A ‘New Day’ dawns as the Independent falls
Last week the opinionated Independent announced the closure of its print edition. Now, a new ‘politically neutral’ newspaper is entering the fray. What exactly do we want from our news?
In 1986, the Independent promised to be a fresh new broadsheet for readers in the UK. It became known for its strong editorial views, campaigning on everything from legalising cannabis to ending the war in Iraq. In 2007, Tony Blair, then prime minister, accused it of being a ‘viewspaper’. And last week, it made an announcement that shocked Britain: in March it will print its final edition.
The Independent’s owner Evgeny Lebedev explained that it would no longer try to manage the ‘continued decline of print’. Instead, it would focus on a ‘profitable future’ for its website — and he predicted that it would be the ‘first of many’ to make that choice.
For many within the industry, the news was no real surprise; The Independent once reached 400,000 readers, but now has a circulation of just 40,000. The rise of online news has decimated advertising revenue for printed papers. And journalists everywhere are struggling with the same question: how do you make money when anyone with a smartphone can get instant up-to-date news, free of charge?
A team from the media company Trinity Mirror thinks it might have an answer. Next week, it will launch Britain’s first new printed newspaper in 30 years: The New Day. It was not the internet that caused over one million people to stop buying newspapers, said the firm’s chief executive, Simon Fox. It was just that nothing was ‘meeting their needs’.
The New Day is an attempt to fix that. It is a newspaper for the ‘modern world’, explained its editor Alison Phillips. It will contain a ‘ruthless edit’ of the day’s news, with balanced analysis and comment, ‘but no political line.’ Instead, it will treat its readers ‘like grown ups who are capable of making up their own minds.’
Newspapers have had a difficult couple of decades. But the journalism professor George Brock argues that the ‘stability’ of the 20th century was ‘historically unusual’ for the press. Before then, they were constantly adapting to new pressures. Now, they must learn to do the same again.
Losing The Independent‘s strong voice in the media is a true shame, say traditionalists. Newspaper editorials are a vital part of national conversations, as they offer powerful perspectives on important events, and are capable of uniting the public while holding politicians to account. In a world full of complex ethical debates, that clarity will be missed.
But readers do not need to be spoon-fed their own opinions, argues Phillips. In the 21st century, we are constantly being told what to think every time we go online. What we lack is a clear and balanced approach which gives us all sides of the arguments, and then trusts us enough to decide for ourselves.
- Do you prefer to read newspapers with clear editorial opinions? Or newspapers which are more neutral?
- Does reading the news in print change how well you take in the information?
- Work out the percentage by which The Independent’s circulation has declined since it was at its height.
- Re-write the article above in a more opinionated style.
Some People Say...
“In the age of social media, everyone is a journalist.”
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Q & A
- Wait — is The New Day anything to do with you?
- It is not. But well spotted — we do share quite similar titles, and here at The Day we also do our best to give a range of opinions on the news. However, the similarities are entirely coincidental.
- If The Independent is keeping its website, what does it matter?
- For those who read all of their news online, the change may not be noticeable. But the loss of the printed Independent is still significant, as for many it marks the beginning of the end of an era. It will also be missed for its unique front page style, which was unafraid of using bold words and graphics to make political points.
- When does The New Day go on sale?
- The first copy will be available free on 29 February 2016. For the first two weeks it will cost 25p, and then go up to 50p.
- The largest newspaper format (think of The Telegraph). In 2003, The Independent switched to a smaller ‘compact’ format.
- During the build-up to the UK’s war with Iraq, which began in 2003, The Independent newspapers were almost alone in their relentlessly critical interpretation of the government’s actions. One editorial by The Independent on Sunday was titled ‘They do not know what they are doing or why they are doing it’.
- In a ‘reflective’ speech on the media in 2007, Tony Blair said that The Independent was a ‘well-edited lively paper’, but that it was guilty of confusing ‘opinion and fact’ which ‘should be clearly divisible’.
- According to the Financial Times, revenues from the adverts printed in newspapers fell by 10% in 2015. However, it also points out that several newspapers, including the Times, Telegraph and Guardian have been improving their profits over the last few years.
- Trinity Mirror
- The largest newspaper publisher in the UK owns 260 titles. Most are local papers, but it also publishes the left-leaning tabloid, the Daily Mirror.