Alan Geere, left, a former editor of the Essex Chronicle and editorial director of Northcliffe South East, has written a blog urging local journalists to remain upbeat after spending two weeks studying newspapers in the Scottish Highlands.
In the piece, Alan said he had followed recent events in the regional press with “a mix of sadness, bemusement and more than a little irritation.”
Alan also said he was “saddened” to hear about former colleagues leaving in a round of cuts made by Trinity Mirror to its recently-purchased titles in the South-East of England, which Alan previously oversaw during Northcliffe’s ownership.
He added: “Seeing once proud papers reduced to following the crowd online – ‘Watch this dog lick an ice lolly!!’ – makes me fear for the future of journalism as we know it.
“But all is not lost. I’ve just completed two humbling weeks in the Scottish Highlands and there is still a lot to be cheerful about.”
Alan listed his ‘reasons to be cheerful’ after his trip north of the border as follows:
It isn’t all about young people
There were some lovely trainees and people making their way up the greasy ladder but there were more journalists near, and even beyond, what we used to call ‘retirement age’. The years have done nothing to dim their enthusiasm and the experience and maturity they bring doesn’t often get listed in a job ad.
No need to go back to basics
Some are already there. When I asked one dapper gentleman what he did at the paper he proudly replied: “I’m the court reporter.” No lists of mad, sad and bad people provided by some court official here, just stories by the bucketload. So, be warned, if you get caught waving your willy around anywhere from Macduff to Tomintool you’ll probably end up in the paper.
The one-person office is alive and well
The places where people worked read like the lower reaches of the Highland League table – Buckie, Keith, Huntly etc – and it was charming to find they rejoiced under the title ‘Chief Reporter’. Most of the time they were ‘Only Reporter’ filling the paper single-handedly from front to back and all points in between. And they approached that task with deftness, expertise and a sense of responsibility.
Remember staff photographers?
In all the rush to dispense with the staff photographers and replace them with freelancers who bear an uncanny resemblance to the displaced staffers we seem to have lost sight of what having an in-house team can bring. The gala season is in full swing in Scotland so the papers are full of people doing whatever it is you do at a gala – but they all seem to be having fun. They love seeing themselves in the paper and also like to have a pictures to keep. Yes, photosales is alive and well too.
It’s not all about the money
Ok, so we all want what we want and need what we need but there is more to it than that. These folk in the Highlands were actually quite a disparate bunch, some from all parts of Scotland and others further afield in the UK. They were drawn by the opportunity to live in a lovely part of the world and contribute to making the wheels go round in their communities. Not sure money can buy that.