The past twelve months have been the most unpredictable, and perhaps most significant in Scotland’s recent history. Those months have also proved one of the most trying times for the Scottish media, and NewsShaft has been no exception. The traditional press has been on shaky ground for years, but in this post referendum Scotland, even that alternative media which flowered out of a desire for something different, something independent, something Scottish, has struggled.
The depressing truth is that the team behind NewsShaft have, for the past year, been living well below the minimum wage; indeed, well below the breadline. The stark reality is that if we didn’t stop now, we would very likely be homeless by the end of the year.
As a result of NewsShaft’s professional sheen many assumed that it must have been well funded, some even thought we were wealthy enthusiasts funding an eccentric hobby. Both those assumptions of course, were extremely wide of the mark.
Anyone who’s ever worked in broadcast journalism will know that it’s an extremely time consuming process. Whilst the end product might only be a half hour programme, what you don’t see are the days of research, planning, pre-recording and scripting that go into that. Running a media outlet which produces high quality content on a daily basis is more than a full time job, and we simply couldn’t justify that without – at the very least – the ability to put a roof over our heads.
That an online platform, without the backing or even recognition of the traditional media machinery, managed to build an audience share to rival some of BBC Scotland’s flagship current affairs programming, was an impressive feat. We are genuinely touched that so many found value in what we did. But Journalism, like many professions, is a territorial business; and that is particularly true in Scotland. For whatever reason, the established media in Scotland viewed us with a degree of suspicion from the outset, and were sadly unwilling to embrace what we were doing for the enriching and complimentary contribution it was intended as, but such is life.
We have striven since we first launched NewsShaft, to ensure that we presented a balanced, unbiased service. Our editorial line did not support any political party, or indeed any specific position on the constitution – despite the personal opinions of those involved.
We would of course, be extremely naive if we did not acknowledge that the vast bulk of our audience probably voted Yes in last year’s referendum, but we have never sought to pander to any particular viewpoint.
Ultimately, we were motivated by a sense that Scotland’s media was too small, especially current affairs broadcasting, and we simply sought to broaden what was available to people.
It is human nature to want to read, or listen to journalism that echoes your own opinions, and to some extent, we believe that is what the majority of people in Scotland really want. The success of ‘The National’ is a good illustration of this: it’s openly biased, it’s openly partisan, and it’s not based in Scotland, yet it’s one of the great newspaper successes of our times.
All the calls for an unbiased media aside, we must regrettably conclude that the actual numbers of people who want to consume such a thing, are insufficient to keep it afloat. That may change in the future, but for the time being “new media” remains massively underfunded and equally misunderstood.
The Internet has proved itself a vital resource in democratizing the media, as well as access to information, but it has not yet overcome the difficulties presented in terms of funding journalism. Most of us think nothing of paying the cover price for a newspaper, netting a faceless corporation over £40k a week, yet we still raise eyebrows at the notion of independent journalists crowd-funding a fraction of that amount to pay for 6 months worth of output.
The problem of financing online enterprises is not unique to journalism of course; each and every one of us feels aggrieved when asked to pay for something online. We are not the first to suffer at the hands of this problem, and we will doubtless be the last.
All of that said, we are, and always will be extremely proud of what we’ve achieved with NewsShaft. There’s no way we could have come this far if we didn’t really believe in what we were doing, we’ve also been massively humbled by the support we’ve received, not just financially but our listenership and readership too.
It is therefore with a tear in our collective eye that we power down the NewsShaft studio for the final time. Who can say where we’ll end up next, but for now – to everyone who listened in, everyone who supported us and for whom NewsShaft made a difference…
The NewsShaft Team