Why the closure of The Independent hurts journalists so much

IT is not just the fact that a national newspaper is closing that hurts so much (though that is bad enough, not least for the 150 full-time staff who face losing their jobs).

The pain is particularly acute because it is The Independent, which was a pioneer in so many ways when it was first published in 1986.

It was the same year that Eddie Shah launched Today, whose colour presses started a technological revolution in Fleet Street.

In those early days, however, The Indie (has a nickname of such affection ever been bestowed on another national newspaper?) was resolutely black and white.

In fact, it revelled in its monochrome, publishing huge, crisp, high-contrast photographs by the likes of Don McCullin that were extraordinarily informative and emotive.

Writers, too, were given the space and freedom to express themselves.

I still have somewhere a yellowing clipping of Robert Fisk’s deeply moving and searingly honest interview with a tank commander on the eve of the first Gulf War in 1991. I remember cutting it out and hoping that I would one day be able to write like that. I fear I may wait even longer for that wish to come true.

But it wasn’t just The Indie’s news coverage that was ground-breaking. It also introduced the Alex cartoon strip to a mass audience. Alex a snobbish, money-obsessed banker, the sort of character who came to typify the Eighties. He was unmissable.

But those glory days are long gone. The Indie launched in a decade when the future for the newspaper business seemed dazzling. Rupert Murdoch had bought the Times and Sunday Times, and there were the launches of The Mail on Sunday, London Daily News, News on Sunday, Scotland on Sunday, Wales on Sunday and Sunday Correspondent.

Today the internet is posing a huge challenge for newspaper publishers, though the survival of The Independent as a digital brand has to be seen as an expression of optimism.

It had, however, better get its act together. When I was researching this post news The Indie failed to get a single entry about its own demise on the first page of a Google search: “Closure of The Independent”.




About John Wilson

Editor of Hereford Times, Ludlow Advertiser, Stroud News and Journal, Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard and Gloucestershire Gazette series. Journalist for more than 30 years.
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