On 31 March 2017, the NUJ in Scotland organised a day conference on The Future of Newspapers and the Importance of Local News.
Held at The Hub in Edinburgh, the day brought together politicians, academics, journalists, broadcasters and others interested in the media to discuss the challenges facing the industry and put forward ways to improve engagement in local media.
Speakers included US academic, Robert McChesney, from Illinois University, a leading author on the media who has proposed a Citizenship News Voucher scheme; Fiona Hyslop MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Sport and External Affairs; and Ian Stewart, Editorial Director at Scotsman Publications. Scottish Organiser Paul Holleran led discussions around McChesney’s proposal to introduce a ‘voucher style system’ for the public to buy newspapers, and welcomed Ms Hyslop’s commitment by the Scottish Government to work with the NUJ in Scotland on investing in journalism.
The panel discussion in the afternoon included Paul Wood, managing director of the employee-owned West Highland Free Press; Ally Tibbit, Social Media Analyst for STV / Founding co-director of The Ferret; Jack Ferguson, Independent social researcher, journalist and political activist; and Michael Gray, a journalist at Commonspace. Chaired by Assistant Organiser Dominic Bascombe, the panel explored alternative forms of ownership in the media, comparing and contrasting co-operative models such as the Highland Free Press, with a crowd funded approach as used by The Ferret and deliberated on the inclusion of newspapers as community owned assets.
The audience also heard from Fiona Davidson speaking on the NUJs ‘A Stronger Voice for Women in the Media’ project. She explored the results of an NUJ survey which found that women remain hugely underrepresented in Scottish media and nearly completely absent in senior editorial roles.
The conference was wound up by Acting General Secretary of the NUJ, Seamus Dooley who pointed out that the challenges to the industry in Scotland were very much shared in Northern Ireland and the Republic but there were increasing signs of members, newspaper owners, and the wider public maintaining their commitment to newspaper content. ‘Journalism has a future, newspapers have a future and the NUJ has a future,’ he said.
Pictures: Craig Maclean