Callum Spreng: Quality not quantity key to ‘fair’ news not ‘fake’

The new developments at BBC Scotland mean more opportunities
The new developments at BBC Scotland mean more opportunities
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Scotland has, for a very long time, enjoyed a disproportionately large and varied choice of media.

For a nation of five million or so, we have 20 daily newspapers (with varying degrees of Scottish content); nine Sundays; and, would you believe it, more than 100 local weekly titles – even now. We have our own national BBC TV and radio channels (soon to be joined by a second BBC TV channel), a national STV channel, with separate channels for Edinburgh and Glasgow, and a plethora of local commercial radio channels. Scotland is also very well served by a range of Scotland-focused online specialist news websites. We are, quite literally, spoiled for choice.

In this era of “fake news”, anyone with a WordPress licence and an agenda can set themselves up as a media outlet and peddle their own version of world events. And they do. Worldwide, there’s a seemingly endless and ever growing range of websites and social media outlets that purport to relay the truth, but few newcomers apply the checks and balances that the journalists who trained in our traditional media outlets do.

So maybe now is a good time for us here in Scotland, to take a step back and appreciate just how well served we are because of the legacy we have of “traditional” journalism.

As a cub reporter on the Dunfermline Press (circulation 20,000 at that time), I remember having the mantra “fair, accurate and balanced” drummed into me by my editor, Douglas Tulloch. These were the three criteria I was required to apply to every single story that I wrote. If I couldn’t, then I had to rewrite it or, worse, ditch the article. It’s a philosophy that’s stuck with me ever since.

Those journalists from newspaper backgrounds who write in, and about, Scottish issues follow this policy. And we’re all the better off for it. The fact that we have access to such a wide range of media outlets that we know make such efforts to ensure that what they publish or broadcast is “fair, accurate and balanced” makes us all the richer. And it is to their credit that they do so with ever diminishing resources.

Which brings me to my final point – one that won’t be lost on those of you who have shelled out £1.40 of your hard earned for today’s issue of The Scotsman (unless you’re reading this online).

In a world where supposedly “fake news” seems to be the new catchword, let’s celebrate how well off we are here in Scotland to be served by the media that we have, whether our appetite is for local, national or international content. We have variety, we have quality and we have access to the widest range of news, features and entertainment. So buy as many newspapers as you want. Keep picking up your free copy of the freesheet on the platform. Read all you want online. Don’t touch that radio dial. Watch as much telly as you like. You’ll be a better informed person for it.

Callum Spreng is Managing Director of communications and PR business, Spreng Thomson, Glasgow, which this week marks its first anniversary.