The Independent is a British online newspaper. Established in 1986 as an independent national morning newspaper published in London, it was controlled by Tony O'Reilly's Independent News & Media from 1997, and sold to Alexander Lebedev in 2010. It ceased to be produced in print in March 2016.
Nicknamed the Indy, it began as a broadsheet newspaper, but changed to tabloid or "compact" format in 2003. Regarded as coming from the centre-left, on culture and politics, it tends to take a more pro-market stance on economic issues. It has not affiliated itself with any political party and features a range of views. The paper described itself as "free from party political bias, free from proprietorial influence"—a banner it carried on the front page of its daily edition. This banner was dropped in September 2011.
The daily edition was named National Newspaper of the Year at the 2004 British Press Awards. The current editor, Amol Rajan, was appointed in 2013, and its former deputy editor, Archie Bland, in 2012. Bland was one of the youngest people to be appointed to a senior managerial post in the British newspaper industry, at 28 years old. Rajan was 29 at the time of his appointment in June 2013.
In June 2015, it had an average daily circulation of just below 58,000, 85 per cent down on its 1990 peak, with the Sunday edition having a circulation of just over 97,000. On 12 February 2016 it was announced that The Independent and its sister Sunday title would become digital-only. The last print edition of The Independent on Sunday was published on 20 March 2016, with the main paper ceasing print publication the following Saturday.
1986 to 1990
Launched in 1986, the first issue of The Independent was published on 7 October in broadsheet format. It was produced by Newspaper Publishing plc and created by Andreas Whittam Smith, Stephen Glover and Matthew Symonds. All three partners were former journalists at The Daily Telegraph who had left the paper towards the end of Lord Hartwell's ownership. Marcus Sieff was the first chairman of Newspaper Publishing and Whittam Smith took control of the paper.
The paper was created at a time of a fundamental change in British newspaper publishing. Rupert Murdoch was challenging long-accepted practices of the print unions and ultimately defeated them in the Wapping dispute. Consequently, production costs could be reduced and, it was said at the time, create openings for more competition. As a result of controversy around Murdoch's move to Wapping, the plant was effectively having to function under siege from sacked print workers picketing outside. The new paper attracted staff from the two Murdoch broadsheets who had chosen not to move to his company's new headquarters. Launched with the advertising slogan "It is. Are you?", and challenging The Guardian for centre-left readers, and The Times as a newspaper of record, it reached a circulation of over 400,000 by 1989.
Competing in a moribund market, The Independent sparked a general freshening of newspaper design as well as, within a few years, a price war in the market sector. The market was tight and when The Independent launched The Independent on Sunday in 1990, sales were less than anticipated, partly due to the launch of the Sunday Correspondent four months before the IoS, although this direct rival closed at the end of November 1990. Some aspects of production merged with the main paper, although still with a largely distinct editorial staff.
1990 to present
In the 1990s, The Independent was faced with price cutting by the Murdoch titles, and started an advertising campaign accusing The Times and The Daily Telegraph of reflecting the views of their proprietors, Rupert Murdoch and Conrad Black. It featured spoofs of their mastheads with the words 'The Rupert Murdoch', 'The Conrad Black', and below, 'The Independent'.
Newspaper Publishing had financial problems. A number of other media companies were interested in the paper. Tony O'Reilly's media group and Mirror Group Newspapers had bought a stake of about a third each by mid-1994. In March 1995 Newspaper Publishing was restructured with a rights issue, splitting the shareholding into O'Reilly's Independent News & Media (43%), MGN (43%), and Prisa (publisher of El País, 12%).
In April 1996 there was another refinancing and in March 1998 O'Reilly bought 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. Marr introduced a dramatic if short-lived redesign which won critical favour but was a commercial failure, partly as a result of a limited promotional budget. Marr admitted his changes had been a mistake in his book My Trade.
