In My Opinion: Ken Symon: A ‘Herlad’ writes

I HAVE had a lifelong relationship with The Herald. It was the newspaper that my mum and dad read when I was growing up. It was the newspaper I began reading and aspired to work on when I decided to become a journalist.

I guess you could say I was a ‘Herlad’.

And I did work there, doing freelance news reporting and then working on the business desk as a sub-editor and writer. I also held staff posts as a general news reporter, industrial and political reporter on its sister paper, the Evening Times, and was later business editor of the Sunday Herald.

I need to give that context so you can understand the personal import of my guilty confession: I have stopped reading the paper.

Now hold hard, dear reader. That last sentence does not mean what you probably took it to mean.

I read The Herald everyday but the Kindle edition rather than the paper one. That I do so still surprises me – I am a newspaper person.

I had previously flirted with a Sony eBook Reader but that dalliance didn’t lead to a long relationship. But then I tried a Kindle, liked it, received one as a Christmas present, and now I am a confirmed Kindle book reader (interspersed with the paper kind).

Then in order to reduce the paper mountains in my house, and with the gentle (ahem) exhortations of my loved ones – the ‘wifie’ said ‘get Wi-Fi’ (if you pardon the term for the sake of the gag) – I decided to do something about it.

I thought I would try a newspaper on Kindle. I tried the Telegraph on Kindle for a while, through the free trial period and then paying for it, but it didn’t stick.

And then The Herald began offering a Kindle edition. At £9.99 a month (after the free trial period) and therefore cheaper than the paper product, I decided I would give it a go. I found to my surprise that I was – day-in, day-out – reading more of the content on Kindle than I had been in newspaper format.

I still regularly get a pile of other papers: The Scotsman – for its excellent Op Ed pages among other things – and the Financial Times, etc. But the plain fact is I still read more of The Herald content daily on Kindle than I did when it was one of a pile of paper publications.

Part of it is convenience – the Kindle edition of the publication wings its way through cyber space as soon as I switch on the Wi-Fi in the morning, so it is very handy. It is there to read with my microwaved porridge in the morning.

I described this earlier as a ‘guilty confession’ and I do feel guilty because I know how hard that designers and sub-editors work to present the paper in an appealing format every day.

I have also long had an appreciation of the work of photographers – I have always regarded them as ‘artists in light and shade’ rather than ‘monkeys’ as some old reporting hands used to disparage them.

So I feel guilty that the plain version Kindle edition of the paper I read does not display or display well the craft of these two groups of fellow toilers in journalism.

But, damn it, it is a convenient way for me to take in the content of the newspaper – a first look over my breakfast, on the subway or train later as I head to a meeting and, occasionally, in bed last thing at night if there are some parts of the newspaper I still want to read.

As my old friend and colleague, Magnus Llewellin (we first worked together when he was news editor and I business editor of The Scotsman) formally shifts into the editor’s hotseat, I offer these thoughts.

How many people in their 40’s and 50’s have taken the same journey as me – ie have taken to consuming their newspaper on Kindle or other tablet device – never mind the younger readers who never had the paper habit?

The future of the newspaper will be more of a changed mix between paper, e-reader and tablet editions?

It is interesting that The Guardian/Observer is now offering a subscription option that is digital during the week and paper editions at the weekend. My hunch is that more in the industry will move towards daily digital and weekend paper editions when working people have more time to read and share multi-section papers?

One thing looks certain the form of The Herald that Magnus starts his editorship with will not continue to the – hopefully long and happy – end of his time as editor.

Ken Symon works as a writer and editor and business adviser through his company, Symon Media. He writes a regular blog on which this article also appears.