1 August 2014

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McLellan out as Scotsman editor-in-chief role axed

Scotsman editor John McLellan is set to become the latest casualty in the ongoing editorial shake-up across regional publisher Johnston Press.

The company has announced that John’s role as editor-in-chief of The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and the Edinburgh Evening News is to disappear.

John has been placed on leave and is now in consultations with the company over his future.

The move follows Simon Reynolds’ departure as editor of the JP-owned Lancashire Evening Post yesterday and the decision to merge the editorships of the Yorkshire Post and the Yorkshire Evening Post.

The news, which triggered a walkout by National Union of Journalists’ members, emerged in a statement issued by Andrew Richardson, managing director of JP’s Scottish publishing unit.

It said that the role of editor in chief of The Scotsman Publications Ltd will cease to exist with the editors of each title reporting directly to him.

The statement added:  “John McLellan has been placed on leave and is in consultation with the company. Further announcements on the editorship of The Scotsman will be made in due course.”

Andrew said the changes were “part of the overall objective of creating a flatter, more efficient management structure.”

Members of the paper’s NUJ chapel later walked out following a mass meeting where members expressed their anger and concern at the way the dismissal was handled.

They also drafted a series of questions for management, seeking assurances on other cost-cutting or restructuring plans. The management has since contacted Scottish organiser Paul Holleran offering to meet early next week to discuss the situation.

Said Paul:  “The chapel are obviously angry and concerned, John was well respected as an editor and people want some answers about the company plans and long term commitment to the titles.

“I get the impression management want to reassure staff but this has massively disconcerted all the journalists across Johnston Press in Scotland. We want to retain the good industrial relations with the company the union has enjoyed in recent years but need assurances on how future cuts are going to be handled.”

Other changes announced yesterday will see the scrapping of the roles of managing director, Angus County Press Ltd, and divisional newspaper sales director.

The holders of both those posts have also been placed on leave and managers currently reporting to them will now report directly to Andrew.

John’s departure brings to an end a long career at Scotsman Publications which has seen him fill a number of senior roles.

He originally joined the company, then part of Thomson Regional Newspapers, in 1994 and had two spells editing the Evening News with a stint as editor of Scotland on Sunday in between.

He became editor of The Scotsman in February 2009 after Mike Gilson left the paper.

Shortly afterwards he was made editor-in-chief of all three titles, overseeing a merger of the editorial and production departments of The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday.

His departure means The Scotsman will now be getting its 11th editor in the past 17 years.

Previous holders of the post in that period were: Andrew Jaspan (1994-1995), James Seaton (1995-1997), Martin Clarke (1997-1998), Alan Ruddock (1998-2000), Tim Luckhurst (2000), Rebecca Hardy (2000-2001), Iain Martin (2001-2004), John McGurk (2004-2006) and Mike Gilson (2006-2009).

18 Comments

  1. Scribbler

    Highfield, highlands, high casualties. The axeman cometh, no one is safe.

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  2. ad girl

    yes it is very sad to read of the ever growing casualties both in editorial and advertising. We all need to see the bigger picture, if this company does not move forward we will not survive. We are, as a company, long overdue for a shake up, we are no longer in the good old days of the EMAP era and Mr H has recognised there are too many upper managerial levels. Good luck everyone

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  3. Spanner

    Senior slaughter everywhere and still no news of JP re-financing !

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  4. Ex-JP journo

    Probably not before time that the chief’s heads should start to roll. But what a mess JP has made of running its empire with its inconsistent round-the-dartboard short term policies. Disastrous acquisitiveness, followed by Fry’s emphasis on magazines, and now the bright new boy with his digital first brainwave. Is there no market for an old fashioned newspaper any more? Perhaps the head chopping needs to go higher up the food chain. Either that or bring in Phil Taylor or Eric Bristow as the next CEO. At least they can hit the bullseye.

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  5. Amanda

    Problem is many of the old senior managers who were there during the painful Bowdler and Fry years are still in powerful positions.
    Highfield seems to get digital, but his ear is being bent by the accountants when it comes to the papers (still the most profitable part of the business). I know a few JP editors, they’re all unhappy with new plans to relaunch papers to just five set templates.

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  6. news girl

    We are not just talking about upper managerial levels here. We are talking editors of JP’s titles. That’s two gone in as many days. John McLellan may well be editor-in-chief and therefore concidered upper managerial but he is also and formostly the editor of The Scotsman and he works like everyone else on the floor of the newspaper on a daily basis, sending the paper to press and with great talent. It is a sad day for Scottish media and what will happen now to these titles? who will lead them with such talent in to the rocky future?

