The National: A Frothing Nationalist Writes

24 11 2014

Like seemingly the entirety of the Dangerous Menace of Nationalism (© Brian Wilson) I picked up a copy of The National this morning.  Welcome though a pro-indy paper is, it’s going to be a waste of time if it’s pish.  It’s also going to annoy me as I went out my way to go to the newsagent this morning.  So let’s cast an eye over it…

News

A pretty decent front page with follow up on page 2.  It’s hardly earth-shattering news to find folk in the Third Sector would feel keener if social security policy was moved out of the hands of lunatic Old Etonians, but as a first day hook for us Nats it’s a good sell.  Jamie Maxwell nicely fills out a short piece by Stephen Boyd of the STUC into a wider story about wage increases over recent years, with (as far as this biased reader is concerned), no obvious pro-Nat bias.  Another hip young gunslinger of Scottish journalism, Peter Geoghegan, has a nifty wee scoop exposing the Old Firm as taking hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ money for anti-sectarian initiatives while not bothering their arses engaging with the authorities.

Elsewhere a report from Saturday’s RIC Conference and Elaine C Smith and Cat Boyd ruling out candidacies for the SNP.  There’s also a “Why I Support” section where various slebs tell us about their favourite charity and how great it is.  Martin Compston nominates his local hospice as the place that showed his uncle warmth and kindness in his last few days.  It’s very worthy and only the most heartless of bastards could find objection, but you do wonder how much mileage there is in it longer-term.

The word “Pravda” was bandied around by the noble Baron Foulkes and others earlier today, but I can’t see it myself.  Yes there’s a slant in terms of the selection of stories covered (the Elaine C/Cat Boyd piece definitely being one) but the reporting itself is straight down the line.  Maxwell’s piece on the Scottish Labour leadership hustings is played with a straight bat.  No “rotten Quislings sit in room and be Quislingy, the big smelly Quislings” here (I think I nicked that quote from Le Monde).  Plus Pravda only comes out three times a week.  EAT THAT, FOULKESY.

The World News section is excellent given the 4-pages allotted to it.  The Tunisian presidential elections are the main story, with a half-page Reuters piece and photo, surrounded by smaller round-ups.  It’s no in-depth reportage, but a very decent summary.  A profile of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gives a good longer form read, although the cursory mention of his attendance at Caley Uni surely needs fleshed out in a Glasgow-based paper.  There must be a tale of him kicking around the Barras or something.

Opinion

Carolyn Leckie is the columnist of the day, and a good piece it is too, reminding the reader of the hugely substantial link between gender inequality and income and class disparity, a point too often missed elsewhere.  With the leader sitting on page 3 welcoming readers to the “daily newspaper that will fly a vibrant flag for independence and the right for Scots to govern themselves”, and no letters, it’s hard to judge the op-ed section as a whole.  One would hope for more than one comment piece per issue, but given rates of £150-300 per piece for freelancers at the Herald or Scotsman, it may be the paymasters are waiting to see how the bottom line pans out before shelling out for a broader panel of opinion makers (I’m available for a tenner and a large stuffed crust).  Anyway, the rest of the week will be fairer ground to judge how op-ed flies.  Me, I’m hoping for a Point/Counterpoint style page featuring Duncan Hothersall and Stuart Campbell.

Sports

Bastards.

Bastards.

Did you spend yesterday in a semi-comatose hungover haze and want a quick check over Saturday’s football results?  Nae luck.  Indeed, in the four-page Sport section (the pictures on the back page don’t count), there are a total of five football stories, two about the EPL, two about Glasgow’s Ugly Sisters, and a decent, concise match report from Sunday’s game between the wonderful, glorious, freewheeling Partick Thistle and the horrible Aberdeen FC.  I know the argument nowadays is that people get minutiae like this from the internet or the Sundays, but a wee half page summary of the weekend’s results surely wouldn’t go amiss.  Some of us have a morbid curiousity in the Cliftonhill attendance, as well as the fact that reams of tables and numbers are nice and cheap.  There’s also a case for looking beyond the norms of football coverage and claiming ground the other papers tend to leave behind – Gerry Hassan’s recent piece on the Juniors highlights one possible avenue for a slightly different slant on the sport.  Going back a page there’s a profile spread on Lewis Hamilton which mentions his UNICEF ambassadorship but neglects to cover his overseas tax status, which seems an omission for a left-leaning paper.  Still, I now know how things went down at the European Curling Championships.

Business

My eyes kind of glaze over at this sort of thing.  Stories on oil exports, gas exports, and booze exports.  Big profile of investment fund manager.  Wha’s like us?

What else?

I’m torn between wanting a TV section and the pointlessness of it in today’s world of EPGs and iPlayer.  Ach, sod it, I’m a relic of the past who still reads these things.  A wee third-page prime-time summary would be good.  Maybe appeal to ver kids with a “Best of iPlayer” box or something.  The font at the top of each page has to go, although the rest of the paper looks clean and well-designed.  You can see the Sunday Herald linkage without it being a total clone.  And can I have some infographics somewhere while I’m asking?  Ta.

I’m being slightly unfair as it’s obvious the whole thing is put together on a shoestring at the moment.  One would assume its move to permanence after this week’s trial would result in more goodies sprinkled around the pages.

Adverts

A newsagent cover price of 50p a day isn’t going to butter all the parsnips.  It’s unfair to judge the appeal to advertisers on the basis of the inaugural issue, which necessarily would find it tricky to sell spots.  The only full pager is from Yesbar, opposite Carolyn Leckie’s column.  So that’s what those £4.20 pints of Guinness go towards…  One would assume a 30k circulation (which would beat The Scotsman) would bring in some decent ad income down the line and make the numbers work more to the satisfaction of the Newsquest bean counters.  The danger is that being so explicitly pro-indy means staunchly pro-union business types won’t countenance shelling out quids for a spot on page 9, no matter how good the rates.

So…

It’s a good paper.  Yes it’s explicitly aimed at those of us of a nashunilist disposition, and yes there’s some work left to do, but as a tabloid with a specific, honestly-expressed agenda, it’s worth ten bob and your commute to work/uni/the broo.  The line on the masthead, “The Newspaper That Supports An Independent Scotland” could do with dropping though; we get it.  I do hope it doesn’t cannibalise sales of the big brother daily Herald though.  After I gave up the Scotsman when Ol’ Brillo Pad took over, I’ve read the Herald ever since, and it remains the best Scottish daily for anyone looking to avoid the intricate details of X-Factor contestants’ EXCLUSIVE REVELATIONS.  Here’s hoping the two can co-exist peacefully, like Jerry Leadbetter and Tom Good.