My Media Day: Craig Borland, editor, The Buteman

CRAIG Borland is editor of The Buteman, the Rothesay-based local newspaper for the Isle of Bute.

He has been editor for 11 years, having previously combined his university studies with stints reporting at The Arran Banner.

He submitted this on Monday, August 5.

What exactly is it that you do?

I’m the editor of The Buteman, the weekly newspaper for Rothesay and the island of Bute since 1854 (that’s the paper, not me personally, although on my Grumpy Old Man days it can be hard to tell the difference).

That said, ‘editor’ sounds rather grander than the reality: in effect, I’m the senior half of our news team, which also includes our reporter, Karen Keith. So, as well as being an editor, I suppose that makes me half a sub-editor, half a reporter, half a photographer and half a copy typist, plus tea boy, bag carrier and doer of whatever else needs doing.

And the place where the buck stops, of course.

I’ve been in the post since August 2002, although it’s not quite the same post now as it was then.

What did your working day today or yesterday comprise?

Rothesay had a brief power cut during the night, so, in keeping with the ‘doer of whatever needs doing’ bit, the very first job this morning was to record a new answer phone message: every time the electricity comes back on after the shortest of interruptions, the machine reverts to an incessant bleeping, which must drive the upstairs neighbours round the twist.

That apart, today has been a pretty regular Monday: we go to press on a Wednesday morning, so Monday is when I start to seriously fret about all that white space that still needs filled. I was on duty at the weekend, which happened to be filled by sport, sport, sport and sport, so much of the day was spent marshalling my own pictures and reports and those sent in by our small but loyal army of contributors, picking out the useful stuff from the weekend’s emails, chasing up stories and so on.

These days we also have our website to consider. I’ll readily admit that, a few years ago, our website was literally an afterthought – something we only considered after the paper had gone to bed. Now we’re used to updating the site several times a day, including weekends, in line with the ‘digital first’ policy of our publisher, Johnston Press, and all the time monitoring and initiating activity on our corners of Facebook and Twitter.

And it’s going down well: page views of during last month were up 119 per cent, year-on-year, and unique visitors for the month were up 55 per cent; trends which firmly establish us among JP’s top Scottish performers.

We’re also regularly in the top 20 JP titles across the whole of the UK, in terms of print circulation – a reminder that while we may tend towards the ‘parish pump’ end of the news scale, readers’ appetite for what’s happening on their own patch is undimmed.

How different or similar is your average working day to when you started?

The last part of my previous answer might give you a bit of a clue. Eleven years ago, we’d just taken delivery of our first digital camera, we had a sub-editor of our own, we typed everything on iMacs, we had an AOL account for email (and there was a minor flutter of excitement every time Joanna Lumley’s dulcet tones announced the arrival of a new message), the fax machine whirred away regularly, and, being fresh out of university, the job of filling all those empty pages left me a bundle of nerves every week.

Now, Karen and I have just taken delivery of a brand new laptop and smart phone each and I’m taking my first fumbling steps into the magic world of uploading video and slideshows to our website (while still being painfully aware that a kid a third of my age would laugh at my hesitant grasp of Windows Live Movie Maker). The empty pages/bundle of nerves bit still applies, though.

How do you see your job evolving?

I’ve never been one for looking too far into the future. When I took my first steps into the world of journalism – at The Arran Banner in the late 1990s – its editor and owner, John Millar, was fond of saying he had one major ambition: to get a Banner out at the end of the week. And that’s something I still have a lot of sympathy with: right now, it’s hard to forecast what next week’s Buteman might look like, which makes it even harder to predict what my job might look like one, five or ten years from now.

Everyone who is in the journalism business knows how much ‘traditional’ news organisations have changed the way they work in the last decade or so. That pace of change doesn’t seem to be showing any sign of easing up, but if you’d taken me aside in 2002 and told me how my job would look in 11 years’ time I’d probably have laughed at you. How things will evolve from here, I really don’t know, but I’m sure I’ll have a lot of fun finding out.

What gives you the most job satisfaction?

Positive recognition. Mostly I take a view similar to the football referee – if no-one yells abuse at us for our mistakes, that must mean we’ve done a good job – and it’s always good to get to the end of a Thursday, our on-sale day, without any phone calls from readers pointing out our shortcomings.

But given that blaming the papers for getting it wrong is the oldest and easiest excuse in the book, it’s always nice when someone goes to the trouble of praising us for doing a good job.

Although the warm feeling we get when we’ve been accused of getting something wrong, but we know we’ve got it right, is hard to beat…