The Scotsman newspaper was last night described as a “tabloid” by the editor of the Financial Times, in a speech about how working in the newspaper industry has moved from being a vocation to being a profession.
Lionel Barber was a reporter on The Scotsman between 1978 and 1981. Speaking at the London College of Communication, he is reported in The Guardian as saying: “Back in 1979, the Scotsman sold 91,000 copies. It carried a page of foreign news. 20 North Bridge, an imposing Victorian building overlooking Waverley station, housed printing presses which thundered through the night. It was also home to many fine journalists: reporters and editors such as Neal Ascherson, Chris Baur, Harry Reid, Jim Naughtie, and later Andrew Marr.”
Barber was delivering the Hugh Cudlipp Lecture, an annual lecture celebrating 'legendary' Daily Mirror editor, Hugh Cudlipp.
Continued Barber: “Today, the Scotsman is a tabloid; it sells 45,000 copies and that page of dedicated foreign news has disappeared. North Bridge is now a five-star boutique hotel with a gym, poetic justice for generations of journalists raised on cigarettes and whisky.”
But The Scotsman has taken issue over Barber's claims about its international coverage.
Said Michael Johnston, divisional managing director (Scotland and Northeast England) for publishers, Johnston Press: “Given The Scotsman had four pages of international news this morning and has foreign coverage each day, I am a loss as to what to say. Northcliffe, where I trained, had very firm views about fact checking and getting it right. A lesson, I would have thought, Mr Barber should also have taken on board as a cub reporter.”
And editor-in-chief, John McLellan, was arguably even more robust. He said: “For someone editing a newspaper which prides itself on accuracy, I'm surprised Mr Barber can make comments on the content of The Scotsman when he clearly hasn't seen a copy for some considerable time.
“For the record, there are four tabloid pages – yes tabloid, oh the shame of it – of foreign news in The Scotsman every day. No, we do not have the resources to staff offices in New York or Moscow, but we are actually running more foreign news and analysis than in his rose-tinted day.
“I remember the North Bridge well, especially the stench of urine which pervaded the Evening News's news room from the down-and-outs who used The Scotsman steps outside for shelter. No, Holyrood Road isn't as historic as the old place but for the vast majority it's a far better place to work.
“As for sales, sadly our story is hardly unique. All I can say is that we outperform the quality market in Scotland most months and wash our face commercially, unlike some of our illustrious competitors who are not only losing sales at a greater rate than us but are burning millions of pounds in the process.”