The Ink Truck

Watching the snakes and ladders of the Scottish print-media is an unnerving business, but the Herald’s idea of moving behind a paywall seems like a deathwish. A paywall works (ish) if you have a secure baseline readership of premium content. It’s a club. ‘What’s going on behind the curtain?’ zings the appeal in (slightly desperate) expectation. This paywall seems like more of a shroud than a curtain.

If you read the recent reporting of the ‘six year high in support for independence’, and compared the Scotsmans coverage with the Heralds you might have thought that some wise old owl had considered that the Unionist orthodoxy had finally lost its sheen, leaving Englishman David Maddox to lead the charge in contortion over at the Scotsman whilst the Herald took another route.  But I’m sure other readers will confirm this isn’t policy – it’s just luck that Robbie Dinwoodie had a free reign that day (see here). And I am doubly sure that Messrs Massie and Farquaharson will charge on denouncing the idea that there’s any bias.

The Scotsman has some good and some terrible columnists, the Herald and Sunday has better ones, but the actual NEWS of either is often poor. That Rob Edwards routinely finds some jaw-dropping environmental numb-skullery to expose is less to do with his sleuth-like tendencies and more to do with the savaged wasteland that is unregulated post-industrial Scotland where SEPA and other ‘watchdogs’ lie sleeping by the fireside  as a queue of corporate or military bodies spew out  their effluence and rely on their influence. Dalgety Bay isn’t a disgrace for the MOD it’s a disgrace for our body politic, our quangocracy and the Scottish Parliament. The same goes for Beauforts Dyke and the Solway Firth. Nobody cares. Even the Greens, normally alert don’t fancy this one.

There’s some (me) that take it that the old print media doesn’t matter at all any more. They are a spent force with haemorrhaging sales and rising costs caught in a death spiral. ‘It’s all done over the internet now you know. ‘

Both the Herald and the Scotsman have recently had a ‘re-design’. The effort failed not because the re-design was terrible, it failed because there was no connect between form and content. Same dreary troll-wars happen with drop-down menued sections. The same slavish addiction to hackneyed agendas proceed. The same rota of commentators. Who cares?

I have contacted the actual author of specific articles to try and track down the url of their column/news story and had to wait hours or days until they trundle back with answer (or don’t). This to promote their work. And they want us to pay for these websites?

Well, the reality is that the print media still exists – possibly for the last election in its current form – and, for now still have some sway. But this is largely because of their media connections than their content. There’s a pile of media about media. At the end of Newsnicht Gordon Brewer often holds up newspapers as if they actually mean something (totems?. The deep meaninglessness of the tv media reporting what the print media thinks then the print media reporting on the telly soon spirals into a vortex of stupidity it’s difficult not to succumb to. So Angus Macleod gets invited routinely to the BBC Radio studios to spraff about this and that. His paper sells how many in Scotland?  He’s less important than many, but he’s the Scottish Editor of the Times and everyone knows everyone that has embedded residual status.

Okay, let’s forget newspapers for news, they are the space you read analysis or opinion (plus check whether the Hearts players have been paid yet).  They are still important because they influence opinion.

So how will they come out for Independence? If we still refer to people being ‘out for the 45’ how will we consider the opinion-makers in the referendum? Never mind the actual publishers/editors and papers, how will the punditry speak? Here’s Bella’s speculative predictions:

Joyce McMillan – Out
Ian Bell – Out
Iain Macwhirter – Out
David Maddox – In
Kenny Farquarhson – ?
Joan McAlpine – Out
Gerry Hassan – Out
Gerald Warner – Shake it all about
Angus McLeod – In
Lesley Riddoc h – Out
Alan Cochrane – In
Hamish McDonnell – In
Pat Kane – Out
Andrew Whittaker – In
David Torrance – In
Alex Massie -In
Allan Massie –In
Lorraine Davidson – In
Robbie Dinwoodie – Out
Severin Carell – In
Katie Grant – In

Tell us what we got wrong and who we’ve missed out?

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  1. Pat Kane says:

    George Kerevan – Out
    George “Partition” Galloway – In
    Derek Bateman – ?
    Ken McLeod – ?
    Lesley Riddoch – Out
    Alf Young – In
    Bill Jamieson – Out (if it was a right wing free market deregulated entrepôt)

  2. Albalha says:

    Well the Angus McLeod weekly ‘spraff’ is set to end I understand, the Bateman Sat programme being replaced by a 2 hour GMS, but as it goes I’d say it’s unique on a BBC weekly to have only one regular newspaper reviewer, one wonders why?
    On the wider point of newspaper spouters do they acually have any impact to steer a voters intentions? People read those that chime with their views.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      For those already decided I’m sure there’s alot of ‘reading to confirm what you already think’, and in away blogs have just made this worse. But there’s a huge group of people undecided who want to read some analysis and interpretation. Think of the x% of Labour voting-indy supporting or the x% of SNP votig but NOT (yet) indy supporting?

