My first few days at The Independent in 2004 didn’t go so well. I quit after two weeks. Fortunately I changed my mind, stuck around, and over the subsequent five years worked there in a variety of editorial roles with many superb, innovative journalists who remain close friends.
I’ve been thinking of them in recent days – especially those still at the titles – as it has been announced that The Independent and The Independent on Sunday are to cease publishing in print next month.
It is probably inevitable that those of us who worked there feel somewhat melancholic. Former Indy reporter Jonathan Foster, now of the University of Sheffield, marks the moment here by reflecting on the launch and early years of what was a ground-breaking product.
But does the end of the Indy in print really matter more widely? After all, the paper published today looks very different to that Foster helped launch in 1986. Its circulation is now 40,000. It has already gone through near-annual rounds of cost cutting that have taken out many specialist reporters.
We’ll have more content this week from some of the sharpest minds looking at what the Indy tremors mean alongside broader shifts in the international media’s tectonic plates. It is worth pointing out that the influence of a newspaper in the UK still stretches way beyond its immediate readership. Other media look to print titles – and a key indication of that is the plethora of “newspaper review” slots on television and radio. It has seemed preposterous for some time that these have not evolved to take on board new media outlets such at The Conversation. Perhaps with The Independent now as a digital-only brand the broadcasters will update their review shows.
But one other pressing matter will immediately highlight the lack of the Indy as a printed banner of free thought. This week the details of a deal regarding Britain’s future in Europe will be unveiled. A referendum on UK membership of the EU will follow. The Independent’s bold front pages would have provided a different take on that to most of the offerings from a largely Europhobic Fleet St. It’s hard not to think that the debate will be somewhat poorer for their absence.
And it is a lack of plurality in the UK mainstream media that will continue to be of concern to many people. That is an issue at the very heart of this project. We at The Conversation do not seek to project our own views or opinions. But we do exist to ensure that informed voices rooted in academic excellence are heard, and made available to the public to enhance understanding and inspire better democracy. If that is something you feel strongly about, do tell others about The Conversation. Encourage them to sign up for the free daily newsletter, and help important, intelligent, independent journalism thrive.