Murdered journalist Lyra McKee was an “outstanding young woman” who pursued “hard yards in pursuit of the truth”, the Scottish Newspaper Society editors’ chairman Magnus Llewellin the Scottish Press Awards last night (April 25).
Speaking at the event attended by over 400 people at the Doubletree Hotel in Glasgow, Times Scotland editor Llewellin said Ms McKee was the illustration of journalism being “a noble pursuit”.
He added: “As someone who worked across a range of print and digital titles, Lyra was a typical modern journalist.”
“But she was also part of a tradition most of us here share and which goes back well before 1979 – and that is a tradition of knocking on doors and putting in those hard yards in pursuit of the truth.”
In a wide-ranging address, Llewellin also criticised the BBC for undermining the commercial news sector. He said it was “Now the biggest news publisher in the UK and it employs a publicly-funded army of journalists who relentlessly undermine what we do.
“So while we face a threat from monopolistic institutions based in California, the monopolisitic BBC is also a clear and present danger to media plurality in Scotland – and beyond – and we believe it should be recognised as such.”
The Scottish Press Awards is organised by the Scottish Newspaper Society in partnership with Event Consultants Scotland and is sponsored by: Clydesdale Bank, VisitScotland, The Law Society of Scotland, The People’s Postcode Lottery, Johnnie Walker, Amazon, Openreach, Scottish Water, SGN and The BIG Partnership.
An edited text of Magnus Llewellin’s speech is as follows:
“It’s hard to believe 12 months have passed since we last got together – I guess must be a sign of age – but another year has indeed flashed by …
And while Brexit has been like a vampire squid wrapped around the face of the news industry, tonight we will once again showcase the fantastic work produced by the hugely talented professionals who grace the newspaper business in Scotland.
This celebration of the industry was established by our society way back in 1979 – in those far-off days when circulations were soaring and expenses were plentiful. That may have been 40 years ago but we are still in the fight – setting the agenda – and it is heartening to see more than 400 of us gathered here in Glasgow again.
For we are engaged in what I believe is still a noble endeavour and hopefully this ceremony will serve as a timely reminder to all of us that within our pages and on our various sites there is a still huge amount to admire.
Because, day in, day out, week in, week out, we – more than anyone else – break the news and provide the views that others follow – to the extent that nine out of 10 adults in this country read our titles every month and which helps make the Scottish public among the best-informed people on the planet.
Across Scotland news publishers still employ thousands and we continue to fight the good fight . . . Although it is a fight that is increasingly uneven.
Big Digital – Facebook and Google in particular – is hollowing out institutions across the economy and, as you know, we are not immune.
Earlier this year the Furman Report called on the UK to lead a global crackdown on their dominance . A little closer to home – and in the wake of the Cairncross Review – we will have to wait until the autumn for Ofcom’s latest assessment of the BBC’s performance.
It will be the first audit since the launch of the new BBC Scotland channel, which has now hired more than 80 journalists …. an impressive figure which – judging by the latest stats – isn’t far off the total number of viewers tuning in each night to watch The Nine.
The issue we have with the BBC is that it should be offering programmes and services that are substantially different those produced by comparable broadcasters and providers.
But even a cursory glance at what the corporation is churning out online will show that’s clearly not the case.
It’s now the biggest news publisher in the UK and it employs a publicly-funded army of journalists who relentlessly undermine what we do.
So while we face a threat from monopolistic institutions based in California, the monopolisitic BBC is also a clear and present danger to media plurality in Scotland – and beyond – and we believe it should be recognised as such.
Now, four decades ago we didn’t have a predatory Beeb to worry about – and somehow we also managed to get by without the internet, mobile phones and multi-platform publishing.
But since then we have all felt the impact of the digital revolution on our industry – and among the most marked changes over the past decade or so has been the growth of social media.
Today, whether we like it or not, the Twitters of this world are integral to what many of us do.
However, I suspect I may not be the only one in this room tonight who was delighted to see Stuart Campbell, the Wings Over Scotland blogger, fail in his recent defamation action against Kezia Dugdale.
In my youth I was told that to be a good journalist you needed – among other things – rat-like cunning and a pretty thick skin.
So with the Scottish government currently looking at modernising the laws surrounding defamation, Sheriff Ross’s verdict was a welcome victory for press freedom and a salutary lesson to a surprisingly sensitive soul who has made a very good living from dishing out insults.
Now, while Mr Campbell has ploughed his furrow from the comfort of his home in Bath, we were given a graphic illustration last week of the risks real journalists take when Lyra McKee was murdered while covering a riot in Derry.
A little earlier I wheeled out the hoary old cliché about journalism being a noble endeavour but the killing of this outstanding young woman – only hours after she revealed plans to propose to her partner – just goes to illustrate the point.
In many ways, as someone who worked across a range of print and digital titles, Lyra was a typical modern journalist.
But she was also part of a tradition most of us here share and which goes back well before 1979 – and that is a tradition of knocking on doors and putting in those hard yards in pursuit of the truth.
It’s something the armchair pontificators out there know next to nothing about – and another reason why most of them should just be ignored. “
Issued by BIG Partnership on behalf of the Scottish Press Awards. For more information, please contact Lauren Gaston on 0141 333 9585, 07710 700 322, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors:
Established by the Scottish newspaper industry in 1978, the Scottish Press Awards is a prestigious annual event which showcases the best journalistic talent in Scotland. More information can be found at www.scotns.org.uk