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Cuts have taken dailies ‘down to the bone’, editor tells BBC documentary

The editor-in-chief of three daily newspapers has admitted that job cuts have taken the titles “right down to the bone” in a new TV documentary which airs this week.

Donald Martin, editor-in-chief of Newsquest Scotland, made the admission in The Papers, which will document the work of Newsquest’s Glasgow-based dailies The Herald, The National and the Glasgow Evening Times.

According to a preview of the series by Scotland on Sunday journalist Martyn McLaughlin, who has seen the first episode, Donald told the filmmakers around £1.4m had been cut from the titles’ editorial budgets.

However the documentary also showcases what Newsquest is calling the “incredible success” of Scotland’s two youngest papers, The National and the Sunday National – both founded after the independence referendum of 2014.

Editorial staff at The Herald

Editorial staff at The Herald

According to Martyn’s preview, Donald said: “In about a year we’ve probably taken about £1.4m out of editorial. That’s a hefty, hefty number.

“Those cuts we’ve made have taken us right down to the bone. It’s incredibly tough to produce quality newspapers if you don’t have the resources.

“We’ve very, very tight. Holidays get cancelled, days off get cancelled, just to get the papers out.”

The first episode of the two-part series will air on BBC1 in Scotland at 9pm tomorrow, while the second episode of the series will be aired at the same time next week.

A description of the series on the BBC website says it will follow one newsroom and three “very different” newspapers “as they battle to cover one of the biggest political stories of a generation – Brexit.”

It adds: “These Scottish titles, one of them the world’s longest-surviving English-language daily, face their own existential battle, during the transition from print to digital.

“They are fighting to stay relevant to their readers at a time of intense competitive pressure. What is the impact of all this on editors and reporters as they struggle on all fronts to cover news and deliver it to an audience whose drift from print to the screen has become a digital flood?

“As Brexit reaches fever-pitch, The Herald and National titles are launching new Sunday versions and covering a major political story, while budgets are cut and resources become stretched.”

In an official Newsquest announcement about the launch of the series, Donald said: “We have a team of brilliant journalists working tremendously hard to provide quality content across all our titles, in print and online. Much of that great work goes unseen and this was a fantastic opportunity to provide a rare insight for our existing readership and, hopefully, engage with a potential new audience.

“I’m extremely proud of our editorial team and anyone watching will see why – they are eloquent, passionate, caring, professional and with a tremendous pride in what they do.”

Pro-independence title The National is currently the best performing newspaper in Newsquest, both in print and in digital, with the paper’s circulation up 11pc so far in 2019 and web traffic up 45pc.

Editor Callum Baird said: “In a crowded newspaper market, it’s clear that readers want a newspaper which fights their corner – and stands up for Scotland’s right to reject Brexit and choose a different path.

“Half of Scots believe Scotland should be an independent country, and we believe it’s very important that that position is reflected every morning in at least one newspaper.

“Although we do record podcasts, shoot videos, and publish liveblogs, the phenomenal success of The National proves that titles can also have a strong future in print if you put innovation at the heart of your newsroom.”

Richard Walker, editor of The Sunday National, added: “The National has been a great success story since it launched in 2014. As support for independence gains unstoppable momentum it has been a great experiencing launching the Sunday National after the sad demise of the Sunday Herald.

“The documentary gives a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of The Herald and The National titles at a crucial time for Scotland and its journalism and underlines the need for a diverse and healthy indigenous media as we prepare to take the decision about our country’s future.”

10 comments

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  • September 17, 2019 at 11:05 am
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    Nobody would be cancelling my holiday if I was working there, otherwise I would be out of the door.

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  • September 17, 2019 at 11:30 am
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    That’s exactly what I did at one regional daily where I was working as a freelance and was told I couldn’t take a day off unless I could find a colleague to cover my shift.

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  • September 17, 2019 at 11:51 am
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    Yup, I got to a stage where I was owed 18 weeks back hols because of lack of cover.

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  • September 17, 2019 at 12:41 pm
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    It’s encouraging to see that the programme will recognise the work being done by Calum Baird and his team at The National and the Sunday National. It’s shameful that in a country where now slightly over 50% of the population support independence no other mainstream media brand provides a counter balance to London based titles and broadcasters talking down Scotland and the Scottish government. Or offers balanced coverage of the movement for self government. Little wonder confidence in the mainstream media and the BBC is at an all time low. Well done to the team at The National.

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  • September 17, 2019 at 1:01 pm
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    no way in the world is the nationals circulation up more like down, actually surprised its still going.

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  • September 17, 2019 at 1:02 pm
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    Donald Martin should count himself lucky his resources are only ‘cut to the bone’, most Newsquest papers have several limbs missing.

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  • September 17, 2019 at 2:39 pm
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    Can it be true that some Newsquest papers are now so bereft of photographic staff it is demanding their UNPAID ents reviewers provide a pic with every review.? Surely not.

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  • September 17, 2019 at 3:40 pm
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    Unfortunately with JPI not allowing their figures to be ABC audited it’s unlikely anyone will take their claims of print and digital growth seriously which would be a great shame if if the figures are true.

    Taking someone’s word for it in a highly competitive commercial world and in a media environment driven by facts figures, sadly counts for nothing.

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