As venture capitalists mass to storm Scotland’s Herald titles, the group’s Sunday editor, Andrew Jaspan, bellows from the battlements: “Journalists are not bonded labour, to be bought and sold at the whim of a proprietor.” Oh yeah?
History has yet to produce a bidder put off by fear, or encouraged by expectation, that the editorial staff (let alone the editor) would quit. Indeed, every change has seen a going concern keep going.
When Kemsley’s Manchester Daily Dispatch was killed off for its presses and editorial team to produce the Mirror northern editions, Hugh Cudlipp wryly remarked upon journalists’ ability to adapt from producing a Tory broadsheet one day to producing a Labour tabloid the next. Such skills magicked the IPC Sun overnight into the Murdoch Sun.
Continuity continues to be something we do rather well: no bad thing when most publications are destined to change hands. In our time, the only surviving nationals never to have switched owners are the Mail group (though not its Evening Standard) and the Guardian group (though not its Observer). The Express group has switched five times (and it’s still only 2002).
Jaspan’s braveheart stuff might have played well in his spell on The Big Issue if Saddam Hussein had looked like taking over. But it rings hollow in the real world.
If journalists do not care for a regime change (whether of owner, editor or chief sports sub) they do not commit hara-kiri. They calculate pay-off arithmetic and look around.
So who will move in? An Andrew Neil bid can be ruled out unless the Barclay brothers have an appetite for a losing DTI battle.
A Johnston Press bid could make sense. The Guardian group could be interested. But a David Montgomery consortium is the first headline contender.
Monty would love to return to the mainstream and demonstrate how wrong the Mirror was to lose his kick-ass talents. True, he is not remembered as an editorial genius. But nobody’s perfect.
Asylum on Sunday
What does poor Mr Desmond have to do for applause? Why no loud hurrahs for denying his new Sunday the toplessness, bottomlessness and titillating text that go with the territory? His Daily Star Sunday is an asylum for refugees from red-top frenzy. Well, for issues 1 and 2 anyway.