Democracy in the Dark – the Decline of the Scottish Press
Newspapers don’t just sell news; in fact, that has been an increasingly small part of their function in the last century. Newspapers have been cultural curators, critically evaluating artistic and literary trends, providing a showcase for good writing, informing readers on important developments in science and society. They have provided a forum for informed debate, & promoted their own vigorous opinions on affairs of state, forcing politicians to take note.
But the financial problems of the press are making it harder and harder for them to provide this essential cultural service. Scottish papers, reports the National Union of Journalists, have lost half their journalists in the last decade or so. UK papers with nominally Scottish editions now dominate the Scottish market. This is becoming a constitutional issue because the Scottish and UK newspapers are almost exclusively unionists – often militantly so. It is right that newspapers have strong editorial views, but it is not healthy when they all have the same editorial views. Iain Macwhirter (political commentator for The Herald and Sunday Herald newspapers).
1. That single phrase, about it being right for newspapers to have strong views “but not when they all have the same views”, goes to the heart of a wider debate about the relationship between ownership and editorial content. It also touches on the fact that a large proportion of the Scottish press is Scottish in name only. With the exception of DC Thomson’s operation, the major newspapers are published by companies based in London (and, in The Herald’s case, ultimately in the USA). Now I happen to be agnostic on the Scottish independence debate or, arguably, conflicted. I understand why, even in the 21st century, there remains an insistent pressure for independence from nations that have been colonised or incorporated by other nations. Reality impinges, however. I realise distinct societies that, for one reason or another, have failed to hold on to their nation state status (or never even had one) do need to regain it or achieve it. They must assert their nationhood as a stage on the road to the eventual dismantling of all such geopolitical boundaries. I’m glad I’m not confronted by a yes-no voting form. But I am, like Macwhirter, concerned that a fake “Scottish national press” has adopted a single view on the matter. Roy Greenslade The Herald
2. From my point of view, the Scottish press is not serving its audience (the thinking people of Scotland) and that is very sad. However I must say, people have been getting up of their asses and actually doing something about. There is an online scene of bloggers and news sites that are starting to provide an opposing view to the hideously one side unionist pro-UK press. I would like to think that new models for news and opinion will grow out of this. For sure they will be needed , irrespective of the referendum result, to hold politicians accountable, when the traditional newspaper and TV fail to do so, because they become too comfortably close, and because of commercial interest. Thomas William Dunlop reader.