Corrections and Clarifications

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By Frances Lengel

There was a correction in today’s Herald newspaper about their Faslane scare-story which acknowledged their 19k jobs total was ‘incorrect’ and headline ‘misleading’.

 Just in case you missed it, it didn’t quite have the visual prominence of the original story, we’ve included it (above). For those of you with short-sight the maths are simple.

The Herald said there’d be 19,000 jobs at risk at Faslane.

Labour said there’d be 11,000 at risk.

The reality, under pressure, is that there are only 6,700 employed, of which about 500 relate to Trident.

So the Herald was only out by about 18,500.

Now here at Bella we are scrupulous about being even handed. So we read with some despair this account of the mishandling in the British Journalism Review of The Scotsman’s unraveling by Arthur MacMillan, news editor for Agence France-Presse (AFP):

The resurgence of politics in Scotland should have profited its national title, but it is now too late — the money’s running out

“The day after The Scotsman was sold to Johnston Press in 2005 for £160 million in cash, the latter’s highly-regarded chief executive appeared at the paper’s Edinburgh headquarters. Along with around 250 journalists and staff I listened intently to Tim Bowdler. “This is a great business and these are great newspapers,” he said of The Scotsman and its sister titles, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News, seeking to reassure anyone whose first instinct was that the new owners were a local newspaper outfit, not necessarily suited to owning Scotland’s national title.

After a tumultuous decade under the ownership of Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, however, there was an appetite for renewal and Johnston Press received a fairly warm welcome. Seizing the moment, Bowdler pointed out that the deal had the backing of Scotland’s top politicians, and though the reference was veiled he couldn’t resist a dig at the outgoing regime and the prodigal son who had led it. The son in question, present only in the minds of everyone listening, was Andrew Neil, the Paisley Grammar School boy who had conquered London at The Sunday Times in the 1980s and 1990s. A gallus and talented journalist who loved a fight, Neil had since tried to redraw the much smaller Scottish media market to his own liking, enraging many in the process. The sale of the Edinburgh papers, alongside scotsman.com – the group’s award-winning website – and a free newspaper franchise, said Neil’s critics, was confirmation that he had failed in his own land. With pleasantries dispensed, the new boss outlined his corporate thinking. Scotsman.com was key to growth and there was scope for improvement in the ageing, yet highly profitable, print business. There were no plans to cut jobs and the company would invest in content, Bowdler insisted. On the financial side, something Johnston Press was very interested in, there was a tax-efficient share purchase scheme that would allow staff to become “stakeholders” in the company. The message was unanimous: good times lay just around the corner.

By all accounts, however, the plan was not a success. Seven years later, the business has been sweated to stagnation. The website is a shadow of its former self. Resources have been slashed and hundreds of employees sacked. The Scotsman currently averages around 30,000 sales on weekdays.

Johnston Press, more than any other, is the British newspaper company that ate itself.”

Read the full sad story here.

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Categories: Arts & Culture, Media

7 replies

  1. Oh how nice the two “Serious newspapers” with sensible and honourable editorials get caught out with false declarations yet again.

  2. Scotland’s always had its own legal system, its own education system, its own church, its own football team and its own rugby team. Even the much vaunted “British” NHS was created in 1947 as two separate organisations, one for Scotland and one for England and Wales. These distinctive institutions have always been a source of pride for Scots and especially for nationalistic Scots.

    Scotland has also had its own press and it’s a been a remarkable feat for both the Herald and the Scotsman who should have been able to count on nationalist support as venerable Scottish institutions that they’ve managed to alienate nationalists so comprehensively that their demise arouses no sense of loss.

    That was a very interesting article by Arthur MacMillan but the one aspect that he did not mention was the political stance of the Scotsman in the debate on independence an how that could have had a bearing on its loss of circulation.

    • Never mind the Scotsman’s attitude on independence – it was its attitude to devolution that accelerated its demise during the disastrous Neil years.
      Neil decided to go on the attack from the moment the Scottish Parliament reconvened, and as such alienated a huge amount of loyal readers. Readers who, being in the main slightly crusty Edinburgh type were perhaps not the most enthusiastic devolutionists, but were fair-minded folk who wanted to see the institution get a fair crack of the whip. Neil’s London-bred aggression sat ill with that readership, which was why they started to disappear.
      It’s hard to see where most of the blame lies really: Johnson Press, or Neil and the Barclays.

  3. This exemplifies what is wrong with the press. When they get it wrong or indeed are caught lying they can’t even have the grace to publish a retraction with equal prominence to the original offence! Please God the Scottish government at least forces them to do that when they respond to Leveson? And they think nothing needs to be done?

  4. Sadly it is clear that our so-called “quality” papers, along with our national broadcaster, do not tell us the truth.
    Why should we worry as their circulations plummet?

  5. It’s sad what’s happened to the Scotsman…..the writing at the time of Thatcher’s exit was just wonderful. Presumably there’s a lesson for everyone there, fuck knows what it is.

  6. I used to buy The Scotsman daily. Stopped a few years back. I used to visit it online daily. Stopped about 6 months ago. I now no longer even have it as a favourite on my web browser.
    reason? The daily tirade of anti Scottish junk, no serious journalism at all, glaring pro labour and pro union bias, and an online comments section where unionist trolls and lunatics post with complete freedom and any proindy views are heavily moderated.

    The Herald has the same kind of form these days – Gardham is nothing short of abhorrent. Circulation figures illustrate just how these journals are now respected in Scotland.

    I firmly believe The Scotsman is now universally viewed as anti-Scottish, and nothing can save it now. It has well and truly jumped the shark.

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