Boycott left in April 1998 to join the Daily Express and Marr in May 1998, later becoming the BBC's political editor. Simon Kelner was appointed as the editor. By this time the circulation had fallen below 200,000. Independent News spent heavily to improve circulation, and the paper had several redesigns. While circulation improved, it did not approach the level which had been achieved in 1989 or restore profitability. Job cuts and financial controls reduced the morale of journalists, and compromised the product. Ivan Fallon, on the board since 1995 and formerly a key figure at The Sunday Times, replaced Hopkins as head of Independent News & Media in July 2002. By mid-2004, the newspaper was losing £5million a year. A gradual improvement meant that by 2006, circulation was at a nine-year high.
In November 2008, following further staff cuts, a move of production was announced to Northcliffe House, in Kensington High Street, the headquarters of Associated Newspapers. The two newspaper groups' editorial, management and commercial operations remained separate, but they shared services including security, IT, switchboard and payroll.
On 25 March 2010, Independent News & Media sold the newspaper to Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev for a nominal £1 fee and £9.25m over the next 10 months, since closing The Independent and The Independent on Sunday would have cost £28m and £40m respectively, due to long-term contracts. In 2009, Lebedev had bought a controlling stake in the London Evening Standard. Two weeks later, editor Roger Alton stood down.
Format and design
The Independent began publishing as a broadsheet in a series of celebrated designs. The final version was designed by Carroll, Dempsey and Thirkell following a commission by Nicholas Garland who, along with Alexander Chancellor, was unhappy with designs produced by Raymond Hawkey and Michael McGuiness. At the time on seeing the dummies Chancellor said "I thought we were joining a serious paper." The first edition was designed and implemented by Michael Crozier who was Executive Editor, Design and Picture, from pre-launch in 1986 to 1994.
From September 2003 it was produced in both broadsheet and tabloid versions, with the same content in each. The tabloid edition was termed "compact" to distance itself from the more sensationalist reporting style usually associated with "tabloid" newspapers in the UK. After launching in the London area and subsequently North West England, the smaller format appeared gradually throughout the UK. Soon afterwards Rupert Murdoch's Times followed suit and introduced its own tabloid version. Prior to these changes, The Independent had a daily circulation of around 217,500, the lowest of any major national British daily, climbing to claim a 15% rise by March 2004 (to 250,000). Throughout much of 2006, circulation stagnated at a quarter of a million. On 14 May 2004, The Independent produced its last weekday broadsheet, having stopped producing a Saturday broadsheet edition in January. The Independent on Sunday published its last simultaneous broadsheet on 9 October 2005, and has since followed a compact design.
On 12 April 2005, The Independent redesigned its layout to a more European feel, similar to France's Libération. The redesign was carried out by a Barcelona-based design studio. The weekday second section was subsumed within the main paper, double-page feature articles became common in the main news pages, and there were revisions to front and back covers. A new second section, Extra, was introduced on 25 April 2006. It is similar to The Guardian's G2 and The Times' Times2, containing features, reportage and games, including sudoku. In June 2007 The Independent on Sunday consolidated its content into a news section which included sports and business, and a magazine focusing on life and culture. On 23 September 2008 the main newspaper became full-colour and "Extra" was replaced by a "Independent Life Supplement" focusing on different themes each day.
Three weeks after the acquisition of the paper by Alexander Lebedev and Evgeny Lebedev in 2010, the paper was relaunched with another redesign on 20 April. The new format featured smaller headlines and a new pullout "Viewspaper" section, which contained the paper's comment and feature articles. From 26 October 2010, the same day as its sister paper i was launched, The Independent started to be printed on slightly thicker paper than before and ceased to be full-colour throughout, with many photographs and pictures (though none of those used in adverts) being printed in black and white only. On 11 October 2011, The Independent unveiled yet another new look, featuring a red, sans-serif masthead. In November 2013 this was again changed for a vertical masthead in black. It also had new custom fonts and the whole newspaper was overhauled.
