'Borrowed Time' Warning from McGhee over Future of Scots Newspapers

Newspapers such as The Scotsman and The Herald are “living on borrowed time”, according to a former editor of The Herald.

Charles McGhee was among four guests speaking on STV's Scotland Tonight programme this evening.

He said: “Newspapers are living on borrowed time, particularly Scottish regional daily newspapers are living on borrowed time. I think the major national newspapers – such as The Sun, the Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph and The Times and so on – will continue to survive for quite a long time. But the economic base that has funded the journalism of newspapers like The Herald and The Scotsman – and many of our local papers in towns up and down the country – has disappeared, has gone online.”

Considering the likes of The Herald and The Scotsman are both losing sales at roughly ten per cent year-on-year, he continued: “It doesn't take a mathematical genius to do the sums and work out that, in less than ten years' time, they might not be here unless something radical happens to change their fortunes.”

The debate was prompted by a play being currently performed by the National Theatre of Scotland about the newspaper industry. 'Enquirer' is based on interviews by journalists.

According to a recent YouGov poll, only 38 per cent of people surveyed said they trusted newspapers.

McGhee was joined by Bill Leckie, of The Scottish Sun; Dorothy-Grace Elder, of the Scottish Daily Express, and blogger, Shelagh McKinlay. 

Leckie urged more investment in journalists. He said: “One of the most worrying things about newspapers is the base of learning, the basic training [including in local newspapers] is being taken away. People are walking straight into national newspapers aged 20 and being asked to cover stories that people twice their age would struggle to cope with.

“I think the people who run newspapers – the accountants and a lot of owners – have forgotten that journalists are what make papers. If they would concentrate more resources on journalists, they would have better papers.”