There’s something incredible about the way newsrooms power through big stories with a sense of invincibility and the deeply ingrained belief that anything is possible if you just keep pushing as hard as you can and ignore the bags under everyone’s eyes.
The coronavirus outbreak isn’t like any other story I’ve seen in my career. There are always massive stories happening in the world, but they often happen so far away that you can feel detached from the misery and suffering people face in their lives. Most of the stories have a clear beginning and a clear end – this one certainly has a beginning, but nobody can see an end just yet.
The journalists and technical staff at STV News work across this country to bring news to you online 24-7, to produce two six o’clock programmes (with four separate regional variations built in to cover local news in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen), Scotland Tonight and bulletins throughout the day.
They are running flat out to reflect the country back to itself and make sure everyone has the vital information they need to keep their families safe through what is likely the most terrifying period they’ve ever experienced. They’re living all of the journalism cliches – they’re tireless, they’re world-weary, they are relentless, they are accurate, they are clever and they are dedicated.
But they are also human – and this is a story without an expiry date.
That’s why we’re changing our focus for the next little while. Instead of doing a six o’clock programme for the north and a six o’clock programme for the central belt, we will be producing one programme to serve the entire country. We’re not replacing one programme with the other – this is about creating something new that is flexible and resilient at a time of rapid change.
This will allow us to better triage our daily demands and to rest people up so they’re in it for the long haul and able to provide an essential public service at a time of uncertainty. It will also allow us to dedicate some time in our precious news slot for the public service announcements and government updates that are critical sources of information as well.
That doesn’t mean you won’t see your communities in the coverage. It’s my solemn promise that we’ll be as present as we have ever been in the company’s 55-plus years of broadcasting, and that the presenters and reporters that you’ve grown to trust will continue to visit you in your living rooms each night as we try to make the most of our time as social distancers.
And we’re doubling down on our commitment to deliver you news online at news.stv.tv. Our digital audiences have doubled in the last two weeks as Scots seek out information they know they can trust and we’re going to be there with fresh content around the clock.
Our reporters across the country will be filing stories direct to the site from their own communities and communities across the country. I’ve also made it clear that any community newspaper is welcome to use our content in their print edition if it helps them fill the papers and inform readers at a time of reduced resources and potentially greater-than-average sick days among their reporting staff.
The people who make STV News don’t just cover Scottish communities – we live in them. The journalists and technical staff shop in your shops, eat in your restaurants and take their kids to the same football fields and stand watching in the sideways rain. A pan-national programme is part of our plan to ensure they stay healthy, stay sharp and most importantly have time to spend with their families when they aren’t chasing the news you need to know about.
Thanks for your understanding and the trust you continue to place in STV News. We’ll get back to normal as soon as the world settles back down.
Steve Ladurantaye is the head of news and current affairs at STV PLC.