JOURNALISM: Project to reverse ‘turmoil’ in the UK’s local news provision


National World rapidly expands on a number of differing fronts …

UK regional newspaper publishing group, National World, which owns The Scotsman and a number of other Scottish daily, evening and weekly newspapers, has invested $1.25 million in transatlantic news organisation, The News Movement (TNM), in a move it believes will attract a ‘younger audience’ to its titles.

The investment swiftly follows on National World launching two national websites within a week: celebrity-focused and football news website 3 Added Minutes. These initiatives come against the backdrop of National World’s surprising revelation that it is exploring launching a takeover bid for rival UK newspaper group Reach plc.

TNM is a social media-first title which launched last year, and, as part of the new partnership, TNM journalists will produce news content for National World websites.

HTFP reports that National World outlines that the TNM partnership will help to provide its own audiences with ‘high quality, fact-based, engaging news and useful information on platforms including TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat’.

A spokesperson for the publishing group pointed out: ‘The partnership will accelerate National World’s development of a new operating model while welcoming a younger audience to its portfolio of franchises such as The Scotsman, the Yorkshire Post and The editorial process will be a blend of traditional and social-first techniques – including TNM team’s attendance at the daily news conference meetings’.

National World’s chairman, David Montgomery, explains: ‘The partnership with TNM will provide us with the expertise and experience to reach new and younger audiences – on platforms and in formats that they want to consume content. Audiences across National World’s 60-plus online brands are already seeing branded content and TNM followers will get a chance to view on TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube’.

TNM, which has offices in London and New York, was founded in 2020 by a small group of mainly leading US media figures. However, it included Ealing-born Kamal Ahmed, 54, who is editor-in-chief, and began his journalistic career in Scotland on the Lennox Herald weekly newspaper under its editor Bill Heaney. The Lennox Herald is one of the weeklies National World is now considering purchasing from Reach plc.

He then moved on to Scotland on Sunday in Edinburgh, and subsequently worked for The GuardianThe Observer and the Sunday Telegraph before joining the BBC in 2014. He was latterly editorial director of BBC News but moved from there following a management restructuring.

As of June, TikTok was TNM’s biggest audience-driver with 25,000 followers. It had 4,700 Twitter followers, 2,700 subscribers on YouTube, 2,000 followers on Instagram and 360 on Facebook.

Since National World took ownership of its newspaper portfolio last year, it has expanded on a footprint across the UK including individual ‘World’ mid-market brands in seven major cities including Glasgow.

And it has confirmed that it may table an offer for Reach plc, the publisher of the Daily Record, Sunday MailScottish Daily Express and The Mirror and Daily Star titles, as well as OK! magazine and a number of city-based and local newspapers papers, which includes a number of weeklies in Scotland.

HTFP points out: ‘In recent months, National World has shifted its focus to bigger cities already served by Reach after launching rival online titles under its World brand in Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Newcastle. A restructuring announced in June saw the group redeploy some journalists to bigger cities such as Glasgow with roles being made redundant in other areas’.

HTFP explains that Reach has also launched a series of online-only titles under its ‘Live’ brand covering areas in which National World previously operated established print titles – including Edinburgh, Hampshire, Lancashire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire, Sunderland and Yorkshire. As a result, there is now considerable digital overlap between the two groups in many of the UK’s larger urban centres. will be edited by Marina Licht, who was formerly editor of Cosmopolitan Bride magazine and has also worked for titles including OK! magazine. She will be part of a four-strong launch team and National World says it plans to recruit more journalists to the project in 2023. Mark Thompson, director of digital content for National World Publishing, commented: ‘With the launch of and 3 Added Minutes we are entering an exciting era of introducing new brands that provide a content-specific offering to many diverse audiences’.

An innovative project aimed at reversing ‘turmoil’ in local news provision has got underway in six areas across the UK including Glasgow. The Public Interest News Foundation (PINF) and NewsNow, the leading news aggregator service launched back in 1997, have begun hosting Local News Plan workshops as part of their joint bid to forge a path for the future of public interest news in communities around the UK.

HoldTheFrontPage (HTFP) had revealed in September how this enterprising project, funded by NewsNow, would help people in Glasgow, Bristol, Folkestone, Manchester, Newry and Bangor to produce Local News Plans for their areas.

HTFP now reports: ‘Six paid local steward roles have been created to aid the project although further details about whom they are have not yet been revealed. Workshops have already been held to get the plans off the ground in Glasgow and Folkstone, with meetings for the other areas planned during November’.

PINF executive director, Jonathan Heawood, explains: ‘Local news in the UK is in a state of turmoil. Legacy newspaper publishers are under huge pressure, and emerging providers are struggling to compete for attention with social media. By working in these very different locations across the UK, we aim to support a new era in local news that truly serves communities. The six resulting plans will be hosted on a dedicated website, and lessons from the project will be shared with policymakers and philanthropists’.

PINF and NewsNow anticipate that the outcome of the project will be a Local News Plan template that can be replicated and adapted elsewhere.

NewsNow’s chief executive, Struan Bartlett, told Scottish Review: ‘We are delighted to be working with PINF on this important project. We know a healthy society needs a healthy news diet – yet when it comes to local news it sometimes feels like we are on starvation rations.

‘Sustainably-funded public interest journalism is vital for healthy local democracies. Rather than parachuting in money or solutions, we believe that by getting people on the ground to talk to each other, communities can work out for themselves what they want from local news and how best to incentivise and support local providers to deliver it.’

Health professor Devi Sridhar ‘goes glam’ as Grazia cover star

Scottish website Daily Business is certainly aiming to capture a diverse brand of new readers by giving us a story and striking image relating how Devi Sridhar, a public health adviser to the Scottish Government, has appeared on the cover of style magazine Grazia Pakistan.

