Island press

July 10, 2018

My Scottish Islands research took me to Arran for a few days. I stopped by the Arran Banner to talk to the editor of the island's only newspaper and famous for having one of the highest circulations in the world (in times of record low newspaper circulations). All islanders read it, with many subscribers among those who have left the island or come here just for their holidays.

 

Apparently, it is renowned for the heated discussion in its Letters to the Editor section which recently included debates on climate change, the state of Arran's roads, toilets and the new ferry service to the island. When the paper was sold to a mainland newsgroup, they did not bother to have a reporter on the island which caused much discontent leading to the paper placing two reporters locally that cover the whole island and on just about everything and anything that matters to the island inhabitants.

 

One of my interviewees summed up well life on the island and how media need to pay attention to island community relations: "you spit on someone, they all get wet"! I loved the expression as it very much encapsulates small island life, reciprocal relationships, and relational accountability. When the paper made the cardinal mistake to name those who had committed some crime (not much on the island, often petty kind of crime), that did not go down well, as someone told me "why should the family of this person be shamed and made responsible for the bad actions of their relative?" The newspaper did learn from this and no longer names the criminal!

 

The Arran Banner has a Webcam that operates 24 hours per day overlooking Brodick Bay where you can see the ferry come in and out (or tied up if the weather is bad!) Looking at the comments on its facebook page, it looks like it's those islanders that are not on the island that watch this expressing feelings of nostalgia. This reminds me of the Setuchi Cable TV on the Japanese island of Amami Oshima that is broadcasting live the happenings of the local port with music, acting like a window to the town's important hub and great for those elderly islanders who are housebound.

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