New Scottish paper hit by sackings and walk-outs

The launch of a new Scottish newspaper “The Shetland Weekly” has
been postponed amid sackings and resignations involving top management
and editorial staff.
 
The crisis on the paper, due to launch next
Thursday (24 March) as a full-colour 40-page tabloid, emerged on 7
March when assistant editor Jonathan Sutherland and his
reporter/sub-editor partner Julia Currie were sacked.
 
On 8 March, chief reporter Ryan Taylor was
promoted to assistant editor but the following day editor Richard
Whitaker walked out  confirming he had quit, but refusing to
comment on his reasons.
Reporter Malachy Tallack also handed in his notice.
 
Meantime, the islands’ long-established weekly,
The Shetland Times, was splashing the drama of its potential rival’s
disarray across its news pages.
As the crisis developed, on Monday board chairman Malcolm Younger
resigned and managing director Mike Sage was suspended pending an
internal investigation.
 
On Tuesday, director John Goodlad became acting
chairman and fellow director Maurice Mullay was appointed acting
managing director.
Mullay told Press Gazette that negotiations would continue this week
with Whitaker, Sutherland and Currie in a bid to thrash out a deal to
enable them to return to their jobs.
However, he confirmed that the launch was postponed for a few weeks.
 
Mullay said: “We feel confident that changes to
be implemented in the very near future will result in a restoration of
confidence and we will have the full backing of our highly professional
editorial team.
 
He added that advance advertising for the new weekly was “extremely healthy”.
 
Younger, a photographer and publisher, who once
worked for The Shetland Times, denied he had been ousted.
Mullay said in a press release: “Pressure of work has risen to a level
which is unacceptable, and while I am happy to remain as a shareholder
and director, I feel I cannot continue as chairman. As the board is
aware, The Shetland Weekly was my personal brainchild, and I am sure
you will all share my confidence that it will flourish in the years to
come.”
 
Whitaker, who has previously worked for the Halifax Courier, was headhunted as editor from BBC Radio Shetland.
Sutherland and Currie gave up their jobs with BBC Radio Scotland’s sports department in Glasgow to move north.
 
This week Taylor has been made acting editor and
was working with remaining reporters Kerry Hooker, Inger Vos and
trainee Chris Silver.
 
Photographs are being handled by Malcolm Younger
and trainee Elaine Tait.
It is understood that a major part of the editorial staf’Ós unrest was
due to having to work across a number of titles in the company’s stable.
 
It already produces a monthly tabloid lifestyle
magazine The Shetland Post, a fishing and aquaculture newspaper 600
North, and a national magazine, the Pictorial Post.
And there are plans to launch a quarterly newspaper for the Scottish
crofting industry in May.
 
The Shetland Times, established in 1872,
underwent a redesign in February. Priced 67p, it has a circulation of
around 11,500 and is said to be very profitable
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