David Montgomery, whose investment vehicle, National World, has bought JPIMedia, the owner of The Scotsman
, Scotland on Sunday
and the Edinburgh Evening News
, for £10.2 million, has told staff of his plans to decentralise the company. In what should be good news for the staff of the three Edinburgh newspapers, plus a sizeable number of Scottish weekly newspapers including the Falkirk Herald
and the Fife Free Press
, also owned by JPIMedia, Montgomery said that the company would be 'restored as a local publishing business, locally managed with clear plans to grow the business by implementing a modern operating model'.
In an email, he told staff: 'The most important component of that is our intention to better serve the communities that make up our audience and the local businesses on which their livelihoods depend'. He asked staff to help 'invigorate' their titles and 'create a new operating model based on quality content and premium sales'.
Press Gazette said that responsibility for JPIMedia's various titles is already being decentralised to their locally-based editorial and commercial teams, described as the 'beating heart' of the company. They will be charged with spearheading a drive to publish bespoke localised content that appeals to local advertisers with 'a journalistic formula that replaces irrelevant or clickbait stories with exclusive content to enhance local lives'.
Montgomery, a former editor of the News of the World
and chief executive of publishing group, Local World, declared: 'National World believes that geographical and creative diversity overseen by local management will better distinguish our products, in both print and online and in video and on mobile. This strategy stands out from the current trend of media businesses pursuing a one-size-fits-all approach'.
Montgomery will oversee content and digital development. He is joined by Vijay Vaghela, who until two years ago was chief financial officer at Reach and will now oversee JPI's finances, IT, legal and other support services. Ex-Reach (then Trinity Mirror) chief operating officer Mark Hollinshead will oversee revenue.
In the short-term, Montgomery said the focus will be ensuring the business is 'appropriately structured and efficiently run to ensure we can overcome the challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing structural challenges facing print media'. He added: 'At the same time, we will enhance our digital footprint and revenue capabilities'.
Press Gazette reported that Michelle Stanistreet, the general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, welcomed the fact the deal had ended the 'uncertainty that has hovered over the company's future for some years'. She praised Montgomery's commitment to growing the company and his acknowledgement of staff's dedication and the 'prestigious heritage' of their titles.
'This sale comes at a critical moment for the local news industry – the past year has underlined how vital the provision of relevant local news and journalism is in our communities, at a time when the sector is under enormous strain,' said Stanistreet. 'We look forward to engaging with National World on its plans to reinvigorate a business that boasts a talented and committed team of journalists providing an essential public service in newsrooms across the UK.'
National World becomes the UK's third-largest regional news group behind Reach and Newsquest, publishing more than 100 print and online titles in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, including the Yorkshire Post
, Belfast Newsletter
, and the Portsmouth News
This week's column has much focus on people in the broadcasting world settling into new posts, including two major appointments at Sky and the BBC. At Sky, Dana Strong takes over from Jeremy Darroch, 58, who is stepping down after 13 years at the helm of the media titan, and, at the BBC, former Goldman Sachs banker, Richard Sharp, 64, has emerged as the new chairman.
Strong is the first woman to lead Sky in its 40-year history. She is an executive of Comcast, the US broadcaster who owns Sky, and the former president and chief operating officer of Virgin Media UK and chief transformation officer of telecoms firm Liberty Global. Darroch drove technological change at Sky – revolutionising the way European viewers access entertainment, sport and independent 24-hour news.
According to the Daily Mail
, Darroch made a fortune when Sky was sold to Comcast, in 2018 for almost £30 billion. He picked up more than £38 million selling the shares he owned and held in incentive plans to Comcast. 'That took his total pay since he became chief executive in 2007 to more than £115 million,' reports the Mail
, adding: 'For Sky, Darroch may well have been worth it – he tripled the size of the business and ramped up the customers to almost 24 million'.
The new BBC chairman, Richard Sharp, is a man with the Conservative credentials vigorously sought by the UK’s Tory Government and he is a long-standing Tory donor to the tune of £400,000. As head of European investment at Goldman Sachs, he was a mentor to Rishi Sunak who will in February mark his first anniversary as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Sharp's appointment marks a wholesale change in the BBC's hierarchy which had long been perceived by the Tory Government as London-centric, woke and decidedly left leaning. He joins up with the BBC's relatively new director-general, Tim Davie, who, at one time, was a former Tory councillor candidate.
'Where were you when you heard Twitter banned Donald Trump?' asks Press Gazette editor-in-chief, Dominic Ponsford, replying rhetorically: 'It's not quite a JFK moment, but it is hugely significant nonetheless. Facebook has followed suit and Amazon, in its role as a website hosting company, pulled the plug on fledgling social media network Parler (which has become home to many famous figures judged to be beyond the pale for Twitter)'.
'Regulation of the big social media networks and the tech platforms is now inevitable in the US, EU and UK,' says Ponsford, 'and this can only be a good thing for the news industry. The initial wild-west era of the unregulated internet is drawing to a close as tech companies themselves realise their platforms are unsustainably toxic without significant moderation'.
Glenn Campbell is quietly settling into his new role as BBC Scotland's political editor – the successor to Brian Taylor. Glenn has worked at BBC Scotland for almost 20 years, most recently as chief political correspondent.
He has presented a host of election and referendum debate and results programmes as well as Good Morning Scotland
, the Politics Show
and Any Questions
, and has spent time working at Newsnight
, BBC Radio Four, and the BBC World Service. During his career he has reported from across Europe, the US, Canada and China, and is a previous winner of the RTS Scoop of the Year Award for breaking the story of the release of the Lockerbie bomber.
BBC Scotland head of news, Gary Smith, said Glenn was the standout candidate in an outstanding field of both internal and external candidates, explaining: 'His passion for reporting and analysing political news – and for unearthing new stories – shone through a rigorous recruitment process. Brian Taylor is a tough act to follow but Glenn is a really worthy successor'.
Meantime Linda Grimes Douglas is settling into her new role as head of news and current affairs at STV with responsibility for output and news broadcast operations across all sites in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee and Inverness, as well as current affairs programme, Scotland Tonight
. She joined STV as a journalist more than 20 years ago.
Her promotion, from deputy head of news and current affairs, coincides with a restructuring of STV's news management team. Bobby Hain, STV's managing director, broadcast, said: 'Linda is a hugely-talented news professional who has had a significant impact on STV's news operations during her time with the channel. I'm thrilled that she will now lead the team in continuing to deliver the strong and trusted output viewers expect from STV News
, and drive a culture around our core values of respect, inclusivity, open communication and diversity within our newsrooms'.
Paul Fisher has added five titles to his remit after being appointed managing editor for Ayrshire and Clyde Weekly Press by Newsquest. He currently serves as senior content editor across four Ayrshire newspapers – the Ardrossan Herald
, Cumnock Chronicle
, Irvine Times
and Ayr Advertiser
, but will now also take responsibility for the Clydebank Post
, Helensburgh Advertiser
, Renfrewshire Gazette
, Dumbarton and Vale of Leven Reporter
and the Barrhead News
. Paul's new titles were previously overseen by Tom McConigley, who has left Newsquest for a new role.