About your journalism
What have you been up to since leaving the Scottish Sunday Express last May?
One of the major things that leaving the Express allowed me to do was to fulfil an ambition to write a book. Almost straight away I began work on ghost-writing the autobiography of one of the Deepcut mothers, having secured a publishing deal with Mainstream and Random House.
That aside, I’ve been spending time with the family – my wife and I recently celebrated the birth of our second child – and plotting out what I’ll do next when I return to the job market.
What encouraged you to get involved with Yvonne Collinson’s tragic story?
I have known Yvonne for more than 10 years, having written about her tragic story in the Sunday Express since 2002. Indeed, in the autumn of 2002 I launched a newspaper campaign demanding a public inquiry into her son, James’, death.
Yvonne is a remarkable lady, and she has supported me as much as I have her over the past decade. She clearly had a story to tell, but what I learned about her, and what people will read in her book, is astonishing.
What was your highlight whilst at the Express?
Any newspaper editor will say there are many highlights, and it’s true. A great front page story is satisfying, as is when circulation figures go up rather than down. Covering major stories is what any journalist wants to do and there were so many.
My favourite scoop latterly was when we exposed a conman who claimed he was a war veteran and was supposedly raising hundreds of thousands of pounds for Help For Heroes. He wasn’t a veteran and he didn’t send any money to the charity. Instead, following our story, he was given a prison sentence.
With print media in decline, what can editors do to keep readership high?
It’s true to say print media is in decline, but only in its news print format. In contrast, the readership of online newspapers around the world is soaring. I firmly believe in the UK it’s time to start thinking about condemning newsprint to the history books, and move forward on e-formats only, whether that be iPad and tablet versions (such as the version given free by the Daily Record), news apps, or websites such as the successful Mail Online.
Do you do freelance work? What do you write about?
I haven’t decided as yet whether to go back into newspapers as a freelancer. I know how tough it can be to make a living, though having said that it’s difficult just to walk away from what I know best.
What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I’d love to pen the official biography of volatile Hearts Football Club owner Vladimir Romanov. He has such an interesting background, from his childhood in Lithuania to his controversial arrival in Scottish football.
About you and PRs
How can PRs normally be useful to you?
Modern journalism relies on PR people, and I’m not simply talking about those we rely on for the crisis-management point of view. Pick up any newspaper and you’ll find at least one of the features, news photo-calls, or travel editorials have been arranged by a PR company.
How and when do you like them to get in touch?
When they have good editorial!
Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
Everything that helps produce a good news or feature story, or goes in to making a good newspaper, has to be welcomed.
How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
Who knows! From my earliest days I’ve always wanted to be a journalist, and sat watching the original Superman movies in the late 1970s dreaming of being Clark Kent.
If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
It has to be a holiday. Being away from the media means those nice (and free) press trips to foreign lands are all but a distant memory.
Do you tweet? Why, why not?
I do tweet, but as a late developer I’m still working out what to do with it. Plus, frankly, these days being out of the newspaper industry I have very little of note to say. Just wait until Yvonne’s book is published, then I’ll be tweet-tastic.
What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
Having just finished 'Against The Odds' (David Torrance’s biography of Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond), I am about to begin Jeffrey Deaver's 007 novel 'Carte Blanche'.
What is your next career move?
If I knew that, I’d be there already. Eight months is a long time to be out of the loop as far as the media in Scotland is concerned, so it’s time to get back to work.