Bold editorial, as well as design, promised for new-look Sunday Herald

THE revamped Sunday Herald – out this weekend – is to be as bold in its editorial as it is expected to be with its look.

The biggest overhaul to the paper since it was launched 12 years ago will see it become a 92-page news magazine, printed on high-quality paper and the same size as currently.

Described by editor, Richard Walker, as “a product that acts and thinks like a newspaper, and looks and feels like a magazine,” the new Sunday Herald promises exciting treatment of news and sport.

With less space at his disposal, Walker will be deploying many of his writers less frequently, but will be expecting from them more when they do deliver. And copy that may have had the benefit of a week or more of work and research will be accompanied by what promises to be strong use of photography and graphic design, including over as many as six pages.

Walker told “Obviously, we require to be able to react to a breaking news story on a Saturday -and we would throw significant resource should we require to do that. But we will be also working up content over the week, maybe even two weeks. Certainly, we will be saying to journalists: ‘If you have a good idea, run with it for the time it requires, make sure it absolutely sings and we have the right package to go with it – in terms of photography and supporting material – to create a major body of work.’ The opposite of ‘churnalism’.

“Some writers might not write every week because what they are doing requires considerably more work. I would far rather have an investigation every three weeks that absolutely causes ripples, sets the agenda, has people talking and might result in a change than one every week which people talk about for half an hour, before moving on.”

The paper will be understandably providing a high profile to its columnists – widely recognised as among the best in the country – though some producing differently and less frequently than before. It will be dispensing with seven-day TV listings, going for a Sunday-only guide, while twenty pages of sport will, as before, include match reports from the previous day. There will be space for classified adverts and space too for regular short stories which may form an almanac of Scottish life.

That the magazine will not be as glossy as, say, a New Statesman, is because of the print limitations caused by having to maintain an editorial deadline, late into Saturday evening.

A new set of fonts are to be introduced, mainly Helvetica (in different weights), Rockwell and Clarion. Currently, the main fonts are Poynter, Griffith Gothic and Utopia.

Says Walker: “The first four pages are going to be breaking news. Some stories will be done in a very short form, for readers to dip in and out of, while some will receive slighter bigger treatment. After that, there will be a number of major news features.

“Pages two, three, four and five will fulfil the role of giving readers a news service, but we’ll have to make decisions about what is unique and compelling content and what readers might get from other news services.

“There will be areas of the paper that are largely business and largely arts, but I’ve tried not to have big sub-sections. We are trying to create a single product, with a single identity and personality. But we will be balancing that with the expectation of readers to find certain things in certain places. We hope to surprise readers, though; shake things up a little bit.

“There is nothing in the Scottish marketplace that is like what we are doing. It’s uncharted territory, in a way, which is both exciting and also causes the occasional anxiety in the pit of your stomach. I guess the first issue will not be the finished article, but will be something that will require tweaking and improving. But we are certainly hoping it will be an exciting blueprint that says what we are about and what we’re trying to do.”

The magazine option was one of a number that the paper’s publishers considered for the Sunday Herald, as it grapples with industry-wide reductions in sales and advertising and which led to half a dozen editorial posts at The Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times going under voluntary redundancy and – less than a fortnight ago – a further six as compulsory redundancy.

Only yesterday, members of the National Union of Journalists at the three newspaper titles decided at a mass meeting to continue with a work-to-rule that began on Monday, as a protest against the compulsory redundancies…eschewing the possibility of striking both today and tomorrow – following a ballot that delivered an overwhelming vote for both courses of action.

Said Walker: “I don’t really want to talk about what might have happened, and there were a number of options. This is what is happening. The paper is not closing, it’s not even near closing; it’s presenting something new, different and exciting. One option was to continue what we were doing, but less of it. That didn’t thrill me, particularly, and I don’t think it would have thrilled the readers or the staff. So, that’s not the option we chose to pursue. What’s happening is this. When the Sunday Herald started, there were people giving it only a few months.”

Intensive work on the redesign began shortly before Christmas.

Continues Walker: “There is a lot of support from the staff and excitement for the project, tempered by what has happened to their colleagues, with the redundancies. I don’t want to pretend these are anything but difficult times, but we have to concentrate on making this product as exciting and as dynamic as it possibly can be, because all our futures depend on it.

“There is no doubt this new product has been tailored to the resources available, and the resources available have been tailored by what’s available in the business and in the industry. And the staff – right across the group – are absolutely committed to making the product work. There are lots of brilliant journalists in this building and it’s my job to harness those skills and promote them to the public.

“I am not trying to diminish the difficulties facing the newspaper industry in Scotland, but I think there is a big jump between accepting there are these difficulties and suggesting that newspapers are churning out press releases and not doing very good work. That’s just not true and journalists in Scotland are producing work that is the equal of anyone in the world. The standard of journalism in Scotland is very high and sometimes I don’t think we acknowledge that and take enough pride in it.”