Saturday, 9 July 2011

Separatism and Newsnet Scotland

With current news and debate preoccupied by the paroxysm surrounding the press, politics and police regarding the News of the World affair, a perhaps significant event in the short history of a rival to the MSM in Scottish political discourse has gone largely unnoticed.

But it seems that nationalist website Newsnet Scotland has split in two, thus perhaps taking its own advice regarding independence, autonomy and forging one's own destiny to its logical conclusion.

Slightly more seriously, it seems that as a result of a top-level power struggle at the site an effectively identical web presence has been set up under the domain, thus competing head on with the established

The statements issued by the two sites do little to clarify precisely what has happened, and since NNS seems to have been run primarily by volunteers operating under a cloak of anonymity then this hardly aids transparency and clarity.

However, according to NNS1 the problems have arisen due to the actions of one particular individual who has had ideas for the site's development and management which have set them on a collision course with others contributing to the site. Following an emergency board meeting and the failure to resolve the dispute the individual has parted company with NNS1 and set up NNS2.

But NNS2 claims: "Plans have been drawn up and steps been taken to transition what was a simple blog and turn it into a world class digital content producer and distribution platform that will rival traditional newspapers in new and innovative ways while placing Scotland at the centre of the next leap in digital journalism."

Moreover, the board is "excited about the new challenges and opportunities that are ahead", but NNS's founder "would prefer to keep his interest in publishing to the relms [sic] of blogging and let the board move on to more ambitious goals".

Thus NNS2 presents the split as fairly amicable and essentially due to a lack of ambition by the site's creator, but NNS1 disputes this, saying: "One of the first things that was done was the naming of a volunteer to Newsnet Scotland, erroneously naming this individual as the creator of As well as being wrong on that specific matter it was also blatant breach of our pledge to protect the identity of volunteers.

"We are saddened that this step has been taken and trusts have been breached and as a team offer our apologies to the individual named. We hope it does not do lasting damage to the reputation and good standing of Newsnet Scotland."

So both sides are claiming the right to proprietorship of the Newsnet Scotland title and website, and it's perhaps instructive that both also claim to have the backing of the board.

Interestingly, however, the board of directors' webpage seems to have been removed from NNS1 (this is from the Google cache) but has reappeared in identical form on NNS2.

Thus reading between the lines it appears that disagreements over the direction of NNS's management and content has resulted in personality clashes and a subsequent power struggle. On the one side seems to be the site's founding grassroots members, volunteers and contributors, while the other side is probably led by media professional George Kerevan, or Alex Porter - both members of the original board - or both.

And while both sides are portraying themselves as a group of people against a maverick or unambitious individual the truth very probably lies somewhere in between those two extremes, and of course there is no doubt a significant body of volunteers, contributors and donors stuck in no man's land and who don't know which way to turn. But with one side talking of "considering legal advice" and the other mentioning a "security breach", the two sides are clearly irreconcilable and the current position unsustainable. Both NNSs can't continue in their current form.

Of course, Newsnet Scotland started on a simple Blogger platform like Planet Politics but now has a distinct and dedicated web presence together with a significant number of readers, contributors and financial donors. But while many nationalists in particular saw the unashamedly pro-independence site as being a potential rival to the MSM generally and its pro-Union bias in particular, despite its significant achievements and the troubles of the established press it seemed unlikely to become a major player, in the short to medium term at least: it's that political and online bubble again, with the real world carrying on regardless.

However, despite the opportunities presented by the MSM's difficulties in Scotland - the declining circulations, the demise of the Sunday Times Scotland, the emasculation of the Labourite Daily Record and Sunday Mail, and now the closure of the News of the World and the the likely consequent difficulties for News International's other titles - and notwithstanding the obvious ambition of some of those associated with Newsnet Scotland, the irony of the website's problems and subsequent split at this time will be lost on no one. And if the generally Unionist MSM have viewed Newsnet as a potential rival then they'll have double cause to indulge in some schadenfreude this weekend.

Also, regular readers of this blog won't be surprised to learn that its author won't be crying himself to sleep over either the NotW's demise or NNS's current difficulties, but it's difficult not to feel sorry for some of those caught up in all of this, in particular those unpaid volunteers who will have devoted significant time, effort and perhaps also financial resources into building Newsnet Scotland from a humble blog into a popular and significant online presence in Scottish political debate.

And it's also ironic that the site's less than amicable divorce provides a nice wee parable - the perceived unfair dominance of one group to the detriment of the other, the different directions of travel - regarding the struggle for an independent Scotland.

Update: An article on the original NNS site this morning adds some flesh to the bones of a dispute between a developing corporate/professional management structure and the original grassroots/volunteer ethos of the site, with the former setting up NNS2 as a consequence and the latter reasserting control over NNS1.

The statement also says that the door remains open to George Kerevan, Harry McGrath and Stephen Maxwell, suggesting that Alex Porter - the other member of the Board of Directors - was the unnamed individual who led the new corporate structure which ultimately clashed with the established less formal team, and who thus subsequently left to set up NNS2 and is now claiming to represent the authentic Newsnet Scotland.

Thus it all looks very messy - particularly as regards the financial aspects - and seems unlikely to be easily resolved, even assuming that those running NNS2 conclude that the game's up.

Of course, from the readers' perspective normal service could resume in fairly short order, but behind the scenes things could take some time to sort out.


cynicalHighlander said...

Online Editor

Hopefully an amicable resolution soon.

James said...

This is a better version of the blogpost I was about to write. Thanks/Curse you (delete as appropriate).

Stuart Winton said...


For some reason I can't access the link you've provided - assuming it is a link - but if it's to this morning's NNS1 update then I've accordingly added a bit to my post.


Oh go on, write it anyway/apologies!!

Anonymous said...

Newsnet Scotland, whatever its form is in no way an impartial medium. They promote only none point of view, being separatism and broach no other opinion. It is a disgrace and an affront to democracy in Scotland.

cynicalHighlander said...

Stuart Winton

Your update has overtaken my incomplete link, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Whatever happens I just hope that stories like this are publicised by the MSM although I have my doubts.

sm753 said...

It is usually the case that small cliques of True Believers splinter and start fighting each other - here is another case.

NutNetScotland is no more an "online newspaper" than I am a pineapple. It is a communal blog; a means for the True Believers to vent their opinions, rants and obsessions.

It has never managed to distinguish and separate factual reporting from opinion - a key requirement for a proper news channel. (But of course it didn't matter, because the "MSM" was "biased" against the True Belief.)

I'm surprised someone like Kerevan with a real reputation to lose (up to a point - does the Norwegian Navy really have "70" "ships", George?) got involved with them. He probably regrets that now.

Stuart Winton said...

Indeed, portraying it as a 'news' site is stretching credulity slightly.

However, no one can otherwise object to an opinion-based website, but what worries me is that some of the contributors seem to think it's balanced and objective.

I can't make up my mind if they're delusional or dishonest ;0)

barbarian said...

NNS is well presented and has a good look to it. But personalities have taken over, and some of these would do Alex Neil proud in their views on independence at any cost.

NNS is going to die unless certain people learn to listen to others. But that is unlikely to happen.

They have ran before they could walk.