1. James Matthews heads off to a top new job in the US
One of the most familiar faces on UK television news channels, James Matthews, the Sky News bureau chief in Scotland, is heading off in late September to take up an extremely challenging new posting as the channel's US correspondent, based in Washington DC. With the entirety of that vast country comprising his news patch, it will certainly entail much travelling in the future for James as the first instinct of Sky News is always to send the reporter to the story.
Mussleburgh-born James, 57, who grew up in Edinburgh, experienced his first taste of the news business with work experience at Edinburgh's highly regarded United News Service (UNS) agency. The enterprising young lad was promptly hooked, and now he has written a delightfully nostalgic piece for Scottish Review
, complemented by a picture of him getting together again with two very special old friends in an Edinburgh watering hole.
James, a debonair, articulate and most engaging fellow, tells us: 'This picture shows where I started in journalism, in the company of the industry's finest. Gordon Smith and Andy Stenton formed the Master and Apprentice duo at Edinburgh's United News Service in 1980 when I knocked on their door and asked for work experience. I was just 15 years old.
'They weren't alone in a busy operation. Chrisma Mackay and Susan Grant made up the rest of the reporting team and Nan Bell was the bookkeeper. The boss was George Millar – a kindly supremo exuding the air of a life well-lived. I remember him telling me I should get into television because I had the kisser
for it. That's kisser
as in face
– my face: which tells you how long ago it was!
'The UNS office was located halfway up Fleshmarket Close – Edinburgh's Fleet Street
of the time. The Scotsman
and Edinburgh Evening News
were across the way and Gilzean, the cartoonist, was up the steps. In the UNS building itself, national newspapers had small offices (and an occasional camp bed) off the landing, and they all had the Jingling Geordie and Halfway House: warm, busy and most inviting pubs just down the stairs as thinking space.
'I remember the experience in distant snapshots; an angry and ambitious young Malcolm Rifkind arguing with somebody over something at the Edinburgh City Chambers; Gordon tasking me with throwing out old press releases, only to find I'd binned half of next week's (he forgave me, I think) and a newspaper journalist – who probably wouldn't mind but will remain nameless – telling me his mum had written his college application for him. Sound career advice, indeed!
'As a raw, impressionable youngster, it gave me an enthralling insight into the business of news and a certainty that I wanted to belong. I would go on to learn the trade from an unbroken sequence of terrific journalists en route to Sky News, including Tony Cartledge and Charles Harrison at Metro Radio; Vince McGarry at Independent Radio News (IRN); and Andrew Fyall (ex-Daily Express
) at Scottish Television.
'Throughout my career, in a fast-changing profession, these fine men have remained as reference points for what a journalist should be and how journalism should be done.
'Some years after my work experience, I had the pleasure of working alongside Gordon, Chrisma and Andy as a journalist proper; Gordon and Chrisma on jobs at the law courts in Edinburgh; and Andy as a colleague at IRN – we worked together in Jordan and Iraq during the first Gulf War.
'Having had the benefit of their generosity as a kid, I enjoyed the pleasure of their company as a contemporary. I'll certainly take the lessons learned over all 42 of those years to Washington DC.
'As an integral part of the Sky News team, I'll be covering stories of American life – the good, the bad and the politics. Anytime is a fascinating time to be posted to the United States and that's certainly the case right now.'
James has principally covered Scotland for Sky News for the past 27 years, operating out of an Edinburgh base. However, he has also worked on multiple foreign assignments over the years. His first full-time media job was with Metro Radio in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, back in 1987.
Setting up a new home with him in Washington DC will be his wife Susan. Their two daughters have outgrown the family home: Emily is teaching English in Paris and Rosie is studying at Aberdeen University. However, James tells me: 'They have assured me they will join us for long holidays'.
Succeeding James as the Sky News man in Scotland is Connor Gillies who joins the commercial television news ranks from BBC Scotland.
2. NUJ calls off strike action at National World's Scottish titles
National Union of Journalists (NUJ) members at UK publishing group National World's newspapers in Scotland have called off proposed strike action over compulsory redundancies.
The NUJ journalists at The Scotsman
, Scotland on Sunday
and the Edinburgh Evening News
, and National World's Scottish weeklies including The Falkirk Herald
, Milngavie & Bearsden Herald
and the Stornoway Gazette
had voted for strike action on 10 August.
explains: 'The journalists objected to plans for compulsory redundancies within a digital-first restructure at National World titles across the UK. The plan will see around 30 jobs at legacy titles cut, with about the same number of digital roles created at National World's city websites.
'The NUJ initially announced strike dates for Friday 26 August and Friday 2 September had been agreed for The Scotsman
, Scotland on Sunday
and Edinburgh Evening News
. The dates did not apply to the weekly titles where negotiations had remained ongoing.
'The strike dates which had been announced have now been called off. Two NUJ members are being made redundant compulsorily but it has been said that they did not want the strike action to take place.'
Press Gazette quotes John Toner, the NUJ national organiser for Scotland, as saying: 'We have decided to withdraw the plans for strikes on the dates we have announced. Our reason for doing so is that the members affected do not wish the union to pursue industrial action on their behalf. However, there are issues arising from the jobs losses, and we have approached the company for an urgent meeting to discuss these in detail'.
Toner said the issues included the restructuring measures and the fact that there will be fewer staff. He explained: 'We need information about how this will affect workloads and working hours'. The NUJ previously said the 10 August ballot result gave it the mandate to seek industrial action at any time in the next six months.
