Depressing news about @Newsshaft, and the lessons to learn

NewsShaft is closing: this is the depressing summary of their latest blog post.  Quite simply, they have no more money.

I like the NewsShaft podcasts – they offer a quirky, irreverent take on the news, and there are stimulating blog postings offering comment on news in between podcasts.

My small monthly contribution to Newsshaft – for most of us, it’s not very much! (image: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:ClydesdaleBank5obverseSp.png)

NewsShaft were created with plans for a Scottish TV/video news service, but these plans were scaled back as a result of the prohibitive costs involved in TV production.  I began a monthly contribution to them at this time, along with contributions to some other ‘new media’ organisations.  It seems too few others did likewise. It’s not clear to me why NewsShaft did not catch on – it offers intelligent comment, a good choice of guests, and innovative programming.

They have run crowd-funders – but this is not a sustainable way to run a business, especially when equipment and other costs are high, and the people involved need to make a living.

There has been much hype about the so-called ‘new media’ that emerged during and after the independence referendum in September 2014.  Frankly, I think a lot of this has been bluster.  The new media cannot survive unless it is financially solvent.  Lots of little people like me have blogs and comment endlessly on things – but I am not a journalist, and it is not my livelihood.  I write when I want, and few people would particularly care if I didn’t write.  If we want a proper news media that engages consistently and critically with the events around us, I strongly believe that

WE MUST PAY REAL MONEY FOR IT!

Carolyn Scott, reflecting on widespread job losses at the Herald & Times (publishers of The National, The Herald, Sunday Herald etc.) argued exactly this in a recent blog posting entitled If The National Can’t Survive What Chance Has New Media Got?  I buy The National, but these other sources offer something beyond what a newspaper does.

So, with NewsShaft sadly closing, take a moment to think about who or what you read or listen to regularly, and ask yourself how you think they are surviving.  Don’t assume we can counter the hegemony of conservative broadcasters and tax-evading newspaper owners with lots of wee blogs like this – they have their part to play, but we need much more!  Whether this be Bella Caledonia, CommonSpaceIndependence Live (and yes, they really need to change their name!) or The Ferret etc., think about whether you really can’t afford the price of a couple of cappucinos a month and give something to one or more of the outfits providing us with an alternative perspective on the world.

Don’t procrastinate on this: do it right now –
or NewsShaft will just be the first of many to go.

In the meantime, I sincerely hope Carolyn Scott, James Devoy and Jack Foster of NewsShaft find some other – financially viable! – outlet for their energy and talents.  Warm thanks to them for the enjoyable podcasts that I’ve listened to every week on my way to or from work – I will miss you!

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4 thoughts on “Depressing news about @Newsshaft, and the lessons to learn

  1. News Shaft didn’t catch on because they aren’t especially friendly people, by which I mean difficult to engage with. I’ve met the whole team at various times and they each seemed more concerned with appearances than content. I’ve tried following them, but entire Newshaft webpage was plastered with photos of themselves and it was a barrier to any news they were sharing, no matter how good it was or wasn’t. We need independent media and I regret to see any such attempts fail, but there are other news sites that remain promising, such as Bella Caledonia (more high-brow politics), Common Weal (a more politically correct view of Scottish politics) and a few other heavy-leaning political blogs which are good to read. Wings Over Scotland is good, but I get tired of the rage and anger and I can’t read it daily. My favourite site has been around since before indyref, but I think of it as an indyref publication because they transformed from a blog to a roboust go-to source for issues that MSM completely glosses over. While they don’t publish minute-by-minute updates, they always catch the key issues and publish a collection of some of the most interesting topics, many I’ve never even heard of before. I learn a lot. Plus, it’s not all focused on Scotland, it covers the globe. That site is Modern.Scot —– I’d donate to them, but they don’t accept donations, or, I can’t find the donation page.

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    • I’ve never met the NewsShaft folk, but they always seemed friendly enough to me. And anyway, being friendly is hardly a requirement for a journalist – look at the success of so many unpleasant characters!

      I suspect that the financial problems that have plagued NewsShaft from the beginning might play a role in the use of their own imagery – paying license fees for eg stock photography when you don’t have much money becomes an issue.

      As for the Modern Scot site, I’m not a fan of their emphasis, nor do I think that their funding (that you mention) is something I am comfortable with – if you look up their funders, it’s a London-based company, with little information about their work, but plenty of other companies registered at the same address; I don’t know what that’s about. A lack of transparency about financial sources is always of concern – and NewsShaft and similar outlets (Bella Caledonia, CommonWeal etc.) have at least been open about this. Consequently, I would trust them far more than I would trust a company whose funding model is opaque.

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  2. The question is not ‘NewsShaft failed so woe is Scottish new media’, NewsShaft failed because they burned through their initial crowdfudning £10,0000 in three months. And produced how much content? You can’t go from zero to big shiny office and full time wages overnight.

    NewsShaft failed because they aimed far too high with too little runway.

    Ask countless community radio stations what they could do with £10K for a year of broadcasting… and it would be a heck of a lot more than NewsShaft’s output.

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    • I think the NewsShaft would argue that they were trying to do something at a particular standard and get paid a decent wage (not even a particularly high one, I’d imagine). And £10k is not much in that context – they do need to live off something! My point was that we can’t expect these things to just rely on people who can afford to do them, or can do them in their spare time.

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