Radio broadcaster, Ronnie Barbour has recently joined the Bylines Scotland team and over the coming weeks and months, he will be presenting podcasts to highlight “some of the brilliant articles on the Bylines Scotland website. Plus, we’ll meet the people behind the scenes – first up, editor-in-chief, Patricia Dos Santos Paton.”
Ronnie asked about Patricia’s background in science and she described how she has worked in science for many years, it being the main reason for her moving from Brazil to Scotland. Awarded an international fellowship with Wellcome Trust, she worked with the University of Glasgow for five or six years and then went on to private tuition after the birth of her daughter.
From science to editor-in-chief for Bylines Scotland
Going from science to becoming the editor-in-chief for Bylines Scotland was an interesting journey. Having heard about Bylines Scotland when they were ready to release their publication, Patricia got in touch with the offer to write science articles and from there went on to edit as well. When the previous editor had to leave, she jumped in as editor-in-chief.
This was very different to her background so Patricia explained that it has been a learning process and that the support from the entire network and our team has been brilliant, because it wouldn’t be possible do this alone. She explains, “Our Bylines editorial board is very good as well in supporting and helping.”
Why the network has taken hold
Ronnie shared his first impression of the network when it launched, “This is going to be really good, but actually to be honest, isn’t going to last very long. But it has really taken hold. Why do you think that it has taken hold?”
Patricia described how the level of articles being written and the interest level is so high. Having started in Yorkshire, articles were being published alongside Byline Times, which became so successful that they started to think that it was time for them to have their own journey. And that’s how everything started; people became engaged in the articles being produced and that is how the network became so successful. People got interested because the level of the writers coming forward is fantastic. “They needed something of this kind to express their voices.”
How Bylines Scotland ensures the truth
Discussing the high tension now between reporting and truth with misinformation causing mistrust in the media realm, Patricia went on to outline how Bylines Scotland ensures that we get the truth. Firstly everything that is said in the article is checked, backups through references are asked for claims and if there are no backups or there are doubts, it gets checked by the editors. The preference for Bylines is not to back up through other newspapers, but to find a good source that can be trusted; this can be difficult and of course, takes longer.
Addressing Ronnie’s question about how readers face an increasingly grey area between opinion and fact, Patricia explained that backups are asked for even with opinion pieces, especially with sensitive issues. Sometimes this is difficult for writers but it is extremely important. Giving a voice to Scottish people is a priority and Bylines can help writers to strengthen their articles.
Bringing impartialily and voices from all corners
Ronnie asked about how Bylines Scotland approaches Scottish independence, with this being an issue that is very much at the front of people’s minds. Patricia described how there are a lot of articles coming forward about independence, which of course can be published if they are fact-based. But Bylines doesn’t want to be a pro-independence newspaper and tries to make sure there is balance in content. She stressed that voices from all corners are received, to represent the voices of everyone in Scotland. Impartiality can be hard and sometimes complaints are made as opinions differ, but if an article is factual, it can be published.
Discussing the kind of writers that Bylines Scotland are looking for, Patricia went on to say “Of course, we would like some hard journalists, but our main aim is to provide an opportunity for people to express their voices.” She described how the paper has helped people who have come from refugee camps to share their fascinating stories. Writers who have moved from countries like Afghanistan or Iran have opportunities to express and publish, which otherwise may not have been possible. The diversity in personalities coming forward has been surprising, and quite amazing to her as editor and she expressed her gratitude to the Scottish people.
Independent citizen journalism as a model
Ronnie asked if the model of Bylines Scotland is something that other news outlets could look at or that mainstream newspapers can rediscover. He highlighted the concern of the public about the financial interests behind papers causing a lack of trust. Patricia responded, “I don’t know if they would use us as a model – if they do, it would be great for society, but I hope that they wait for us to be well set up!”
Drawing from his experience of working in the BBC and commercial radio, Ronnie described how “The pressure was always to sell commercial advertising. The BBC has never been under bigger scrutiny than it is now in terms of the way it’s telling its stories, the outlets it’s using and the fact-checking as well. So, it seems to be bashed against the wall at the moment, and I think it would be a shame if we lose the BBC but I can see why it could be lost.” Patricia agreed that it would be a shame, given the high level of quality in programmes but that there were issues and politics that they needed to address.
Encouraging a wide range of writers
When asked about how new writers, both young and old can be encouraged to write for Bylines, she outlined the student placement opportunity to help improve journalism skills for young people. There is a need for more investigative journalism and Ronnie agreed that “There’s always been a wee bit of elitism about some of the big universities, but some of the best producers I ever worked with came from very moderate backgrounds. I’m hoping that Bylines Scotland can do that as well and give opportunity for the less-heard voices and to get the next lot of truthful journalists in place.”
Christmas is in the corner
He went on to say, We are recording this on 19 December, so I’ve got to ask you with my investigative hat on, “What are you doing for Christmas then, Patricia?” She replied, “I am going to spend at home, quietly with my husband, daughter and my two brothers-in-law. Not formal at all, very easy-going, just enjoying the day and chatting!”. Ronnie asked, “There’ll be no alcohol consumed obviously, there’ll be none of that going on…”
“Oh no, it’s not allowed in this house. Just ten bottles of wine will be enough!”
Getting in touch with Bylines Scotland
Finishing off the podcast, Ronnie wanted to find out for listeners what the best way would be to get in contact with a story. Patricia responded, “It would be through email, just email [email protected] and I will answer immediately or if not, almost!”
Supporting the Network
As we are part of Bylines Network, a not-for-profit private company, we rely on donations to keep us going. Please do support citizen journalism and help us bring to you unbiased, transparent reporting to the forefront! There are two ways of doing so: donating to the Network’s crowdfunding and to Bylines Scotland’s publication.