Brian McNair Writes About – Tough Times Ahead for the Scottish Press

allmediascotland.com is about to change, in terms of design, functionality and style of editorial. That may lead to some disruption of normal services over the next few weeks, not least because there are holidays to be had. It does mean also the prospect of new voices, from a galaxy of bloggers. So far, Nick Clayton, David Calder, Chris Bell, Craig McGill, Paul Hineman, Shaun Milne and Mark Gorman. Here, BRIAN MCNAIR makes his allmediascotland debut. You’ll see his biog below. Feel free to become an AMS blogger yourself, by emailing us, here.

The fifth edition of News & Journalism In the UK has been put to bed. The publisher can relax, and students across the nation can celebrate with bachannalian excess at the prospect of some fresh reading material next academic year (look out for the new chapter eight especially – it’s a doody). I, meanwhile, will have more time to write the kinds of spontaneous, up-to-the-moment pieces that an online outlet like allmediascotland requires.

For my debut, in what I hope will be an ongoing contribution of news and views from the academic front line, I’d like to consider the state of the Scottish press in this grey, humid summer of 2008, fifteen years on from the original publication of N&JUK.

Everytime I revise it for a new edition, I make a point of interviewing senior editors and journalists, and this year managed to get round most of the majors. They were frank about the challenges facing their industry, most of them, and not unremittingly gloomy, but there is little doubt that we are at a turning point in the history of the Scottish press, a moment of fundamental shake-out the likes of which we haven’t seen in generations. I don’t like the word ‘crisis’, which journalists (and academics, I confess) have devalued with overuse, but for once it fits.

Scottish newspaper circulations, as we know, are down on average by a cool fifty per cent over twenty years, some by more than others. Declining circulation is a UK-wide trend, indeed global (although sales of newspapers continue to grow in the developing countries, China and India in particular).

But as former Scotsman editor, John McGurk, wrote some time ago: “It is more precipitous in Scotland where the market is crowded with sixteen morning papers crowding for attention”. The very competitiveness and diversity of the Scottish press sector, a source of pride for decades, makes it more vulnerable at a time of