Daily Business tells us: ‘Professor Sridhar, who is more used to commenting on health matters such as the Covid-19 pandemic, said the studio shot of herself is not how I look in real life, but admitted it is fun to get glam sometimes. She is professor and chair of global public health at Edinburgh University, and on Twitter she thanked the magazine for the interview on education, science, being a woman in academia and sport. And for highlighting #pinktober – all about breast cancer awareness‘.

Florida-born Sridhar, 38, hinted at concerns about image being misinterpreted  explaining that ‘girls see these photographs and may not realise the makeup/hair/production that goes into it’. However, Daily Business enthusiastically reports: ‘… the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Great to see a scientist/academic on the cover of a popular magazine, tweeted one respondent’.

Sridhar shares Grazia Pakistan’s front cover with the UK’s new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak  the first person with Indian parents to achieve that high position in Britain.

P&J engages heavily in Aberdeen’s local politics arena

Aberdeen’s morning daily, The Press and Journal (P&J), has dipped into the dark arts of local politics by getting heavily involved in supporting an ’emergency summit’, aimed at influencing Aberdeen City Council to restore the fortunes of its grossly dilapidated city centre.

In a striking front-page comment piece, with two further pages of comment inside, the P&J’s attention is principally focused on the future of Union Street  the city’s famous Granite Mile. Retail trade on Union Street has suffered serious decline due to factors  including the 2014 oil price crash, the Covid-19 pandemic and the current recession – leaving a large number of vacant units after retailers, including Debenhams and John Lewis, shut up shop.

The P&J splashed on the forthcoming summit in a big way, running extensive editorial comment urging those in authority to rally together and find solutions for a fast-growing problem.

The tabloid daily pointed out: ‘A quick stroll down Union Street shows dozens of empty units, and unkempt buildings suffering at the hands of absentee landlords who have little to no connection to Aberdeen. It is now time to diversify. Trends in shopping are changing and we must move with the times. Focus now needs to be on encouraging more people to live and work there.

‘It is hoped through collaborative working from businesses, politicians, students and local residents, a new era can be born for the city’s most famous street. We need to think differently and come up with creative solutions that quickly improve the look and feel of our main high street before it’s too late. With a targeted collective and collaborative approach, we can help the Silver City shine once more’.

RAJAR reports declining BBC Radio Scotland listener figures

BBC Radio Scotland’s listener numbers have fallen by 178,000 in the third quarter of this year compared to last year (2021). New Radio Joint Audience Research (RAJAR) figures show that between July and September audience reach was 755,000  down 19% from 933,000 in the same quarter in 2021. In addition, the overall BBC audience share for the station fell to 6.3% down from 7.1% for the corresponding quarter in 2021.

The Scottish Daily Express observed: ‘It is a huge blow for the broadcaster which has been forced to make substantial changes to its output over the past few years due to a change in how people watch and listen to its shows’.

And the Scottish Daily Mail reported: ‘Former BBC journalist Professor Tim Luckhurst claimed that the new figures would cause concern at BBC Scotland  not least because there are no easy solutions in an environment in which choice is so abundant‘.

Professor Luckhurst continued: ‘The market for high-quality radio has rarely been more competitive. Given the range of competition, both national and regional, BBC Radio Scotland faces some very tough challenges. These figures reflect similar challenges to BBC network stations such as Radio 4. There is fresh competition at the top end of the market from excellent UK-wide newcomers such as Times Radio which employs several highly regarded Scottish presenters in prime slots. There is simultaneous competition from new TV talk stations including GB News and high-profile Scottish presenters such as Neil Oliver’.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Daily Express adds: ‘BBC Radio Scotland does boast a number of big names within the Scottish journalism world including news anchor Sally Magnusson, pictured right, former rugby international John Beattie and presenter Kaye Adams. Their flagship show, Good Morning Scotland, is hosted by Martin Geissler alongside Laura McIver, Hayley Millar and Laura Maxwell and still attracts big guests’.

However, it points out: ‘BBC Scotland has been embroiled in a number of scandals in recent months surrounding their output. Just last week, think tank boss Kevin Hague criticised the morning show for giving two nationalist figures, Kevin Pringle and Ian Blackford, more time to talk than him about the SNP’s independence paper. Earlier this year the broadcaster’s former lawyer Alistair Bonnington even lodged an official complaint with Ofcom complaining it was slavishly biased in favour of the SNP‘.

A BBC Scotland spokesman said: ‘BBC Radio Scotland maintains a strong position as the most listened to station after Radio 2. The figures are within seasonal expectations as they cover the quieter summer period’.

The RAJAR figures also revealed that BBC Radio 4’s Today programme had lost the most listeners of all of its breakfast radio shows  losing more than half a million listeners as it dropped to 5.9m. The BBC’s only early morning show which increased listeners was the Radio 2 breakfast show presented by Zoe Ball which saw an extra 151,000 people tuning in.

Commercial radio stations such as Global and Bauer also experienced an increase as they attracted listeners for an additional 43.5m hours this year. All BBC stations combined got 37m hours less than last year.

Cooking up the perfect heading for preparing porridge

The Scottish Daily Mail came up with a quite splendid headline on an article by staff writer Jonathan Brocklebank in which he pondered on the results of research by Quaker which found that almost a quarter of people making porridge end up with either watery gruel or a Polyfilla substitute.

Jonathan decried ‘the national disgrace represented by the inability of a significant proportion of adults to prepare a simple bowl of porridge’. And that headline. It read: The foolproof way to cook up perfect porridge? Well, it’s hardly oat cuisine…

Well, that’s cooking up the perfect headline!

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Caithness-born Hamish Mackay is now in his 57th year as an occasional/sometimes regular contributor to the UK’s exceedingly diverse media market

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