Writes Shaun Milne

When did journalism stop being fun?

Was it always this bad, but, in the flushes of youth, none of us ever noticed?

These days, it seems the only stories coming out of newsrooms are tales of woe: laments about management cutbacks and ever-heavier workloads, and disputes over new working agreements. Of expenses being shredded to the bone or made so awkward to claim back that there seems little point in the effort. Posts unfilled, because managers know that, out of sheer professional pride, someone will always step up to the plate.

This past month or so, my diary has been filled with leaving nights from papers, as yet another scribe opts to get out while they can.

The Herald losing Michael Tierney and David Leask, the Evening Times losing the likes of Clare Holland, Wendy Miller and Chris Musson, among others.

Johnston Press seems to be fairing little better. There are rumblings of possible Scotland-wide industrial action over pay. There’s a wider fear that The Scotsman stable is being prepared for a sale – and no matter the denials coming from the top, the uncertainty remains.

Those within say they are running on fumes, threadbare.

While the Scotland on Sunday appointments section last week numbered just four pages compared with the double digit Sunday Herald.

These papers in particular should be stronger than ever in a devolved Scotland, with a nationalist government.

Instead they are withering on the vine.

Not because of a lack of talent on their books, but just an apparent unwillingness to nurture and invest in them in the core places while dividends have to be satisfied.

It will surely come to a head soon.

The political and cultural significance of what is happening to them is huge.

Subsequent rumours of closures, mergers, seven-day operations, takeovers and Trusts grow louder, as disgruntled staff look for salvation from somewhere. Anywhere.

And because they are a prime example of all that is going wrong in the trade here in Scotland.

Spin it any way you like, but “difficult trading conditions” and “downturns” are code for saying those at the top are fearful for their payouts.
It is nothing about protecting the fundamentals of journalistic integrity, looking after dedicated staff, being better than the rest.
Let those in charge come on here and argue otherwise.
People accept that the trade is facing tough times. But leaner isn’t always better, at least not in this profession.
Even with the digital revolution, the chase for online users means papers have to adapt and make use of the best technology at its disposal.
This will and is causing change, and that has to be accepted.
But it shouldn’t be done at the expense of existing staff.
One platform should compliment the other, not compete with or replace it.
If more work needs done, then there should be more people and bigger budgets to do it, not the indiscriminate raping of the funds and posts that exist already.
But that is part of Scotland’s problem. Too much is being expected from too few.
And as the paymasters demand more for less, all they are doing is creating a culture of fear, disappointment and discontent among their own.
Each day I speak to former newspaper colleagues and friends.

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