WATERSTONE & CO., 114 GEORGE STREET
On October 19th, Gerry Conlon's conviction for his alleged part in the Guildford pub bombings of October 5th 1974 was finally quashed.
On Tuesday 3rd July 1990, Gerry Conlon will be in Waterstone's Bookshop in Edinburgh to talk about the Guildford Four, the Maguire Seven, the Birmingham Six, and British Justice in general.
He will sign copies of his autobiography PROVED INNOCENT
(Hamish Hamilton £12.99).
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On Wednesday 4th July at 7.30pm meet STEPHEN BROOK (author of New York Days, New York Nights), who will read from WINNER TAKES ALL (Hamish Hamilton, £16.99), an incisive portrait of the complex and divided country of Israel, and from THE CLUB (Pan, £5.99), his bestselling survey of British Jewry.
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EDINBURGH EH2 4LX. 031 225 3436
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‘We don’t want to change overnight . . .we don‘twant to overdo things. . . we don‘t want to underuse the facility. . .’ At times you yearn for just a hint of extremism.
Despite the paper‘s image as fogeyish and staid, its largest
circulation is among 25—44 year-olds.
While other newspapers are enthusiastically wooing this afﬂuent market with plenty of ‘lifestyle‘ features, concentration on arts, TV, music and film coverage, The Scotsman seems to be mainly relying on their new printing presses to do the job. ‘We are very keen to build up a young audience, because they are'our future,’ says Linklater. ‘So the move to better printing, and the new layout and design and use of colour that will go with it are important. We want to ensure that the paper has a human profile as opposed to an institutional one. That is to say the stories the paper deals with are related to the interests of people and not too dry.‘
Worthy goals, but it is difficult to see how the in-depth expanded Tuesday Business Section helps create ‘a human profile as opposed to an institutional one.’ Sometimes you get the impression that The Scotsman Linklater reads is different to the one the readership gets. ‘Humour is very important,’ he says. ‘That humanising element is much the strongest way of appealing to a younger audience.‘
Probably a more constructive policy is the recruitment of younger journalists. In the last couple of years, The Scotsman has recruited six trainees all under 25, who, Linklater hopes, will bring a younger perspective to the paper. ‘It should be a natural process,‘ he says. ‘The views of the younger staff members will have a gradual influence on the style of the paper.’
One notable weakness of The Scotsman is the nature of its national spread. Although its news coverage
and editorial policy is undoubtedly
that of a Scottish national newspaper, it remains a fact that its circulation is weakest in Scotland‘s most densely populated area of Glasgow and Strathclyde where the
Glasgow Herald has the quality market sewn up. ‘It’s a quite striking division,‘ admits Linklater. ‘Although we’ve a better spread, and there‘s no question that we hold Edinburgh and the Borders, Glasgow and Strathclyde is the largest market, and one where I’d very much like to have a larger sale.’
Selling less than 90,000 a day is not an ideal situation for what should be Scotland‘s forum for debate, reﬂecting the cultural and political changes taking place in the country, and affecting the way people think.
As it is, The Scotsman is still regarded as something of a monolithic, archaic institution, quite cuddly and friendly in its support for the Edinburgh Festival, Fringe and other worthy causes, but still rather staid. It seems the essence of the paper‘s problem is its attempt to be everything to everybody, and its failure to completely cater for anyone. One problematic area can be conﬂict in news values, where although adequate coverage has to be given to overseas news, Scottish issues must come first. ‘A large proportion of our readers buy The Scotsman as their only paper, so we have to cover all aspects of international and UK news,‘
Linklater says, ‘but our main strength is that we are a Scottish newspaper, and want to give the best possible coverage of Scottish affairs. lfwe fail in that we‘ve failed.’
If it‘s possible to pin it down to one thing.it’s the fence-sitting, the caution and the hedging of bets that seems the most frustrating aspect of a paper that should be still leading the way in a country known for its support of newspapers and for its ability to produce top journalists. The Scotsman will soon be moving to its new presses, with facilities for colour. Perhaps this is an opportunity to give the old dinosaur a much-needed shot in the arm. ‘We’ll be using colour judiciously,‘ says Linklater, ‘we‘re not going to be splattering it all over the place.’ Pity, a touch of extremism wouldn’t go amiss, and perhaps The Scotsman could do with a good splatter. J
88 The List 29 June — 12 July 1990