Starting at Scottish Field as Web Editor just a year ago, Kenny Smith has witnessed the appetite for online content rise. So how does a well-established Scottish lifestyle print title adapt to meet this demand?
As part of our Meet the Journalist series, we wanted to find out more about Kenny, his background and what’s new at Scottish Field. Find out what he had to say when we caught up…
What do you read/where do you get your news from?
“Usually a quick look at the Daily Record and the Herald, as well as BBC News Scotland to see what’s happening, and if there’s anything that I can follow up on or develop.”
Did you always know you wanted to be a journalist?
“Yes! I got into journalism almost by chance. I entered a competition in the (sadly defunct) Scottish Football Today magazine, in which there was the chance to win a weekend with Scotsport, the Scottish Television football show, back in the early 1990s. You had to complete a tie-breaker, “I think Scotsport is extra special because…” and I completed it by saying… “It’s the only sports programme without Chick Young on it.” And I won! That gave me an insight into journalism, and I took it from there.”
What have been your career highlights?
“I was editor of the Ayrshire Post when it won Scottish Local Weekly Newspaper of the Year for 2017, which was a real highlight. Other moments include getting to meet and interview heroes from my youth and my present, such as Sylvester McCoy, Peter Capaldi and Alex McLeish. That’s the stuff that dreams are made of.”
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
“Check your facts. If in doubt, check it out. If still in doubt, leave it out. Treat everyone how you would want to be treated in return. No matter how rude some people can be to you, you must always keep your dignity, because you are an ambassador for your employer. Oh, and always get your expenses right!”
What is your favourite topic to cover?
“I love film, radio and TV, so getting the chance to speak to actors, writers and directors is something I enjoy. I’m fascinated by the creative process, and find there’s so many angles to cover when doing this.”
What are the advantages of a good journalist / PR relationship?
“Everyone can win if there’s an element of trust. Journalists can be given tip-offs that certain things are coming up, or, in some cases, can have the story first and ready to break before others have it, if it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. The journalist and the PR both win!”
What is the worst habit of a PR?
“Press releases that are missing obvious facts. And then, not including a contact phone number. Oh, and sending press releases with an embedded picture in a Word document, which is isn’t always easy to extract. Separate jpegs please, people!”
What challenges do journalists face today?
“Finding new, original content. So many are reliant on being sent press releases, rather than the good old fashioned style of getting out there, meeting people and writing their own stories with original quotes. Most prefer to rely on rewriting what’s sent to them – but a lot of that is down to resources and fewer staff having to do more work.”
How do you prefer PRs get in touch with you?
“I quite like getting a phone call in advance, to say that something is coming through, if it’s a good one, and then receive it by email.”
What stories / angles are you looking for?
“Something new, something Scottish. Scottish Field has a very distinct feel in the areas it covers, such as culture, travel, homes, outdoors, etc, so something that fits in with those is ideal.”
Has the readership of Scottish Field changed over the last five years? And how (if at all) has this impacted the content?
“I’ve been with Scottish Field for nearly a year now, but I’m aware from looking at older editions that our editor, Richard Bath, has taken what was a strong magazine, and made it even better. We had a relaunch earlier this year with a clean, fresh look and redesign, and new features, with regular columnists who provide entertaining comment on different areas of life relevant to the readers. It’s gone down well. The big change is the rise in our online readership, which has increased substantially, and advertisers that want to partner with us on our website.”
How does editing content for online differ from print?
“By and large, the online content is different to the print version. We tend to carry more immediate news on the website, which wouldn’t make the print deadline for the magazine. We do feature magazine content, from our Leopard edition for Aberdeenshire, Cask & Still magazine, as well as Scottish Field Edinburgh, but the print title comes first, so I supplement that with new content online, including videos. We have a new video feature, 60 Second Dram, which is great fun, and it’s EXACTLY what it sounds like from the title. Please do check it out!”
How can PRs help with content for online channels?
“Sometimes we receive content that just isn’t quite right for the Scottish Field brand. We like to feature more light-hearted material for the evenings, when people are home after a hard day at work, and want something that will entertain them. If you’ve got something that reflects the quality lifestyle side of things in Scotland, then please do get in touch!”