Press Gazette quoted a spokesperson as saying: 'National World has consistently held the view that industrial action is not in the best interests of our staff or the business, and we are pleased the NUJ has seen this to be the case. We hope this marks the opportunity to move forward in a constructive manner as we restructure the business for a successful future embracing the opportunities for growing digital and ensuring a sustainable model for print'.
NUJ members at the UK's biggest commercial publisher, Reach plc, which in Scotland owns titles including the Daily Record
, Sunday Mail
, Scottish Daily Express
, the Perthshire Advertiser
, Stirling Observer
, Dumfries & Galloway Standard
, and Live
websites including Edinburgh Live
, are set to strike on Friday 26 August.
Reach journalists across the UK and Ireland will also be on strike on Wednesday 31 August and for 48 hours on 14 and 15 September, and will carry out action short of a strike under 'work to rule', meaning following contracted working hours only, from 1 to 13 September. The strike is over a 3%/£750 pay rise offer.
3. DC Thomson bids for double in Future of Media Awards event
Press Gazette has announced the final shortlists in its first Future of Media Awards event, which celebrates the best in online news innovation, including categories for websites, podcasts and newsletters. And the Dundee-headquartered DC Thomson media group is in the running for two awards.
This new awards event focuses on highlighting top-class work that signals the way to a sustainable future for quality news content in the digital age. Around 150 entries were scrutinised by some 16 judges.
Chairman of the judges, Dominic Ponsford, editor of Press Gazette, told Scottish Review
: 'It was encouraging to find so much online journalism based around deep reporting, originality and making a difference for the target audience. We have taken care to include links to all the shortlisted work so that readers can be inspired by a selection of the best online journalism of the last year'.
DC Thomson has made the shortlist in the Data Journalism category with: The 5,025 Aberdeen WW1 Victims and The 6,089 Dundee WW1 Victims
. The company explains: 'For Remembrance Day we honoured the fallen by geolocating and mapping their home addresses. We also included a map our readers can explore and a searchable table as well as a separate map of where they were laid to rest for any of our readers who wished to pay their respects'.
The media group is also shortlisted in the Digital Storytelling category with: Missing in the Broch: The Disappearance of Shaun Ritchie
, and explains: 'This was our first investigative documentary for The Press and Journal
(P&J). It involved extensive filming on location and the creation of graphics to create a timeline and maps to help tell the story. An SEO plan, newsletter campaign and social campaign, including a trailer, were also created to help support the launch'.
The winners will be announced directly after Press Gazette's Future of Media Technology conference at the Waldorf Hilton, London on 21 September. Read the shortlists here
4. BBC's James Cook under fire from independence supporters
Significantly, Scotland's First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has publicly apologised after the BBC's Scotland editor, James Cook, was subjected to a furious tirade of verbal abuse from independence supporters while covering a Tory leadership hustings event in Perth on 16 August.
James later tweeted: 'Since this incident I have heard from producers, camera crews and engineers about the escalating abuse they face simply for bringing you the news. It is fuelled by lies about our journalism designed to make money and to avoid scrutiny. It is unacceptable in a civilised society'.
According to the Scottish Daily Mail
: 'Cook was filmed smiling and chatting amiably with some demonstrators carrying Tory Scum Out
banners while others screamed abuse at him – including that he was a traitor
and a scumbag rat
Sturgeon later tweeted that Cook was a 'journalist of the highest quality', adding: 'The behaviour he was subjected to last night was disgraceful'.
John Toner, the NUJ organiser for Scotland, told the Scottish Daily Mail
: 'The NUJ deplores the way in which James Cook was treated, and we commend the professional and courteous way in which he conducted himself despite extreme provocation. No journalist – and no worker – should be subjected to this at their place of work'.
Cook replaced Sarah Smith in February after she became BBC North America editor – commenting as she departed the UK that she was relieved to walk away from the 'bile, hatred and misogyny' of Scottish politics.
5. Charlotte Ross quits as acting editor of London's Evening Standard
Scottish-born journalist Charlotte Ross has stepped down as acting editor of London's Evening Standard
after 16 years with the title. She is joining The Daily Telegraph
in November as deputy editor for features and lifestyle with responsibility for all features and lifestyle journalism including the magazine, travel, fashion, culture and the daily features section.
chief executive, Charles Yardley, commented: 'We will greatly miss the ideas, focus, intelligence and energy that Charlotte brought to the Evening Standard
. She is a fantastic team player with an entrepreneurial approach and clear editorial vision that have been central to the business for a long time'.
Meantime, The Daily Telegraph's
assistant editor (politics), Christopher Hope, has been writing of rumours that Boris Johnson, whose time as Prime Minister ends on 5 September, is tipped to become editor of the loss-making Evening Standard
which is owned by his close friend Lord Lebedev.
After graduating with an MA degree in English language and literature from Glasgow University, between 1992 and 1994 Charlotte was involved with the feminist magazine Harpies and Quines
, founded by a Glasgow-based collective. In 1998, she began acquiring her newspaper skills by joining the launch team for the Sunday Herald
in Scotland. She subsequently held executive roles at The Scotsman
and The Independent
and was deputy editor of She
magazine before joining the Evening Standard
Should you wish to get in touch with me, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Caithness-born Hamish Mackay is now in his 57th year as an occasional/sometimes regular contributor to the UK's exceedingly diverse media market