Professor Wilson On Newspapers
My continued efforts to avoid spending every Wednesday night in a Glasgow pub led me to to accept an invitation from my old alma mater. Brian Wilson, the former Labour minister, was giving his inaugral lecture as visiting Professor at Glasgow Caledonian University. He was talking about the decline of the Scottish newspaper industry, which is also the subject of a forthcoming edition of BBC Radio Scotland's Investigation series.
It was the first time I had been back on the Cowcaddens campus since I graduated in 1987. I then travelled to University College Cardiff for the postgraduate diploma in journalism. As it turned out, Brian Wilson had been one of the first sixteen students on that same course.
For someone who has such an obvious love affair with newspapers it was refreshing to hear him talk in positive terms about the growth of internet news providers and even bloggers. But he was clearly worried about the eventual fate of the Scottish press. Some industry figures have predicted that the Herald and the Scotsman will both be defunct within ten years. I was sitting next to Vicky Nash, the Director of Ofcom in Scotland, who pointed out that everyone seemed concerned about this issue, but no one seemed to be coming up with many solutions. Professor Wilson rejected the idea of a Government sponsored commission to examine the issue.
The lecture was received warmly and I loved the pay-off story about his school sex education lesson. This, he said, was delivered by a very mysterious woman who told students that if a girl sits on a boy's knee there should always be a newspaper between them.
That, said Brian, was when he first became interested in newspapers.