This short-life working group has been established at the request of the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture. Public interest journalism has faced a number of significant challenges in recent years, including declining newspaper circulations; an increase in alternative news sources; the challenge of tech firms, both as sources of content and as advertising platforms; and ongoing questions about the reliability and objectivity of news sources. Many of these have been long-term problems, but the COVID-19 pandemic has deepened and accelerated the challenges faced by the sector.
The group’s remit is to consider the long-term sustainability of public interest journalism in Scotland and recommend ways to ensure its ongoing resilience and relevance.
The group’s work programme is flexible, but discussions over the interests below might form the core of its activity. These include:
- the establishment of a public interest journalism foundation, including agreeing what constitutes public interest journalism, and editorial standards
- strengthening legislative and other support available for co-operatives, staff or community groups seeking to buy out titles or create new public interest titles
- strategic government and public advertising to support innovative journalism and local and hyperlocal news initiatives, as well as mainstream media
- increased education about the role of public interest journalism and steps to help young people better understand their active role as media consumers
- addressing the impact of the internet and the dominance of tech firms on public interest journalism, including a levy for the use of content from media outlets
- support mechanisms for traditional newspapers to help them adapt to changing consumer habits
- mechanisms to support and promote public interest journalism (eg, the BBC local democracy report scheme)
- the group may choose to consider other or additional options.
Each of these can contribute to strengthening public interest journalism and ensuring it remains free, independent and strong as a key element of Scottish democracy. This is true at all levels, but increasingly so at local level, both to provide high-quality local news and to support community empowerment.
The recommendations of the Cairncross Review remain relevant, and they will also inform the group’s work.
Many of the key levers for legislative change are reserved to the UK Government; this will limit the extent to which the Scottish Government can deliver certain outcomes. Nonetheless, the group should not consider these to be beyond its remit, and challenging the UK Government to address these issues will be an important output from the group.
The group is expected to make recommendations to support the long-term sustainability of public interest journalism. The recommendations will be made to the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work and Culture. As far as possible, the group should indicate how its recommendations can be taken forward, including where industry can take the lead in implementing recommendations.
It is important that public interest journalism should be independent of government. As such, there will be a limit to how the Scottish Government might be involved in particular activities. The group should bear this in mind and, where possible, should seek to ensure that recommendations can be developed and implemented with a wide range of partners without the need for Scottish Government involvement where that would raise questions of partiality. Members of the group will be expected to be involved in the development and implementation of some of the group’s recommendations. Where appropriate, it is intended that the group’s recommendations act as a prompt for positive activity within the sector.
This is a short-life working group. This approach is being taken with the intention that the group should focus on key issues and make workable recommendations quickly. This will allow the next phase of activity to focus on the development and implementation of recommendations.
The number of meetings and the lifespan of the group will be agreed at the first meeting.
- Stuart Birkett, Highland News and Media
- Richard Bogie, News Scotland
- Simon Cuthbert-Kerr, Creative Industries, Screen and Media Policy Unit, Scottish Government (Chair)
- Rhiannon Davies, Greater Govanhill
- India Divers, Creative Industries, Screen and Media Policy Unit, Scottish Government (Secretariat)
- Rob Edwards, The Ferret
- Tomiwa Folorunso, Freelance Writer / Former Black Ballad Scotland Regional Editor
- Rachel Hamada, Bureau of Investigative Journalism
- Jonathan Heawood, Executive Director, Public Interest News Foundation
- Hans Marter, Shetland News
- Emma Meese, Independent Community News Network
- John McLellan, Scottish Newspaper Society
- Joyce McMillan, independent journalist
- Hazel Parkinson, Creative Industries, Screen and Media Policy Unit, Scottish Government (Secretariat)
- Frances Rafferty, NUJ
- Allan Rennie, University of Stirling
- John Toner, NUJ
- Denise West, Media Consultant
Brief biographies of the members are at Annex A.
Secretariat support will be provided by the Scottish Government’s Creative Industries, Screen and Media Policy Unit.
Annex A: Members’ biographies
Management consultant, former regional media MD with Johnston Press (now JPI Media) and Trinity Mirror (now Reach). Currently working with Highland News and Media.
