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Colin Campbell: Our aim was to help change things for the better

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The Highland News has served the area for decades.
The Highland News has served the area for decades.

I joined the Highland News as an 18-year-old in 1975 and left not far short of pension age in 2019. During those 44 years there were lengthy interludes away but I was always glad to return to the HN, imprinted on me in perpetuity as my first real love affair with newspapers.

I edited the paper in the 1980s – which was a high point, and wrote a column for it for nigh on 30 years. I was given the leeway to start doing a column at 18, and signed off at 62. Many things changed during that time but my enthusiasm for regaling the world – or at least the readership of the HN – with my opinions on issues affecting Inverness and beyond never wavered.

And neither did my enthusiasm for the Highland News. It’s sad to see it’s going now and the Thursday newsstands won’t be the same without that so familiar masthead and front page, but regrets are lessened by a sense of inevitability in these ever-changing times. It will be incorporated into the Courier and its burgeoning website, and will hopefully make its parent company, fittingly named Highland News & Media, stronger to meet the undoubted challenges ahead.

Colin Campbell.
Colin Campbell.

In its heyday in the 1980s the circulation of the HN topped out at over 12,000. It never matched the nearly 20,000 saturation point sales of the Courier – at the time still a rival – but with Inverness then still being a town rather than the sprawling city it is now, it went into many, many households.

And that gave it clout. What appeared in its pages from front to back mattered to readers and thus it had an inescapable impact on the powers that be. In the 1980s, as just one anecdote, I went along with a photographer to cover somone’s long service retirement, which happened to be in a council office in the vicinity of the town’s dog pound. We noticed that the strays were cramped night and day into a long open row of tight little cages that nowadays you’d barely keep a parrot in. It was a different era for animal welfare and so much else then but it still seemed pretty appalling.

The HN gave this local scandal the full justifiably outraged treatment, an emergency council meeting was called at the town house, and animated councillors – no doubt themselves concerned about the situation but also hit by a furious backlash from readers – were falling over each other to demand immediate changes. We did our bit for cruelly abandoned dogs then, and I still remember that as just one issue which yielded satisfaction.

And that’s what the HN did many times in its long and valuable existence serving the Inverness area. It made a difference and helped change things for the better, in ways large and small. The Courier now retains the clout and the responsibility for doing the same.

Sales of the HN remained strong well into the new century, but then the internet changed behaviour. The HN has outlived very many which expired before it. Yes, it’s sad to see it departing, but its parent company did well to keep it going for so long.

The paper not only served its readers, it also provided a good living for the countless number of people who worked for it over the years, and that will have been passed down the generations, even though many of today’s beneficiaries will be unaware of the indirect link they have with the HN.

The final HN will publish on December 29. See more from Colin in this week’s HN.

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