THE launch of The National is one of those media milestones, a source of conversation that hopefully will not go the way of the Sunday Standard, the Sunday Scot, Business AM, and sundry others that aimed to break the mould, and instead went broke.
The National, at an almost give-away 50p, looks and reads like we probably expected: bold, if a little worthy, more like The Socialist Worker than The Times. While it is presented in a neat package, it lacks content in many areas, perhaps reflecting the woeful staffing levels on newspapers. If this is what we are to get for our half a quid, it will not survive without filling the obvious gaps.
It rather pompously claims there was a ‘democratic deficit’ in the Scottish media’s coverage of the referendum, which presumably includes its own sister title, The Herald, which gets no mention in an editorial that prefers, understandably, to cosy up to the pro-independence Sunday Herald.
There is one caveat in its Declaration of Renfield Street: probably as a sop to those who believe it will contain unfettered propaganda, it says it will not be a mouthpiece for the Scottish National Party.
That has a familiar ring: a paper that is supportive of a particular view, but not unquestionably so. For The National’s ‘independence’, read every other paper that claimed it was free from oppressive opinion. The Daily Mirror would say it was not a mouthpiece for Labour. The Daily Telegraph, would legitimately challenge those who said it never criticised the Conservative Party.
So if The National is going to stick the boot into the SNP on occasion, what makes it different?
Despite the regular outpourings of bile and hatred towards the ‘biased’ Scottish media, the vast majority of journalists do not go to work each morning reciting an ideological mantra. They are professionals who want the facts and are often distressed when they get things wrong. Nor do editors inject poison into their veins in morning editorial meetings.
Conspiracy theorists believe otherwise, of course, and one critic on Twitter this morning accused me of being a “typical unionist journo” because I challenged the economics and arguments behind The National. After I pointed him in the direction of an article I wrote on why I voted Yes on September 18 he decided to follow me (and delete the critical tweets).
It is this rampant hysteria and knee-jerk nonsense that is most worrying about the current political debate in which The National has been born.
Hopefully, it will not feed off the ‘one-eyed drivel’ that passes for rational argument and avoids deepening the divisions that already exist.
Terry Murden is a former business editor of The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday. He is editor and director of the newly-founded Daily Business. A version of this op ed appears on the Daily Business – here.