The abandoned News of the World offices and print hall, Wapping: A flickr set by Tim Burke
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More life in the old weasel: The Independent is to launch a Saturday edition of its daily spin-off newspaper i next month. Cover price just 30p. That’s less a weekend paper for less than a packet of Rizlas – regular size.
The first copies of i, the Independent’s bold attempt to reinvigorate the newspaper market, hadn’t made it to Huddersfield this morning, although I did manage to pick up a copy in Leeds station. My first impression is that you can tell it’s aimed at younger people. The splash is a report on the squeeze on first time buyers might hook in young professionals, a bit boring, but certainly in the target range. True, it could have made the Independent proper (which led on a much more worthy story about the Christian diaspora from the Middle East) but it is the “ears” of the front page – the cells at the top of the page – where you get the first real sign that this is a “youth paper” in your hands. You can’t tell by looking at the publicity shot (on the right), but my copy presents the question Is Bert Gay? A reference to the sexuality of a character in Sesame Street. If this is what will get the youth reading newspapers again, then goodness knows what will help us.
The best thing you can say that it offers fantastic value for money. For 20p it is an absolute bargain. It costs less than a postage stamp. If it’s ever given away for free, as is sister title the London Evening Standard, it will take over the commuter market. The balance of stories, moreover, is about right: the correct amount of news and views; the business section afforded a generous five pages (surprisingly one more than the arts) and only sport feels a bit light, for a youthpaper.
It’s a shame that it isn’t bolder. Johann Hari may be young, but he already feels like he’s been around for ever, while the gossip pages plug Kasabian, Florence Welsh and Peter Mandelson. If i was a cutting edge, you’d struggle to slice bread with it. When the Independent first launched in the late eighties, it redefined the mold of national newpapers. It was actually the newspaper that made me want to get into journalism. This paper looks far too like its older sister, who sadly shed her boldness years ago. Which is a pity. The new paper could and should try to forge its own identity. Portugal (thanks @sofiadmateus) already has a newspaper called i (see right), it’s a shame that the UK version isn’t half as interesting in its presentation.
Just thought you might like to read these two important essays, published in the last few days, on the future of news:
1) Clay Shirky: why newspapers are doomed:
“Round and round this goes, with the people committed to saving newspapers demanding to know “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” To which the answer is: Nothing. Nothing will work. There is no general model for newspapers to replace the one the internet just broke.”
2) Steven Berlin Johnson: the future means more news, lot less:
“There is going to be more content, not less; more information, more analysis, more precision, a wider range of niches covered. You can see the process happening already in most of the major sections of the paper: tech, politics, finance, sports.”
MySociety the internet’s victory over the government over the disclosure of MPs expenses
Great stuff. A lightning campaign that needed just 7000 souls to force an about-turn. “Make no mistake. This is new, and it reflects the fact that the Internet generation expects information to be made available, and they expect to be able to make up their own minds, not be spoon fed the views of others.”
+ Céline Clanet has just spent several months in Máze, up to the north of the Arctic Circle, in Norway. Her photographic essay of the Sami people is both beautiful and revealing. Like Martin Parr in snowboots.
+ The New Yorker on the long demise of the newspaper. It’s not what you think. They trace the long history of the rag’s doom to 1765. BTW, I had never realised that 16th Venetians sold news for a coin called a gazzetta. Hence the name.
+ Robo-wars. Bots heading for the battlefield.
+ Apparantly so many Indian workers are leaving Dubai. That 4000 cars and trucks have been left in the car park of Dubai International airport. Most with the keys in the ignition.
I awoke this morning to find that every national newspaper, save the Star which led on Coronation street, had led with the “news” that Obama had won. Except that by then it was news to nobody. I wonder how relevant it is for newspaper readers to be fed such leads now that the paper is fourth to the story (after the net, radio and TV)? Doubtless a few will save their “commemorative issues”, nothing wrong with that, but how many new readers does such an approach attract, moreover, how many young people are likely to pick up a newspaper from the rack? Far better to try and lead with some analysis (which is what newspapers are best at) or some genuine news about Obama.
Newspapers famously reacted brilliantly when they were replaced by television as the primary source of first-to-the-story news. Faced with declining sales, particularly among the young, they need to reinvent themselves again. Splashing yesterday’s news, no matter how historic, isn’t the way to do it.
If you’ve got nothing to hide, why hide behind an official spokesperson? If you believe in free speech, why not agree to a proper interview? The morning’s Media Guardian published an article I have been researching for the last few months. Headlined A Platform for Free Speech … or Hate, it examines the Telegraph’s attitude towards some of the more extremist views available on its readers blogs. My investigation has uncovered that the My Telegraph service is being used by members of the British National Party (BNP) to promote their nefarious views. I knew that I would attract a fair bit of heat from the article, as you can’t go around accusing a national newspaper of harbouring the views of the far right, albeit a vocal minority of them, and not expect it to bite back.
So here goes. One of the card-carrying neo-fascists I mentioned in the article quoted Socrates in his defence (although he couldn’t actually spell my name correctly) on his blog. Many others from the far right called me, and the newspaper I often work for, a lot of nasty names. All as to be expected. Many of them, moreover, also accused me (apparently without reading my article as there comments were published before it was printed) that I was against free speech. I think it goes without saying that I’m not against freedom of speech. I just want to question whether a reputable and recognised brand like the Telegraph (a newspaper I’ve long admired) wants to allow members of the far right to use it as a platform to propagate their extremist views. Of course, it’s not me who is against free speech, but a party that routinely uses violence to support its views; who deny the holocaust and whose leader has been tried twice for incitement to racial hatred (although he did eventually get off). The BNP is also a party that, according to its own constitution, is “committed to stemming and reversing the tide of non-white immigration.”
I asked Weyman Bennett, national secretary of Unite Against Fascism what he thought of the free speech defence and whether the Telegraph should allow active members of the BNP to use the Telegraph to promote their views. He told me that the British National Party remain far from a legitimate organisation and that he “would assume that the Telegraph would be at pains to condemn the BNP. Instead they are allowing a fascist party to whip up racism and that it needs to recognise that it is not a benign organisation, but threat to anybody who believes in democracy.”
The communities editor of the Telegraph, Shane Richmond, published a list of my questions on his blog on Friday without my consent. I took such an intrusion into our private correspondence in good humour, but I think it’s a bit rich of him to complain about freedom of speech when he refused both a face-to-face and telephone interview forcing me to send any questions I had via email and to conduct most of his comments over the internet and in public before even reading my article. So one that question again to Shane Richmond: if you’ve got nothing to hide, why hide behind your official spokesperson?