In June 2018 Richard was appointed as Managing Director of News Scotland and News Ireland. Richard joined News Scotland in April 2015 as General Manager. Previous roles in the news media industry included Group Sales Director at Johnston Press, a similar role at Express Newspapers, Assistant Managing Director at The Scotsman Publications and other commercial roles at The Independent and IPC magazines. In December 2019 Richard was appointed as President of the Scottish Newspapers Society for a 2 year period. He is a member of the management council for NewsBrands Ireland and has previously served as a board director of the Audit Bureau of Circulation and also for the National Readership Survey (predecessor of Pamco).
Head of Creative Industries, Screen and Media Policy Unit, Scottish Government
Journalist Rhiannon Davies is the founder and editor of Greater Govanhill community magazine - and is a member of IMPRESS, ICNN and the Society of Editors. She also works part-time as a teaching associate on journalism courses for the University of Strathclyde.
Creative Industries, Screen and Media Policy Manager, Scottish Government
Environmental journalist and a founder director of The Ferret, a cooperative of investigative journalists.
Tomiwa Folorunso is a writer, editor and creative raised in Edinburgh and currently studying an MA in Cultural Studies at KU Leuven, Brussels. Tomiwa was the Scotland Regional Editor for Black Ballad UK, sub-editor for Fringe of Colour Films and has written for the Herald, the National and contributed to Monstrous Regiment’s recent anthology, So Hormonal.
Rachel Hamada is a senior journalist at the Bureau Local team, part of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and was one of the founders of The Ferret. She recently ran the Bureau's Change the Story project on reimagining local journalism, designed the New Models of Journalism course delivered for the National Union of Journalists in Scotland, was recently a News Impact Network fellow with the European Journalism Centre and authored the chapter on grassroots investigative journalism for Routledge's upcoming Investigative Journalism Handbook.
Executive Director, Public Interest News Foundation; and Senior Research Fellow, University of Stirling.
Shetland News is a small and independently owned local news website that has been providing general news and current affairs reporting to the Shetland community since 2003. The website takes its name from a left of centre weekly newspaper of the same name that closed in 1963. Unsuccessful efforts to establish an online version of Shetland News were made as early as November 1995. Serving a population of 23,000, www.shetnews.co.uk records between 40,000 and 50,000 unique users per week clocking up more than 14 million page views per year. Hans J Marter has been working as a freelance news journalist in Shetland for the last 25 years and began developing the Shetland News website in 2003 at a time freelance budgets were slashed at national and regional news titles to be replaced by material from public relation agencies.
Emma Meese is the Director of Community Journalism at Cardiff University. She set up and is the director of the Centre for Community Journalism and the Independent Community News Network. Emma has been a journalist for 25 years and is passionate about giving community journalists access to the highest standard of training in digital and social media. She works with news publishers, academics, governments, charities and businesses worldwide with the aim of strengthening and sustaining the community news sector.
Scottish Newspaper Society director, honorary professor of journalism (Stirling University), columnist and Edinburgh City councillor. Former editor of The Scotsman, Edinburgh Evening News and Scotland on Sunday, and former Scottish Conservative Party director of communications.
Theatre critic of the Scotsman, and also writes a political and social commentary column for the paper. She has been involved in many campaigns for democracy and human rights, both in Scotland and internationally, and has been a freelance journalist, based in Edinburgh, Scotland, for more than 30 years. She also broadcasts regularly on BBC Radio Scotland and other media. She has been active in the National Union of Journalists throughout her professional life, is a former Chair of the Scottish Civic Forum, and from 2015-2019 was Hon. President of Scottish Environment Link.
Creative Industries and Media Policy Team Leader, Scottish Government
Frances Rafferty is the National Union of Journalist’s senior editorial and communications officer and has worked on a number of national newspaper and magazine titles in London.
Honorary Professor of Media Studies at the University of Stirling and Associate Director of strategic communications agency Hollicom. He started his journalism career at the Springburn Times, edited the Sunday Mail and Daily Record and was Managing Director of Media Scotland.
NUJ’s National Organiser for Scotland.
Denise West is a news media professional with over 30 years experience in the industry. A former CCO of DC Thomson Media and a senior executive of Trinity Mirror PLC ( now Reach) where she held -amongst other roles - the positions of Managing Director of the Scottish Daily Record and Sunday Mail Ltd, Scottish Business Insider Ltd, Gazette Media Company Ltd and the Newcastle Chronicle and Journal Ltd. She is a former President of the Scottish Newspaper Society and sat on the Marketing Advisory Board of the World Association of Newspapers for a number of years.