EIGHT years, approximately 400 columns, and here we are. Today’s is the last.
Writing such a sentence leaves a peculiar, melancholic sensation. Well, for me, anyway.
For so long my life has been wrapped up with this newspaper – like the best fish suppers in Edinburgh. But my good fortune at having had this platform from which to expound my views for all these years will very soon be someone else’s.
So what to write today? A round-up of all the many and varied subjects which have grabbed my attention, caused my ire over the years? Should it be one of my pet subjects – the importance of local democracy, the empowerment of girls, the vital need to ensure a decent education is available to all – and that economic opportunities are waiting upon completion of school, apprenticeship, college or university . . .
No. I want to focus on the importance of this newspaper – the only one which really serves Edinburgh; a small capital city perhaps but one which is proud of its place, its heritage and its people. One which should be proud of its paper.
Like most newspapers it has seen a decline in sales – a fall which seems to be more rapid with every passing year – and as a result has had to take cuts to staffing, which leads to cuts in the number of pages printed, the number of stories able to be chased down by the remaining reporters. Ever decreasing circles.
The changes in the way we all access our news is a major part of that decline. The idea that we should be able to read papers for free via the internet wilfully ignores the fact that journalism is expensive – you need to pay journalists to find the stories and some of these can take days if not weeks of painstaking work. That doesn’t come cheap.
And this paper has a fine track record in investigative, campaigning journalism, of holding people in power to account, of changing legislation and lives. Who would ever want to see that disappear?
Of course many believe that this paper’s sales have fallen as a result of its “stance” on the independence referendum, but that is to misunderstand the Evening News. First and foremost it’s a paper which reflects the views of its readers and the citizens of the city – and in those terms it got its coverage spot on.
Come the vote Edinburgh was one of the most pro-UK places in Scotland. Yet there were many pages given to the other side of the argument. Balance is not a legal requirement in a newspaper, but the News attempts to provide it.
So let me encourage you, in this last column, to do one thing: if you’re reading this on the website, then tomorrow go out and buy an actual copy. You will find much more in it than you might expect. You might even get back into the habit – and at the same time find yourself supporting local journalism. Then you have a real right to criticise it.
It’s been a privilege to be a columnist for this paper and one I hope I have not abused too often - though I may have done so today.
I hope that I gave you the odd pause for thought, challenged perceived wisdoms and maybe even made you laugh – but that of course is the ego of the opinion writer talking. You may have hated every word –or never read a thing.
All things must pass though. I have a new challenge ahead working for Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale and her MSPs at the Scottish Parliament. Without doubt Labour too faces many challenges. And I look forward to reading about how well it’s meeting them as perceived by the journalists of this paper which I hope will long continue to serve one of the greatest cities in the world.
Chinese fortune a bear necessity
CHINA appears to be the country of the moment. Thanks to Brexit it’s regularly cited as a place Britain could do more business with when out of Europe – and it seems Edinburgh is already gearing up for a more eastern outlook
Tourism bosses are encouraging businesses to get “China Ready” and Edinburgh Airport’s Gordon Dewar wants aviation rules changed so direct flights from China can land here rather than London. Then they could fly over the Queensferry Crossing – built with Chinese steel. You never know this Sinophilia might even have an impact on the fertility of Edinburgh Zoo’s pandas.
Mrs Hearts is a game changer
THE amazing turnaround in Heart of Midlothian’s fortunes since the arrival of Ann Budge goes on apace.
The club has been given the go-ahead for a new stand to be built – a much-needed and long overdue development. It also finally ends speculation that the club would have to move out of Tynecastle. Without doubt she’s been a real game changer.
Tit for tat on Princes Street
I WAS never a regular at Bhs on Princes Street, but after walking past the current inhabitant of the old store premises – Scottish Home Stores – I’ll definitely not be changing that habit. It might be age but I cannot bear the tacky, piped music that blares out from these “tartan tat” shops. Perhaps all our new Chinese tourists will love it.