WITH every new senior appointment in the Scottish newspaper industry, there are always more questions than answers.
But with the appointment of Donald Martin, there really are more question marks. For many keen observers of the Scottish newspaper scene, the swapping of the editor-in-chief position at The Herald – plus sister titles, the Sunday Herald and the Evening Times – for the hotseat at The Sunday Post seems, at best, a sideways move, if not a backwards one.
But from the cut and thrust of daily journalism to the relative tranquility of a Sunday newspaper, The Sunday Post does offer some attractive opportunities: it sells many more copies than The Herald trio of titles combined and although publishers, DC Thomson, are clearly in the process of breaking free from some of their long-held traditions (such as appointing only from within) they do continue to have the enviable reputation of showing immense loyalty to their editors.
It is conceivable that, were Martin of a mind, he could be in post for some decades to come. Then to be followed by a pretty decent pension.
For all the status attached to editing one of Scotland’s most influential daily newspapers, the future carries a degree of uncertainty. The papers may have had their share of traumatic upheaval for some time to come – with Martin, barely days into his job and almost exactly a year ago, overseeing an invitation to all staff that they re-apply for around 40 fewer posts – but ultimately they are owned by a company, US-based Gannett, with no obvious need to be particularly loyal to Scotland.
And as DC Thomson perhaps look to give their titles a shake and change the way they do things (just before Christmas, Richard Prest, from the Aberdeen Evening Express, became yet another external appointment, when he was made editor of the (Dundee) Evening Telegraph), then Martin does have the courage to take on battles.
That’s not always endeared him to frontline staff, but he has garnered respect from other quarters.
Not for nothing has he been recently chosen President of the UK Society of Editors or risen to a senior position on the National Council for the Training of Journalists. Those speculating that he jumped before he was pushed perhaps forget that these last few months have seen not only a re-design of The Herald’s look but, arguably, a sharpening of its news content.
He does divide opinion. Same may dislike him, but others have found him clear in his instruction and confident in their talents.