My Media: Charlotte McNeill, communications and press officer, SCVO

CHARLOTTE McNeill is the communications and press offficer for Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, a national body which represents more than 1,500 of Scotland’s charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises.

Through lobbying and campaigning, SCVO advances the interests of its members and the people and communities that they support.

What are your media habits?

Most mornings, I get my first media fix online with a quick scan of BBC News Scotland, followed by the Northern Ireland section (to keep up with what’s happening back home) and then I take a look at the UK news. Next on my favourites list tends to be The Scotsman, Herald and Huffington Post.

When I arrive at work, I check the paper versions of the Daily Record, The Scotsman and The Herald. Over lunch, I like to take a look at STV Local to see what’s happening and will generally have the Channel 4 News on in the background at dinner time.

For a satirical view of news and current affairs, you can’t beat The Daily Mash. You can’t take things too seriously all the time.

My background is in magazine publishing – in contract publishing. My favourite magazines are Private Eye – for its unique ability to push things further than anyone else, plus its humorous and clever use of euphemisms – and Wired, for its look and feel, and the way it seamlessly explains how new technologies are influencing the economy, politics and how we all live.

Any particularly favourite journalists, and why?

I don’t have favourites, of course, but I do always enjoy reading articles and opinion pieces by Anne Johnstone (at The Herald) and Joyce McMillan (Scotsman). They have a great ability to get to the crux of the matter and never lose sight of the human side of the story. The Herald’s Stephen Naysmith has unrivalled understanding of charities and their role in taking on Scotland’s health and social problems.

To what extent has the media become an increasing or decreasing part of your professional life?

The media has been central to my working life, so far. I wouldn’t say that it has either grown or decreased in importance, but what has changed most dramatically is switching from working in the media as a writer and editor for a magazine publishing agency to switching to the in-house PR and communications side.

To what extent is New Media (websites, social networking, etc) part of your media world?

New media is ubiquitous. Following journalists and other key stakeholders on Twitter really helps to track and anticipate the news agenda. I’m grateful to be living in a world where it’s so quick and easy to get your message out to all types of different audiences and measure its pick up rate.

How would you rate the media understanding, and coverage, of your sector?

That’s a tricky question. In terms of the sector being somewhere to turn to – for the people element of stories, charities and the third sector – we are generally one of the first ports of call for journalists. Sometimes, I think our role is pigeon-holed as being the people who swoop in to pick up the pieces in a crisis. Of course, this is part of what charities do, but it’s only one part of a much wider picture. I’d like to see more media coverage and understanding of how charities can give people the support they need in their communities to prevent problems spiralling out of control in the first place.

If you were an editor (newspaper, television, etc. state which) for a day, what would you do?

Apart from taking a good shot at extending my contract, regardless of whether I was working for broadcast or print, I’d make the case to stop the cull on specialist reporters and correspondents. Relying on a pool of freelance generalists might make business sense but that’s the only level it works on.

This mightn’t be a popular choice but the pandas would have to go. They’re cute, they’re endangered and it’s the first time we’ve had them in Scotland – I get all that. Would I be interested to hear about it if Tian Tian gives birth to a cub? Of course, but in the meantime I’d be giving the seemingly constant updates a bit of a rest.