Following the 2003 switch in format, The Independent became known for its unorthodox and campaigning front pages, which frequently relied on images, graphics or lists rather than traditional headlines and written news content. For example, following the Kashmir earthquake in 2005 it used its front page to urge its readers to donate to its appeal fund, and following the publication of the Hutton Report into the death of British government scientist David Kelly, its front page simply carried the word "Whitewash?". In 2003 the paper's editor, Simon Kelner, was named "Editor of the Year" at the What the Papers Say awards, partly in recognition of, according to the judges, his "often arresting and imaginative front-page designs". In 2008 however, as he was stepping down as editor, he stated that it was possible to "overdo the formula" and that the style of the paper's front pages perhaps needed "reinvention".
Under the former editorship of Chris Blackhurst, the campaigning, poster-style front pages were scaled back in favour of more conventional news stories.
The weekday, Saturday and Sunday editions of The Independent all include supplements and pull-out subsections –
Daily Monday to Friday The Independent
Saturday's The Independent
The Independent on Sunday
On 23 January 2008, The Independent relaunched its online edition, www.independent.co.uk. The relaunched site introduced a new look, better access to the blog service, priority on image and video content and additional areas of the site including art, architecture, fashion, gadgets and health. The paper launched Podcast programmes such as The Independent Music Radio Show, The Independent Travel Guides, The Independent Sailing Podcasts, and The Independent Video Travel Guides. Since 2009, the website has carried short video news bulletins provided by the Al Jazeera English news channel.
When the paper was established in 1986, the founders intended its political stance to reflect the centre of the British political spectrum and thought that it would take readers primarily from The Times and The Daily Telegraph. It has been seen as leaning to the left, making it more a competitor to The Guardian, although both also feature conservative columnists. The Independent tends to take a classical liberal, pro-market stance on economic issues. In an editorial on 27 January 2013, the Independent on Sunday referred to itself as a "proudly liberal newspaper".
An Ipsos MORI poll estimated that in the 2010 general election, 44% of regular readers voted Liberal Democrat, 32% voted Labour, and 14% voted Conservative. On the eve of the 2010 general election, The Independent supported the Liberal Democrats, arguing that "they are longstanding and convincing champions of civil liberties, sound economics, international co-operation on the great global challenges and, of course, fundamental electoral reform. These are all principles that this newspaper has long held dear. That is why we argue that there is a strong case for progressively minded voters to lend their support to the Liberal Democrats wherever there is a clear opportunity for that party to win." However the weekend before the 2015 general election saw The Independent on Sunday claim it would not be advising its readers how to vote in 2015. The editorial piece claimed "this does not mean that we are a bloodless, value-free news-sheet. We have always been committed to social justice" but the paper recognised it was up the readers to "make up your own mind about whether you agree with us or not". Rather than support a particular party, the paper urged all its reader to vote as "a responsibility of common citizenship". However, on 4 May 2015, the weekday version of The Independent thought that a continuation of the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition after the general election would be a positive outcome.
A leader published on the day of the 2008 London Mayoral election, compared the candidates and said that, if the newspaper had a vote, it would vote first for the Green Party candidate, Sian Berry, noting the similarity between her priorities and those of The Independent, and secondly, with "rather heavy heart", for the then incumbent, Ken Livingstone.
The paper took a strong editorial position against the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, the Iraq War, and aspects of US and UK foreign policy related to the War on Terrorism following the 11 September attacks. It has been a strong supporter of electoral reform. The paper has also taken strong positions on environmental issues, campaigned against the introduction of ID cards, and campaigned against the restriction of mass immigration to the UK. In 1997, The Independent on Sunday launched a campaign for the decriminalisation of cannabis. Ten years later, it reversed itself, stating that the cannabis strain skunk "smoked by the majority of young Britons" in 2007 had become "25 times stronger than resin sold a decade ago." In addition, The Independent has highlighted what it refers to as "war crimes" being committed by pro-government forces in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Originally it avoided royal stories, Whittam Smith later saying he thought the British press was "unduly besotted" with the Royal Family and that a newspaper could "manage without" stories about the monarchy.
In 2007, Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian, said of The Independent: "The emphasis on views, not news, means that the reporting is rather thin, and it loses impact on the front page the more you do that." In a 12 June 2007 speech British Prime Minister Tony Blair called The Independent a "viewspaper", saying it "was started as an antidote to the idea of journalism as views not news. That was why it was called the Independent. Today it is avowedly a viewspaper not merely a newspaper". The Independent criticised Blair's comments the following day but later changed format to include a 'Viewspaper' insert in the centre of the regular newspaper, designed to feature most of the opinion columns and arts reviews.
