The Shetland Times
The newspaper has a circulation of over 11,300. "The Times", as it is commonly known in Shetland, was established in 1872 and costs 90 pence (March 2011). It was voted "Newspaper of the Year" by the Highlands and Islands Media Awards in 2006.
As a publisher, The Shetland Times has a long and distinguished history, involving the production of key original work, as well as a healthy list of reprints.
After a number of years in the post of Editor Vaila Wishart stepped down in 2006, and was replaced by Jonathan Lee, who had previously been with the Aberdeen Evening Express. His tenure in the post was short, and amid criticism in some quarters of changes in the style of the paper, and allegations of discord between Newsroom staff and Editor, which Mr Lee was at pains to point out were coincidental to his departure, it was announced in early 2008 that he would be leaving in March to take up the Editorship of the Cumbria North-West Evening Mail. . His replacement, Paul Riddell, formerly an assistant editor at The Scotsman newspaper was appointed later in the spring of 2008. .
The start of Times is said by some to be due to the influence of Charles G. Duncan encouraging journalist Donald Stephen to move to Shetland. Stephen had served his apprenticeship with The John O'Groat's Journal, and arrived in Shetland in 1872. He set about printing a four-page paper, using two hand presses, and the first edition appeared under the title of The Zetland Times, but this name was soon changed to The Shetland Times. Publication day was set as Saturday, but in practice in those early days the paper often only appeared on Monday, as the time of arrival of the boat with mail from Aberdeen, Scotland, containing news items and advertisements for inclusion ultimately dictated when it was published.
Within less than a year of operation the hand printing presses were replaced by a cylinder press, and an attempt was made to publish a separate paper for the town. The "Peerie Times" and "The Lerwick Times" experiment however was not a success and the former single paper format was reinstated. Stephen's health also began to fail, and in 1875 he left Shetland.
Christopher Sandison became the next owner of the business, and moved it in to premises in part of the upstairs of the then recently built 60 - 62 Commercial Street. The paper continued there until Sandison's health began to break down. In 1882 his brother Andrew entered the business as a partner, and following Christopher Sandison's death in 1883, Andrew continued the business on his own until 1894.
The partnership of Basil Johnson and Peter Greig then acquired the business, which is understood to have been bankrupt, and around the same time the premises again changed, to a building near where the Bank of Scotland is today, which was where the first powered printing press obtained by the business was installed. The partnership however had ambitions for their business, and erected a new building at 4 Mounthooly Street (now The Lounge Bar), where once they had moved in, they doubled the size of the paper for four to eight pages, and shortly after installed a linotype machine, making hand-setting of the paper obsolete.
The paper prospered, in its double size it soon more than doubled its circulation, a feat largely attributed to its advocacy of the Crofters Acts of 1886, on which they sought legal advice, and published as much land reform information as possible, and to its advocacy of Liberal Party policies.
From August 4th 1914 until the end of WWI, apart from an eight week period in the spring of 1915, the Times published daily "war editions" in addition to their weekly edition. Those were single page, and contained national news which was received from Central News, in London, England each morning, and distributed throughout the isles as a news sheet in the afternoon.
The eight week omission in 1915 was as a result of the business' premises at 4 Mounthooly Street and its contents being destroyed by fire in April of that year. Replacement premises and equipment were very difficult to locate during wartime, but the business managed to secure a lease on the former infant school in Prince Alfred Street (now the Lerwick Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), and with the help of printer's engineers H. Pullan & Sons, of Glasgow, Scotland, who scoured the country on their behalf, enough second-hand equipment was eventually sourced and installed to allow the business to resume operations after a two month break.
Unfortunately in the circumstances, installing the equipment direct on to the existing wooden floor on the building was something the business had little choice but to do, which led to numerous and ongoing production problems, and it was only in piecemeal fashion over the next 20 years that concrete beds were eventually installed for all of it, and 50 years before all of it was eventually replaced by more modern equivalents. The business occupied the Prince Alfred Street premises as their printing works, and latterly moved their offices there as well, until the 1980's when they moved to their current premises at Gremista.
Since acquiring the business in 1894 Basil Johnson had held the role of Editor, and his partner, Peter Greig, that of sole reporter, unless for a period of ill-health, when a succession of temporary replacement reporters were supplied by John Leng of the Dundee Courier.
Both Basil Johnson's son Bertie, and Peter Greig's son Bob saw active service in WWI, but with the arrival of peace time, they returned to Shetland and each took over their respective fathers' role in the business. Bertie Johnson as Editor/Manager and Bob Greig as sole reporter. Although effectively retired, Basil Johnson and Peter Greig retained their positions in the business, if only nominally, until that is Basil Johnson died in 1928, thereafter Peter Greig took no further active part in the business.
Bob Greig died suddenly in 1938 and thereafter until 1946 the paper had a number of reporters. Bertie Johnson died suddenly in 1942, leaving the business to his sister, Mrs. H.B. Wishart, who formed it in to a limited company, and hired a number of interim editors to keep the business ticking over during the war years.
In 1946 Mrs. Wishart's son, Basil, returned from war service, and took over the Editors post in April of that year. He teamed up with Hugh T. Crooks who had come to Shetland with the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) during the war, and had helped out at the paper from time to time, who took over the reporters post. The effects of the war years on a business which had been run by temporary people in its most key roles had taken its toll, and by 1946 it was at a very low ebb. Basil Wishart and Hugh Crooks set about building the business back up again piece by piece over the next two or so decades. The Times continued to appear faithfully each week on Friday, which had been adopted as the publishing day somewhere along the line, unless for six weeks in the summer of 1959 when a national printer's strike saw only a "mini Times" produced and printed by editorial and office staff being published. A steady replacement of equipment and modernisation of the paper was continually ongoing, with improved transport and communication links to the mainland UK following the introduction of mail being flown to and from the islands, etc, a number of previous long standing features of the paper became redundant and were withdrawn and/or replaced with more relevant material. The change from broadsheet to tabloid size occured around 1970, improved printing equipment installed during the 70's and 80's resulted in clearer photographs and sharper printing, and later the introduction of colour photographs.
As well as containing local news, the paper has many other features.
- News Page
- Smirks Cartoons - Cartoons done by Smirk appear every week, usually related to a current issue.
- Times Past - This section shows the headlines of the same week from 25, 50 and 100 years ago.
- Fishing and Marine News - News about local finishing landings, tide tables, forecast and other marine related news.
- Our Readers' Views - Letters written in by the readers, some come from readers all over the world, not just Shetland.
- Births, Marriages & Deaths
- Wilderness - Full page spread written by Jill Blackadder about Wildlife in Shetland.
- In The Garden -Half page spread written by Rosa Steppnova about plant life in Shetland.
- Entertainments - In this often multiple page-feature shows events that are on in Shetland over the coming weeks.
- What's New - Reviews on new films, books, TV's, music and other medium.
- Classifieds -These include the sale of Cars, Personal items and public notices. There is also religious information, job vacancies and birthdays.
- Property Sales
- STSport - Sports Page