The mainstream media in Scotland is facing an unprecedented crisis.
National newspaper sales are falling, and distrust is running high. The phone hacking scandal has undermined the moral and political authority of tabloids. Most importantly, the onset of the Scottish independence referendum debate has left a significant percentage of the population alienated from a media that isn’t reflecting the diversity of opinion in the country.
Iain Macwhirter was recently cited by the Guardian as a critic of the Scottish media, after writing on allmediascotland: “It is right that newspapers have strong editorial views, but it is not healthy when they all have the same editorial views.”
We at The Targe agree with this view – but it is not our sole criticism of the newspaper oligopoly.
The Sunday Herald’s recent declaration for Yes has not solved every problem with mainstream reporting. Neither does the 38% increase last year in the profits of Newsquest – the US-based company that publishes the Herald and Sunday Herald – prove that their profit-driven news model adequately serves the people of Scotland.
An enduring legacy of this referendum will be its demonstration to people in Scotland that the mainstream media is at least two steps behind national discourse. The rise in the popularity of blogs, citizen journalism and social media has proven that new formats of conveying news and opinion are capable of overtaking the traditional, constrictive newspaper model.
While there now exist a number of new publications taking advantage of new technology and trying to provide an alternative to the outmoded mainstream media narrative, we feel something is still missing.
There’s a lesser-quoted part of Macwhirter’s article for allmediascotland, where he writes: “Newspapers don’t just sell news; in fact, that has been an increasingly small part of their function in the last century. Newspapers have been cultural curators, critically evaluating artistic and literary trends, providing a showcase for good writing, informing readers on important developments in science and society.”
Websites like Newsnet Scotland have successfully posed at least a limited challenge to newspaper hegemony over news – but they cannot be said to have fulfilled the role of newspapers as ‘cultural curators’.
Scotland, and particularly post-referendum Scotland, needs digital media outlets that can truly claim to be the voice of a nation; that can respond dynamically to new political and cultural trends, while maintaining high standards in quality, credibility, and reliability – not seeking to drive the narrative, but providing a respected platform for burgeoning movements.
Against the homogeneity of our print media, we hope to be one of these dissenting digital voices.
The Targe is dedicated to the coverage of lifestyle, culture, and current affairs in Scotland and abroad. Our small team, based overwhelmingly in Scotland, contributes content on an entirely voluntary basis. We aren’t paid, we aren’t beholden to corporate interests, and we co-operate with each other instead of subscribing to a hierarchical editorial structure.
The Targe does not – and will never have – a paywall. We do not dedicate our attention purely to a single issue, such as the Scottish independence referendum, but aim to cast our nets wider, recognising that the mainstream media neglects more than just the vote coming this September.
21 May 2014 is the first anniversary of our launch.
We know our contribution to reporting in Scotland has so far been small, if not minuscule. There’s much more we want to do. If you support our effort to create a genuine online alternative to our national newspapers, consider signing up to our new weekly email newsletter, launching today.
We’re aiming to sign up 1,000 people to demonstrate Scotland’s appetite for a pluralistic and modern media that empowers democratic discussion and debate.
We alone can’t satisfy that appetite, not least because of our limited resources and manpower – but we believe we have a part to play in shaping Scotland’s new media landscape and promise to do our best to deliver that which Scotland deserves.