The Independent on Sunday
Writers and columnists
Predominantly The Independent:
- Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
- Bruce Anderson
- Paul Arden
- Archie Bland
- Cooper Brown
- Michael Brown
- Simon Calder
- Alexa Chung
- Rob Cowan
- Sloane Crosley
- Tracey Emin
- Nigel Farage
- Mitch Feierstein
- Helen Fielding
- Robert Fisk
- Chris Gulker
- Howard Jacobson
- Alex James
- Peter Jenkins
- Owen Jones (writer)
- Andrew Keen
- Dominic Lawson
- John Lichfield
- Philip Llewellin
- Andy McSmith
- Donald MacIntyre
- Serena Mackesy
- Tracey MacLeod
- Rhodri Marsden
- Jan McGirk
- Matthew Norman
- Deborah Orr
- Christina Patterson
- Peter Popham
- Simon Read
- Steve Richards
- Sherif Saleh
- Alexei Sayle
- Will Self
- Mark Steel
- Catherine Townsend
- Paul Vallely
- Brian Viner
- Lynne Walker
- Andreas Whittam Smith
- Claudia Winkleman
Predominantly The Independent on Sunday:
- Janet Street-Porter ("Editor-At-Large")
- Kate Bassett—Theatre
- Patrick Cockburn—Comment & Debate
- Peter Cole—"On The Press"
- Rupert Cornwell—"Out of America"
- Hermione Eyre—Multitude of reviews in ABC
- Jenny Gilbert—Dance
- Christopher Hirst and Lucinda Rogers - ""The Weasel"" (weekly illustrated column 1995-2008)
- Dom Joly—"First Up" in The Sunday Review
- Tim Minogue & David Randall—"Observatory"
- Cole Moreton—News Analysis (Regular double-spread)
- Anna Picard—Opera and Classical
- Simon Price—Rock & Pop
- John Rentoul—Comment & Debate
- Joan Smith—Comment & Debate
- Paul Vallely—Comment & Debate
- Alan Watkins—Comment & Debate
The Independent on Sunday
The Independent on Sunday was the Sunday sister newspaper of The Independent. It ceased to exist in 2016 when the latter stopped being printed.
In October 2010 the i, a compact sister newspaper, was launched. The i is a separate newspaper but uses some of the same material.
The (RED) Independent
The Independent supported U2 lead singer Bono's Product RED brand by creating The (RED) Independent, an occasional edition that gave half the day's proceeds to the charity. The first edition was in May 2006. Edited by Bono, it drew high sales.
A September 2006 edition of The RED Independent, designed by fashion designer Giorgio Armani, drew controversy due to its cover shot, showing model Kate Moss in blackface for an article about AIDS in Africa.
Awards and nominations
The Independent was awarded National Newspaper of the Year for 2003  and Front Page of the Year for 2014 ("Here is the news, not the propaganda", 5 October 2014) in the Independent on Sunday.
Independent journalists have won a range of British Press Awards, including:
- "Business & Finance Journalist of the Year" (Michael Harrison, 2000; Hamish McRae, 2005; Stephen Foley, 2008);
- "Cartoonist of the Year" (Dave Brown, 2012);
- "Columnist of the Year" (Robert Chalmers (IoS), 2004; Mark Steel, 2014);
- "Foreign Reporter of the Year" (Patrick Cockburn, 2014);
- "Interviewer of the Year" (Mathew Norman, 2007; Deborah Ross, 2011);
- "Political Journalist of the Year" (Francis Elliott (IoS), 2005);
- "Specialist Journalist of the Year" (Michael McCarthy, 2000; Jeremy Laurance, 2011);
- "Sports Journalist of the Year" (James Lawton, 2010);
- "Young Journalist of the Year" (Johann Hari, 2002; Ed Caesar, 2006).