The Independent's old (pre-compact) masthead. In the new one the eagle is positioned above the text
The Independent is a British newspaper published by Tony O'Reilly's Independent News & Media. It is nicknamed the Indie, with the Sunday edition being the Sindie. Although it claims no political affiliation, it is a de facto Liberal Democrat newspaper. The Independent was named National Newspaper of the Year at the British Press Awards 2004.
It was originally published in broadsheet form, but from September 2003 was produced in a choice of broadsheet and tabloid forms, with the same content in each. The tabloid version was termed by the newspaper "compact", presumably to distance itself from the racy, down-market publications usually associated with the term "tabloid". The smaller format was generally well received by readers and was rolled out gradually throughout the UK. Rupert Murdoch's Times quickly followed suit, introducing its own "compact" version. On 14 May 2004, The Independent produced its last weekday broadsheet edition, having stopped producing a Saturday broadsheet edition back in January. The Sindie (Independent on Sunday) continues to be published as a broadsheet.
Prior to these changes, it had a daily circulation of around 217,500, the lowest of any major national British daily newspaper, but has since claimed a 15% rise in circulation as of March 2004 (taking it to circa 250,000).
The Independent is the youngest British broadsheet (despite no longer being published in broadsheet format, the other connotations of the term still apply) still in existence, first published in October 1986. It was produced by Newspaper Publishing Ltd. and was the creation of Andreas Whittam Smith, Stephen Glover and Matthew Symonds. All three were former journalists at the Daily Telegraph who had fled the regime of Lord Berry. Marcus Sieff was made the first chairman of Newspaper Publishing and Smith took control of the paper.
The paper was created at a time of considerable tension in British journalism. Rupert Murdoch was challenging long accepted practices and was fighting with the print unions. In this unsettled atmosphere the newly created paper was able to attract very good staff from the Murdoch broadsheets, who chose to jump ship rather than move to Wapping. The Independent also had a rather better relationship with its printers than others, mainly because it had not been around long enough for the relations to sour.
Launched with the advertising slogan "It is. Are you?", and challenging The Guardian for liberal readers, it managed to reach a circulation of over 400,000 in 1989. Competing for readers in a moribund market, the arrival of The Independent was one of the factors that sparked both a general freshening of newspaper design and content as well as a costly 'price war'. The market was very tight, and when The Independent launched an independent Sunday section in 1990, it did very poorly and was soon merged back into the main paper, although Sunday publication did continue.
Into the 1990s it became clear that the parent company, Newspaper Publishing, was suffering. Two European media groups took small stakes in the company. A number of other media companies were interested in taking fuller control of the ailing paper for a number of reasons. Both Tony O'Reilly's media group and Mirror Group Newspapers developed substantial stakes in the company by mid-1994. In March 1995 Newspaper Publishing was restructured with a rights issue, splitting the shareholding into O'Reilly (43%), MGN (43%), and Prisa (El Pais, 12%). In the same month Smith left the paper. In April 1996 there was another refinancing and in March 1998 O'Reilly bought out the other 54% of the company for £30 million, and assumed the company's debt. Brendan Hopkins headed Independent News while Andrew Marr was appointed editor of the Independent and Rosie Boycott of the Independent on Sunday.
Boycott left in April 1998 (to The Daily Express) and Marr in May 1998 (later to join the BBC as its Political Editor), Simon Kelner was made the new editor. By this time the circulation of the paper had fallen to below 100,000. Independent News spent heavily to improve circulation and the paper underwent a number of redesigns. While circulation improved it did not approach the 1989 figures or restore the paper to profitability and the job cuts and tight financial controls took their toll on the journalists and their morale. Ivan Fallon, on the board since 1995, replaced Hopkins as head of Independent News & Media in July 2002. The paper is currently losing around £5 million a year, but as of March 2004, projects a return to profit by 2005.
Arguably Robert Fisk is the best known syndicated journalist to feature in The Independent; his reports from the Middle East are widely and consistently cited wherever Israeli / Palestinian issues are discussed in English on the web.
Writers and Columnists