I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry after watching the BBC’s fly-on-the-wall documentary about The Herald and its stablemate titles.

Some colleagues believed it was a valuable exercise that revealed the wider problems facing our industry. Others felt the two-part series did not explore whether the scale of the newsroom cuts had to be made. I fall somewhere in the middle.

I should also declare an interest. Despite the kind invitations of the documentary makers, I opted against taking part. Interviews commenced in the wake of the demise of the Sunday Herald, for which I worked for over a decade. Closure was the correct decision – the new Herald on Sunday is a fantastic read – but I wasn’t keen on talking about the old paper’s troubled final few weeks.

Both episodes – Off Stone and Banging Out – highlighted the dilemma facing newspapers in the 21st century. Although the public has a larger appetite than ever for news, these same individuals are increasingly unwilling to pay for it. Circulations have fallen off a cliff over the last decade. Against this backdrop, cuts are inevitable. When I joined the Sunday Herald 15 years ago, the number of reporters employed was in double figures. At the Herald on Sunday, we were down to two full-timers.

En route to work in 2004, a sizeable proportion of passengers would be reading a newspaper purchased moments earlier. These days, my fellow travellers are either reading the (free) Metro or devouring content on their smart-phones. Technology is empowering, but the newspaper world has so far failed to come up with a viable business model for the digi-age. Unless solutions are found, the print media will go the same way as coal mining.

The documentary focused on the Herald and National titles, but it could easily have been made about any publishing group in the country. One of the most depressing moments in Scottish journalism in recent years was when the Scotsman downsized from its grand HQ overlooking Arthur's Seat to one of Edinburgh’s ugliest buildings miles from the Parliament. It is better to make savings from bricks and mortar than staff, but the flit seemed symbolic.

A challenge is that – and I put this gently – newspapers and their journalists are not popular. If a newspaper closes, a chunk of the population will cheer. Politicians, many of whom see the media as a threat rather than an opportunity, would not lift a finger. And nor should they. Ploughing money into a loss-making newspaper would make the loans to Prestwick Airport look like a decent return. We are on our own.

Part of this troubled relationship with the public can be traced to the Leveson Inquiry. A very small number of individuals who engaged in criminality – phone hacking, blagging – tarnished the reputation of an industry that has always done more good than harm. In Scotland, the independence referendum is an added factor. The so-called “BBC bias” demos were Trumpian in nature. I also vividly recall a march where a Yes supporter, apropos of nothing, informed me that he wanted the Herald to close. Scrutiny of journalism is valid, but nastiness has become pervasive.

Quality journalism, as the documentary showed, is more necessary than ever. There will always be crooks, cheats, liars, expenses fiddlers and others up to no good. There will always be matters of huge public concern being discussed in local government and in our sheriff courts. We need reporters, not click bait merchants, to cover these subjects. Newspapers are not just businesses, but are a vital part of the democratic process. Fewer journalists is good news for bad politicians.

I leave the Herald on Sunday on excellent terms. Since 2004, I was lucky to have worked for editors who were supportive and encouraging. I can recall having two bad days in 15 years. Over 95% of my stories were published, a hit rate any hack would accept. Our stable still employs some of the finest journalists in the country. They need the same support.