The quiet movers in Scotland’s media

If there’s been one bright spot this year, it’s that the Scottish media has – so far – not suffered the bulk job losses that have been a familiar and unfortunate mark of each of the last few years.

God knows the industry could do without the major bloodletting that’s been a depressing constant over recent times.  Indeed, we seem to be in a position where jobs are being advertised on a consistent basis again, rather than left unfilled.

And with all that, there’s been some intriguing job moves this year. However, it feels like the industry has become so immune to them, and so few places are covering them, that most have gone under the radar.

Take the brilliant Erikka Askeland, for example. That the reigning Scottish Business Editor of the Year would eventually move on from her current role as the Press and Journal’s biz lead was no real surprise, pretty much as soon as she got the gig three years ago.

Indeed, her name was being mentioned in connection with the Scotsman hot seat vacancy recently filled by Frank O’Donnell, and she was an obvious contender to replace Damien Bates should he leave the P&J captaincy.

So the quiet appearance on Hold The Front Page at the tail end of last week of a job advert for a new business editor at Lang Stracht should come as less of a surprise than it does.

However, Askeland is understood to be off to the dark arts, helping to launch former Daily Record MD Mark Hollinshead’s new communications company.

Likewise the bold Iain Pope, for example, who returned to the Daily Record in April last year after spending the previous few years on STV News’ digital desk, to take over as the new head of digital news.

Less than a year later, despite having overseen the Record’s impressive clutch of nominations at this year’s press awards, he left to go to the Scotsman, confirming on Twitter:

Although that move would prove temporary, with Popey also making a switch to the dark arts with Stripe Communications soon afterwards.

And likewise Steve Martin, who quietly left his role as deputy editor of the Sunday Post in March, just seven months after moving to DC Thomson from his previous role at SWNS.

Time was, moves of that type, with those kinds of names, would be big news.  The media blogs would be alight with speculation over where they were off to, who was coming in to replace them, and lots of chapeau tips across the board.

We seem to have passed those days. I’ve lamented this before, here and elsewhere, but the days of Scotland’s media being covered to even a shallow standard, let alone any depth, are it seems now gone.

When I moved back to Scotland in January 2008, there were myriad places giving the nation’s fourth estate the scrutiny, and occasional shoeing, it deserved. The likes of Shaun Milne, Stewart Kirkpatrick, Craig McGill, Stephen Rafferty and Scott Douglas provided an expert, occasionally snarky eye on the industry, while Press Gazette, The Drum and All Media Scotland took a professional view of proceedings.

But now? The few blogs covering the Scottish press are now solely focused on the politics of coverage – literally, viewing every decision or move through the prism of an independence debate.  AMS has long since given up the ghost, long since reduced to a bulletin board for press releases, while the Drum’s remarkable global growth means the Scottish media is, frankly, too small to cover.

Now that Greenslade – and let’s be honest, he was never much of a friend of the Scottish media, except those his pals would direct him towards – has left Media Guardian, their coverage of Scotland is now non-existent, a distant speck on the priority list behind whatever’s happening Down Under.

What all this means is that we lack the scrutiny of the actions of our fourth estate, the analysis and knowledge of editorial decision making and direction. The critical coverage of the management and decisions taken, of restructures and reorganisations, of promotions and publications, is diminished to barely a fraction.

And it also means we’ve lost a small bit of the fun, of celebrating pals moving on to bigger and better things, and being confounded by the ones we never saw coming.  Everyone loves a bit of transfer gossip, after all.

Anyway, good luck to the trio above on their new gigs, and to all the other quiet movers and shakers in the McMedia, taking on new roles in the shifting sands of the Scottish press.   May your news days never be quiet or slow.