      1. Albalha says:

        Fair enough but if we want to achieve a YES vote it’s not down to the readers of fairly marginal columnists who, let’s be frank, are not read by enough voters to have a significant impact on the outcome.

  3. Struggling to think of commentators that I would consider ‘Out’, as this dolly mixture of high and low brow Kelvin Walker’s, who make a decent living out of being British and scottish illustrates…

    Kevin McKenna – In
    John Rentoul – In
    Kaye Adams – In
    Jackie Bird – In
    Tam Cowan – ?
    Magnus Linklater – In
    Andrew Morton – In
    Fraser Nelson – In
    Hugo Rifkind – In
    Andrew Neil – In
    Andrew O’Hagen – In
    Ian Rankin – In
    Joan Burnie – In
    Lorraine Kelly – In
    Niall Ferguson – In

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      I think Tams co-host Stuart will be Out

    2. Albalha says:

      What is worrying is that anyone actually imagines voters’ care what the likes of Jackie Bird, Kaye Adams etc thinks ……. surely a detailed analysis of the paucity of talent as paraded day in day out on our screens and airwaves is what’s paramount. I wonder how many readers of Bella suffer the day in day out nonsense of the BBC in Scotland.

      1. Like brand loyalty, there’s a tremendous ‘buy in’ to low brow populist commentary. I suspect Jackie Birds inane witterings and freedom to pan Independence and the SNP, because she’s not directly employed by BBC Scotland, has an immense effect on the determined auld buggers still viewing Scotland through the unionist prism….

    3. Tocasaid says:

      This list is a vision of hell, Tam Cowan aside.

      And, Katie Grant? Does she do politics?

      1. bellacaledonia says:

        To be honest Katie was a late comedy addition

  4. Gràisg says:

    Herald going behind a paywall? I’ll hardly notice, I gave up reading their short snippets and never bothered to register.

  5. Anon. says:

    Tam has expressed his admiration for the First Minister on Off the Ball before. I think his words were “Salmond’s got somethin aboot him”. Apparently Cowan bumped into him in Mayfair and was sent in the direction of an excellent curry house…

      1. Albalha says:

        On your reference to Jackie Bird above I assume you’re talking about her Sunday Mail column? Having had a cursory look at the 10 or so readily available online, there’s is no mention of politics, also post Hutton staff and freelancers have to be careful of any conflict of interest which. if she was using her column to promote the Union, would be in breach. After all K Adams had her own recent spat in light of her anti Boris during the ‘riots’ tweet, she was off air for sometime as I remember.

  6. Scottish republic says:

    I agree Mike – paper news is dead for a few reasons:

    it’s not interactive;

    it’s inconvenient having to go get it in a shop;

    It’s impractical for cutting and pasting;

    It’s not FACEBOOK friendly for links;

    It’s out of date by the time it’s read;

    It’s dead on its feet as far as I can see…

    One question,

    should Alan Cochrane be included in the list – the Pravda nonsense he drivels out for the Brit nat cause is in a class of its own? If he weren’t actually paid to do this stuff (I’m presuming he’s paid but can’t imagine why) he’d be just another shoutymadfecker blogging on the sidelines of unchartered and unknown cyberspace. As it is, he is a figure who has the same credibility of Magnus Gardham, the DR’s very own Cochranter.

    The Brit nat syndrome of absolute authority based on having had it for so long looks ridiculous in the 21st century after May, 2011.

  7. Steve says:

    Shame if the Bateman programme goes on a Saturday morning. BBC Scotland’s only serious bit of radio current affairs, eclectic and not the usual news litany. GMS treats folk like idiots and Shereen sounds like an ill-informed pub conversation.

    Not sure independence will do much to improve Scotland’s mainstream media- but the current level of disconnect between columnists and populus could hardly be wider.

    BTW, Joyce McMillan is surely a Devomaxer?

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Joyce, like many, wavering IMHO

  8. @Albalha I found Ms Bird’s column of the 20th of February to be politically overt, as the following paragraph illustrates…

    “Tiger Salmond, the SNP cat: “Look, Larry, my man, in an independent Scotland you would have your rats and we would have ours. Problem sorted. Excuse me, if you don’t mind I’ll just have another lick of my cream. Now, where was I? Oh yes, in an independent Scotland, cream. Cream for all & cream for every man woman and child, and, of course, cat. There would be cream coming out of the taps, cream in the puddles…”

    1. Albalha says:

      Thanks for that, indeed it would appear to be over the red line in terms of non-BBC writing commitments …. wonder if anyone complained at the time.

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