A sad day for British journalism
19 March 2016
NUJ reaction to closure of the Independent on Sunday.
The end of the two Independent newspaper titles means a huge loss of skilled and experienced journalists and a major blow to media plurality and democracy in the UK. A functioning democracy needs a large range of media sources, voices, views and political opinions. The Independent titles held an important place in providing choice, other voices and another perspective in the national press.
The loss of the titles increases the concentration of press ownership in fewer hands. A recent YouGov survey which compared the view of readers in seven countries found that the British press was thought to be the most right-wing and biased in Europe. That is why we need more choice, not less.
The Independent was first published 30 years ago and at the time claimed to break the mould by being free from party political bias; its slogan was ‘The Independent: it is, are you?’. It was an instant success. From day one it was authoritative and assured. Of course its lofty ideals did not last; indeed under the present owner, Evgeny Lebedev, the paper backed the coalition government, much to the anger of many of its staff.
Newspapers are expensive beasts and The Independent’s commercial rivals had deeper pockets. Yet despite several changes of ownership, circulation falls and slashed budgets, The Independent remained innovative, being the first to publish in a compact format and produce the successful spinoff The i, which it has now sold to Johnston Press.
The Independent has a long tradition of high quality news journalism and comment. It is to continue in a digital form but the NUJ is concerned for the future while the move is made on the cheap. The pay and conditions on the digital side are worse than on the print side. Experienced staff are being lost because of low budgets and current digital staff have concerns about pay, workloads and other issues. This will surely have an effect on the quality of the product. To succeed it will have to invest in journalism and there are few signs that this is part of the plan.
The NUJ is also dismayed at the way the closure of print and move to digital, with loss of jobs, has been handled by The Independent management. Up to 100 redundancies are expected.
Sunday, when the Independent on Sunday publishes its last copy, will be a sad day for journalism (The Independent's last edition will be on Saturday 26 March), not just for the staff but for all of us.