Byline: PETER McCUSKER
IT'S certainly an interesting time to interview the former managing director of The Scotsman and Warwick Brindle pulls no punches when it comes to the News of the World phone hacking scandal.
"There is absolutely no way Rebekah Brooks would not have known what was going on," he argues. "Just imagine for a moment if she did not know, then the editorial staff must have thought she was a right patsy. That they thought so little of her they did not want to tell her. "Or, alternatively they would have thought they could get way with it on her watch. Either way that leaves her without much of a leg to stand on as an editor. So if that was the case, which I doubt it was, she was completely out of her depth."
Moving on to the wider picture he continued: "What's happening is horrendous. I have no idea what they thought they were doing and they've dropped everyone in it. Everyone seems to know it was going on."
In 1993 Brindle was appointed to one of the newspaper industry's top jobs, as managing director of The Scotsman, but that came to an end when the Barclay Brothers bought the Edinburgh-based title in 1995.
Brindle then accepted an opportunity to move to the United States at the request of former Scotsman, and indeed former Journal owners, the Thomson Group.
His newspaper journey had begun more than 20 years earlier when he secured a job in the circulation department at his home town newspaper the Burnley Star.
Earlier, on leaving college in Wolverhampton with an arts degree in 1972, he had launched his first business venture, a design and ceramics company with his wife Maureen and two other business partners.
This is where he says he learnt his first business lesson. "Two is difficult, three is a committee," he says. In 1988 he came to the North East to take over the role of deputy managing director at the Evening Chronicle, Journal and Sunday Sun in Newcastle, then owned by Thomson.
And the ensuing eight years saw him move in quick succession to Chester, Teesside and up to Scotland for the top job at the Scotsman.
He says his father was a key inspiration in his life, always encouraging him to achieve.
"My dad would always push me. He always wanted to know what would be my next step. He had run a family-owned textile business in Lancashire. The family sold it to a large competitor, which he joined and went on to be managing director of, in a sense he set the bar high."
And self-effacingly for such a high-achiever Brindle contends: "I always found the biggest challenge was being able to do the job when I was promoted to it. Before I got the job I used to think it was easy, until I started to do it!" On the future of newspapers there is a note of exasperation in his voice when he reflects on the latest dictat from Richard Desmond and his Express Group.
"They say new media landscape is about convergence of TV, newspapers, the internet and around-the-clock news. We were talking about that 25 years ago, it's hardly new.
"The media has to continue to diversify, but I cannot imagine a world without newspapers, although I doubt whether some of the smaller regional newspapers will be able to survive.
"The margins are still good in the newspaper industry. They were around 40% when I was in the industry and they're down to about 25% now."
He believes there may well be some fragmentation, with some of the larger newspaper groups possibly willing to listen to offers for some of their regional titles.
"The Trinity Mirrors, the Johnston Presses may well put them up for sale. Outside of the control of some of the larger companies then independent regionals will be happy to work with lower margins allowing them the opportunity to reinvest into their products."
On the current recession he says it's different to the previous ones he has experienced. …