Scotland's daily newspaper editors are increasingly acknowledging the threat to quality journalism and staff welfare from attempts to reduce the numbers of sub-editors through the implementation of new production systems – according to the Scottish Organiser of the National Union of Journalists.
Speaking after a debate about the future of newspapers, Paul Holleran told allmediascotland.com: “It’s just a bad situation in every newspaper in Scotland at the moment and they’ve all moved towards this new production system which is not delivering as the people selling the programme suggested.
“And the editors are now realising that.”
The event was part of a week-long Festival of Politics being staged at the Scottish Parliament, and also involved Jim Raeburn, director of the Scottish Newspaper Society, and MP Diane Abbott.
Raeburn preferred to talk in terms of “teething problems” when asked about the new systems. He also told allmediascotland.com: “I understand the concerns that are being expressed. New systems always have teething problems.
“But you have to relate the whole thing to the economics of newspapers. These systems drive efficiencies and you have to be delivering efficiencies – it’s a tough world for newspaper businesses like any other.”
However, Holleran failed to share Raeburn’s point of view. He said: “Teething as in having all your teeth and gums removed would be closer to the point.
“Unfortunately, a number of the papers have already made redundancies and saying they are looking for efficiencies with this new system coming in.
“But it is creating massive inefficiencies – there are now not enough journalists to do the work, there are stress [illness] problems going through the roof and production problems. It’s a nightmare for a number of places.”
Holleran is confident though that a solution is in sight. Added the Scottish NUJ chief: “Different papers brought this system in at different stages over the last few years and it has taken a while for them to realise that all the problems we had predicted would happen.
“We’ve tried to be patient and say there is clearly technical difficulties, which is leading to people working longer hours, which is leading to a fall in quality. So why don’t we look at trying to put some solutions in place?
“And that is now happening – we’re now getting a more positive response from editorial executives.
“They are realising we are all in this together; our members have been very flexible, they’ve put the extra hours in and refused to take breaks when the system has been problematic.
“But it is not sustainable so we are now in a position saying: 'If you want this to continue, you need to do something about it.”