celtic winless in three matches and six points behind Scottish Premiership leaders Rangers. Since then, Celtic drew 2-2 away in Europe against Lille and beat Aberdeen 2-0 on 1 November to reach the Scottish Cup final against Hearts.
After the draw at Aberdeen, Lennon said the majority of fans still back him, pointing out: 'We've lost one game in the league and pundits are talking about me being two games away from the sack. Players getting singled out, abused, criticised, it's absolutely shocking. It's media driven – there is no question of that. I have seen two newspapers run polls on whether I should get sacked or not. I have never seen it before [polls] in the 20 years I have been here'.
He launched a passionate defence of centre-back Shane Duffy, a Republic of Ireland international, commenting: 'I'm not happy about the treatment he's getting from certain quarters of the media. It's totally unbalanced, unfair and hysterical. Comments that he's rank rotten, a bomb scare – I find that ridiculous. He's a human being, he made a mistake and shouldn't be hung out to dry for it. He has my full support and I'm not going to leave him out'. Duffy played against Aberdeen in the cup semi-final.