THE new editor of the Belfast Telegraph has yet to be announced, but there’s reason to believe it could well be former Scotsman editor Mike Gilson, who quit his previous position in February. The struggling Scotsman, like most UK regional papers, has been in steady decline, although Roy Greenslade recently noted that Gilson has been a “champion of online journalism”. If so, I’m not surprised he quit a Johnston Press paper, as its commitment to online media is but a distant memory (whereas the Tele website has – in turbulent times – grown in terms of readership and advertising revenue, although my guess is that this still remains a tiny part of overall income).
Gilson upset many Scotsman staff because his family stayed on in Portsmouth, requiring him to commute every weekend from Edinburgh. “It meant that he didn’t get to know Scotland and Scottish people well enough,” one staff member told me.
His journalistic instincts were, however, respected. He was also regarded as a champion of online journalism, though the popularity of the paper’s website declined under his watch, due mainly to poor management decision-making.
Regional newspapers are, here more than anywhere, decidedly parochial, despite a more globalised audience – and troubled Tele owners Independent News & Media are in a state of internal boardroom war right now. But there is a realisation there of the importance of being a real online player, and now is a crucial time for the ‘Dead Tree Press’ to make some crucial decisions about an online future. From the Youtube interview above, Gilson seems to see that as his direction. I certainly don’t believe he was the only applicant with the massive debate over online presence in mind, and I don’t mind being wrong about the prediction, but expect an announcement very soon.