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  7. tandem triumphans

    Inevitable. Scotsman publications has been pumping out contrived and misleading anti-SNP propaganda for years – quite out of tune with the mood of the country – which, if not overwhelmingly for independence, is neither overwhelmingly for the Union. People know when there is attempt to con them. The Scotsman used to be a liberal, moderate, pro-Home Rule newspaper; when the Barclay brothers bought it and installed Andrew Neil as editor, they made it a Tory, Brit-Nat publication which, of course, quickly lost readers. When Johnston Press bought it, there were hopes that it would revert to its old intelligent stance, but it continued as before, albeit starting to give tacit support to the Labour Party, as the only party capable of championing the Union. And so the readership fell further.

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  8. Ill-informed

    ‘Ex-JP Journo’ asks if there is no market for an old-fashioned newspaper any more. Of course there is, but it’s a shrinking market and one that is barely profitable.

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  9. paperboy

    Actually, ill-informed, I know of several JP titles which are very profitable businesses – the problem is the huge amount of bank debt the so-called management saddled the company with.

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  10. wgml

    “has been pumping out contrived and misleading anti-SNP propaganda for years”

    Spare us the “it’s not fair” rubbish from the party that has been pumping out anti-English propaganda for years.
    Is nowhere safe from these cybernat tw*ts?

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  11. Ill-informed

    The Chief Exec is on record as saying every JP newspaper is profitable so no surprise there, paperboy. The point I was making a ham-fisted effort to make is that “old-fashioned newspapers” aren’t anywhere near as profitable as they used to be due to increased paper costs and reduced advertising income and there’s no reason to think that’s about to change, hence the need for further cost reductions and a change in strategy. You’re right, the need to service the debt is a factor although I wouldn’t consider it the only problem.

    There’s a certain irony that most of the debt was generated from acquiring The Scotsman Publications Ltd.

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  12. Observer, London

    Another Media Consultant in the making…where will this nonsense end?

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  13. creature, Edinburgh

    wgml – I think you’re way off the mark there, and the “misleading propoganda for years” comment is pretty accurate.

    “Anti English” and “it’s not fair” are very common jibes thrown around by Britnat trolls – I hope you’re not one of those who have dragged the JP online comments to the cesspit it is now?

    I was a Scotsman, and SOS avid reader, and have been thoroughly sickened by their political stance, which has reduced their “journalism” to a laughable condition. It’s very sad to see, and it would be very refreshing to see them start afresh with an apolitical bunch in there. They have to try something, or it will just disappear.

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  14. Phil

    WGML – it is well recognised within the industry in Scotland that the Scotsman has a slightly traditionalist, right-leaning bent. It has always fascinated me why they went down that route though. Regional titles aren’t nationals – all a political stance does is alienate a huge chunk of the potential readership. Mind you, the Scotsman always has had aspirations that it’s a ‘national’ for Scotland – even though other prominent regionals like the P&J and Courier tend to have stronger readership figures.

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  15. GettingOut, North West

    Some editors now have fve titles to send to print in two days – and have no deputies.
    Let’s see if my clientslike advertising in ‘quality’ titles produced in that kind of manner.
    I thought it was bad with the MD cull – this is worst
    Beyond a joke.

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  16. voice of reason

    They’ve done for the indians. Now they’re gunning for the chiefs. All these fat-cat cowboys are creating is a recipe for disaster – grossly understaffed newspapers that will have to take horrendous shortcuts to hit deadlines. It’s a recipe for a loss of balance, news pages full of churnalism and flimsy, ill thought out features. It’s likely to be a legal minefield too. What a tragedy! My sympathies to the ‘lucky’ staff who are left

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  17. wgml

    It’s pretty clear that it’s the cybernats who drag every comments forum down to their level at every opportunity.

    The idea which seems to exist within the SNP that the more people in Scotland vote for them, the less they should be questioned and scrunitised by the Scottish media is fatuous

    Anyone who thinks the SNP isn’t riddled with anti-Englishness is living in fantasy land.

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  18. Phil

    WGML – I’m English but spent most of my working career in Angus, where the current finance secretary John Swinney was the local MSP, and I had many dealings with both him and the SNP councillors on Angus Council. I always found the SNP members treated me fairly and with respect, and they certainly didn’t have any problem with me being English (although being Northumbrian we tend to be universally liked on both sides of the border).

    There may well be some rabid anti-English people out there, but the majority of folk in Scotland voted for the SNP at the last Holyrood elections – and the amount of anti-English sentiment in the country is nowhere near sizeable enough for it to explain away the kind of sweeping victory they enjoyed.

    There are many, many, MANY people who supported the SNP who are not rabidly anti-English, they just wanted a greater say in their own affairs (whether by devolution or independence), or felt the SNP coalition had done a good job of running the Scottish Government in the previous term of office.

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