Some journalists in Scotland are “not coping” with the cutbacks at their newspapers, MPs were told yesterday.
The Scottish affairs committee yesterday took evidence from union leaders and academics on “the crisis in the Scottish press”.
Journalists at Trinity Mirror‘s Daily Record and Sunday Mail will strike on Saturday in protest at 70 editorial jobs out of 276 being cut.
At Newsquest‘s Herald and Times group, 40 journalists have taken voluntary redundancy, after the company cut editorial staff from 250 to 210.
Johnston Press has announced plans to merge subbing, picture desk and photography at The Scotsman, the Edinburgh Evening News, and Scotland on Sunday, with the loss of 11 jobs.
And circulation continues to fall: in February, the best-performing nationally audited title was Scotland on Sunday, which fell 7.56 per cent year on year.
Paul Holleran, the National Union of Journalists’ Scottish organiser, was asked by chairman Mohammad Sarwar MP how journalists were coping.
Holleran replied: “They’re not coping. I carried out a surgery the other week, and had people from 9am to 6.15pm, complaining about new contracts, new working conditions, the pressure they have been put under.
“I was getting reports of senior people in tears at The Herald. What epitomises the loss of morale is when I met with the managing director of Newsquest after their announcement, he said we want between 30 and 40 journalists to go.
“They had 51 volunteers. That tells you the level of morale.”
Holleran was also asked why circulation was dipping. He cited smaller newsrooms – but also said appointing English editors to Scottish titles had not helped.
“In the past five years there have been a number of actions that have impacted on the quality of the newspapers in Scotland,” he said.
“I’m talking of a number of appointments where editors originated from south of the Watford Gap, shall we say.
“They were appointed editors of Scottish newspapers without knowing the local patch. That was a big starting point.
“They’re trying to regain that momentum. However, during that period, as profitability of these titles has gone up – and it has gone up, quite dramatically – they have closed a number of correspondents.
“There’s a lack of coverage of European Parliament, in Brussels and Strasbourg, the number of columnists has gone down, there’s less diversity. That’s part of the problem of falling circulation.”
Holleran also cited competition from English papers with Scottish pages, especially the “cut-price” Daily Star and Sun.