|Andrew Marr, in his full 'Independent' editor's regalia|
Former Independent editor Andrew Marr is mourning the passing of his old paper in (where else?) The Guardian today: The loss of the Independent means the loss of a community:
But the old question – what, really, is a newspaper? – remains key. If the answer is simply a means of transmitting information, titles are merely nostalgia. No, the proper answer is that a decent newspaper is a platoon of similarly minded, but not identically minded, people who argue, debate and together fashion a view of the world which is distinctive. A newspaper, properly understood, is the space between what editors and senior correspondents think, and how that space is challenged by reporters bringing in unexpected information; and the static energy all that produces.
There has never been a successful media outfit, from Newsnight to the London Review of Books, Private Eye or the Observer’s review section, which didn’t have at its heart a vigorous daily conversation between people who only quite liked one another. Each of these small cultural colonies, using the replication of traditional media, then affected the national conversation.
The Independent, in this company, has played an honourable and valuable role. It hasn’t been like, or the same as, anything else. In recent years, I have found myself turning to it more than ever. I need Patrick Cockburn and Robert Fisk and Kim Sengupta to try to understand the Middle East. There is a score of other correspondents I could mention.
Yes, it remains online. Journalistic communities exist there, too. I find the same energy in Bella Caledonia (on the Scottish left) and CapX (on the British right) that I find anywhere in print. The danger of going global/online, however, is that you lose your roots in a real community of real people; that you become disconnected.
People who say “there are enough newspapers”, are like people who say there are enough public parks or libraries, or piano concertos: always and forever wrong."More than ever" he "needs" Robert Fisk to "try to understand the Middle East"? Really?
I am actually bought the first edition of the Independent and kept it, along with a first edition of Eddie Shah's Today, for a good 20 years or so. Unfortunately it then fell victim to a ruthless decluttering exercise a few years ago, so I won't be cashing in on it when first editions of the Indie become rare fortune-making collectors' items in thirty or so year years time. (Moral of the story: Never chuck anything away, ever.)
I have to say that when I first heard the news yesterday that the Independent was leaving the newspaper stands and becoming purely digital my immediate thoughts went out to Robert Fisk and Yasmin Alibhai Brown. "Won't somebody please think of Robert Fisk!", I wailed in the middle of Morecambe's Arndale Centre (like Manchester's, but rather less hectic due to having next to no shops in it). "But what about YAB? What's she going to do?" yelled back several seasoned layabouts.
There is hope though. In an attempt to make the BBC seem slightly less anti-Israel, they may move Jeremy Bowen sideways and put Mr Fisk in as BBC Middle East editor instead.
(Just to be clear: That is meant as a joke).
Incidentally, the passing of the print versions of the Independent and the Independent on Sunday was also marked on this morning's BBC Breakfast.
One of the programme's regular newspaper reviewers, Paul Horrocks, former president of the UK Society of Editors, gave viewers his take on the difficulties facing papers in this online age:
Well, when the whole internet revolution started and newspapers obviously got into websites they went for volume. They felt that volume was in fact the way forward because that would encourage advertisers to spend their money.
Actually if you could turn the clock back I think we should all have gone in for paywalls. And of course Murdoch has now introduced paywalls on some of his titles in Britain - the Times and the Sunday Times.
But you can't turn back time now.
The Guardian, of course, has made a real vantage point out of the fact that it's the world's biggest free website..news website..and is doing well. But it still costs a lot of money to generate that amount of newsprint.
Can they get that amount of revenue out of the website?
As others have noted (doing what's known as 'a spot of Fisking'), Mr Horrocks may have made a complete horrocks of the stats there, despite being the former president of the UK Society of Editors.
The Guardian isn't "the world's biggest free news website" (English language), is it? I thought that was (O.M.G.!) The Daily Mail.
Indeed, the Guardian itself reported last year that the Mail has twice as many unique readers as itself (roughly 14 million for the Mail and 7 million for the Guardian).
And "Murdoch" has now got rid of the paywall at the Sun.
None of those points was made by Naga or Jon who just let Mr Horrocks sail on (which may not matter too much, but as I'd transcribed the above and didn't want to waste it, I thought I'd better tag on some kind of point, just to make it look as if I had some proper purpose behind it).