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Ex-editor ‘stunned’ as daily cuts leader columns from newspaper

A former daily editor says he is “stunned” after his old newspaper apparently decided to stop publishing leader columns.

Glasgow-based daily The Herald appears to have stopped running editorials, while the ‘Herald View’ section on its website as not been updated since 1 March.

Severin Carrell, The Guardian’s Scotland editor, posted about the decision on Twitter, prompting a debate among industry figures.

In his tweet, Severin claimed the ediorials had been scrapped because “no-one reads them,”  but Herald editor Donald Martin has yet to respond to HTFP’s request for a comment on the decision.

Severin wrote: “Here’s a novel move: Donald Martin, editor of [The Herald], prides itself as the world’s longest-running daily national, has dropped editorials from the paper. Believes readers don’t care; no-one reads them.”

Among those to add to the debate was former Herald editor Graeme Smith, who said: “I was really stunned by this as I am sure many Herald readers will be.”

Former Herald leader writer Robbie Dinwoodie added: “This is my old paper saying, literally, that it has nothing to say. No collective intelligence, conscience or worldview.

“Pathetic and shameful. Leader writing was my last job there. This is shocking.”

And Gavin Aitchison, former news editor at York daily The Press, replied: “This seems a regrettable move. Editorials add weight and deliberation, demand thought and compel papers to truly consider issues and readers, and to stand up for people and issues.”

But Clydebank Post chief reporter Tristan Stewart-Robertson said he had “never read them”.

He added: “Locals don’t do editorials generally so do nationals need to? That said, there’s so much commentary now in nationals (or on the front of) I don’t think the public will experience a void. Editorials have been devalued by so much other commentary.”

10 comments

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  • March 13, 2019 at 8:47 am
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    A chief reporter says he has never bothered reading editorials?
    Says everything you need to know about the state of the regional press.
    Getting sadder by the day.

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  • March 13, 2019 at 9:11 am
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    i wish my local weekly would drop its insipid desperate “opinion” columns. I subscribe to the view that readers can make their own mind up (except Daily Mail readers).

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  • March 13, 2019 at 10:45 am
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    Given that the worth of a Leader is directly proportional to the writing talent of the Leader writer, it still remains as an indication to the views and beliefs of a newspaper, and a valuable organ through which the newspaper can contribute to local debate.

    No doubt replacing the Leader with a picture of a scantily clad model thrusting her pneumatic chest heavenwards, will attract more readers, but it is hardly the point.

    But then, given that the newspapers of today are far more of interest in the clicking of their readers, than clacking to them, I suppose it is hardly surprising.

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  • March 13, 2019 at 12:34 pm
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    on one of my old papers, without an in-house editor or deputy, it used to be shunted around the reporters, who thought it was a waste of space. This might of course be an isolated example.

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  • March 13, 2019 at 2:07 pm
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    I’m afraid this is the way that the heavyweight regionals are going to go in the coming years. Specialists such as political commentators should be measured by the quality of their work as much as the quantity, but, as Sutler suggests, now it’s all about clicks. If I spend the hefty cover price of a title such as The Herald, I want to be informed through analysis and expert writing; however, the regional titles – for one reason or another – have been steadily losing their key, experienced staff who can do this.

    All too many titles think that political comment and coverage is now all about “MP A said, B commented and C added…” type round-ups. However, I can get all that elsewhere, not least from MPs’ Twitter accounts. Papers have to offer something different in an age of digital competition, and quality leaders certainly come into that category. Provided they’re done properly, mind, I have to say that paperboy is quite right – I’ve worked on enough titles where the leader-writing was a column-filling exercise which largely involved a “This is terrible, something really ought to be done” type rehash of the splash.

    Anyway, this is just the start. My local morning title, which has replaced a political editor in Westminster with a correspondent based provincially who has to share this responsibility with other duties, today gave a whole page over to yesterday’s events in the Commons. On Page 33! They, like others, will argue that people just aren’t interested in political coverage and opinion any more.

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  • March 13, 2019 at 2:58 pm
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    I think it’s a brave decision as it was bound to create flak.
    Putting one in for the sake of it does seem a bit pointless – and if they’re not written with a passion for the subject then they’re not worth reading.
    I don’t suppose the editor is saying they will never run a story with a comment piece attached – which is often the best place for an opinion piece (in my opinion!).

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  • March 13, 2019 at 3:04 pm
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    PS And I sympathise with paperboy… The last thing the editor of my last paper wanted in the leader column was an actual opinion – for fear of offending someone who disagreed.
    Reporters also took turns to write three or four opinion pieces for a page once a week… but they were often rejected for being too opinionted. Laughable but true!

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  • March 13, 2019 at 4:53 pm
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    @one-time sub: you say people aren’t interested in political coverage any more. I disagree. I have been gnashing my teeth, at least, over the antics of politicians re Brexit and their defiance of the majority of people who want this country to leave the EU. If people aren’t interested then it is because the paper doesn’t make it interesting. Same with council stories. Boring, boring, say some editors. Until their council tax bill comes thru their letterbox then they want to know why stories have not been done about the hike in council tax etc.

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  • March 13, 2019 at 6:59 pm
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    Wordsmith – I thoroughly agree with you, but those in charge won’t see things that way.

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  • March 14, 2019 at 10:15 am
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    Regional. I recognise what you say! On my old paper all they wanted was some old flannel to fill a box of pre-determined size and basically say everything was wonderful in the world. Such a pointless exercise that I could never imagine how anyone with an ounce of journalistic integrity would demand it.

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