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Saddled by debt, student newspaper The Journal shuts down

ByThurston Smalley

Sep 16, 2015

The Journal, a fortnightly student newspaper produced in Edinburgh since 2007, wound down operations over the summer after eight years of service to the Edinburgh student community.

The Edinburgh Sheriff Court’s July 23 appointment of Grant Thornton LLP to liquidate the business ended months of uncertainty over the paper’s future.

The Journal was forced to cease printing in the first half of 2015 amidst mounting debts, a stark reversal of fortunes for a publication that at one time boasted a print run of 10,000 copies.

“We had struggles during my time but I never felt I saw anything to suggest the thing would collapse as quickly as it has done,” said Sean Gibson, who served as editor-in-chief of The Journal in 2012/13.

“That said, my year as editor-in-chief seemed to contain more than the usual business blips. We were consistently and increasingly delayed hitting the stands each fortnight.

“After Christmas, the few editorial positions (mine included) that came with any pay, any recompense, didn’t see any more money coming in. Maybe the business model needed to change but editorial staff couldn’t really get any clarity on that during my time.

“This all seemed to contrast with the apparently positive advertising situation, where we had expanded our portfolio, sealed our biggest single deal and hired several more sales staff – all in that year. So we didn’t really believe things could be all that bad.”

But last year, The Journal hired the infamously provocative Daniel Scott Lintott to serve as editor-in-chief after the resignation of John Hewitt Jones (disclosure: before joining The Journal, Scott Lintott served as TV editor and then editor-in-chief at The Student).

Editorial staff told The Student that Scott Lintott’s relationships with the paper’s editorial staff were extremely turbulent, and the company’s financial situation further deteriorated under his leadership.

Asked in August about The Journal’s liquidation, or “winding up” order, Scott Lintott replied: “What’s a winding up order? Lol”.

Despite the reported drama surrounding The Journal’s final chapter, its former staff will remember the newspaper for its quality, its journalistic rigour, and its role in launching the professional careers of student journalists.

The Journal gave a platform to a lot of brilliant young journalists in its time, and occasionally people even read the paper. In that respect, it did its job,” said Marcus Kernohan, editor-in-chief of The Journal from 2010 to 2012 and editorial director until his graduation in 2013.

“Having a diverse range of platforms for discussion and debate on campus is unquestionably a good thing, and it’s sad any time that pool gets smaller and shallower.”

In remarks to The Student, Dan Minghella, a former features editor at The Journal, said: “I think the students at the University of Edinburgh could use a paper that exists fully independently of EUSA, especially when EUSA is such a powerful force within the university.

“A lot of the more contentious stories which I reported on in my first year reflected poorly on EUSA and, honestly, it was nice to not be accountable to them in that scenario.”

On the future of student journalism at Edinburgh, Minghella said: “Much of the talent that The Journal would have attempted to poach has now come to The Student, so I don’t feel as if The Journal’s closure has severely negatively impacted student journalism at Edinburgh, but at the time I was working there it was a paper with very high standards for its journalists.”

By Thurston Smalley

Thurston is a final year French and politics student from Chertsey, England. He first wrote for his high school newspaper, The Phillipian, in 2009. He began writing for The Student in 2011, became News Editor in 2012, and Editor in Chief in 2015. He currently serves as President.

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