BOOK REVIEW / When shall we three meet again?: Charles Burgess on Stephen Glover's sad story about the early life of the Independent and the Independent on Sunday: Paper Dreams - Stephen Glover: Jonathan Cape, pounds 17.99

JUST BEFORE the Spanish-American War of 1898, William Randolph Hearst, the editor and proprietor of the New York Journal, received a cable from his man in Havana, the illustrator Frederick Remington. It read: 'Everything is quiet here. There will be no war. I wish to return.' The Chief, as he was known, replied: 'Please remain. You furnish the pictures, and I'll furnish the war.'

The first Viscount Rothermere, Harold Harmsworth, who inherited the Daily Mail on the death of his brother Lord Northcliffe, made his paper spend much of 1927 campaigning on behalf of the people of Hungary. He was eventually asked if he would like to be king, but turned it down. The Harmsworths never did replace the Hapsburgs, but it was a close run thing.

It is anecdotes like these that provide the raw meat on which the readers of newspaperology feast. Big stage, big bucks, big stories. More recently, Harold Evans's account of life with Rupert Murdoch had many of the classic hallmarks. It chronicled the relationship between arguably the best editor in Britain at the time, and the most famous media tycoon of the late 20th century. It ended with Evans leaving, his revenge coming with the publication of Good Times, Bad Times. It was compulsive reading.

Last week another book of vengeful memoirs was published, but there the similarity with either Harold Evans or the great books on this business ends. Not even the author would claim to be in Evans's class, either as an editor or storyteller.

Stephen Glover was one of the three founders of the Independent, starting off as its foreign editor, then becoming the founding editor of the Independent on Sunday. He resigned two years ago when it was clear that the Sunday paper was going to need drastic action to stem huge losses, requiring the merging of the two news operations, and clear, too, that the paper needed a change of direction. It is, essentially, the story of how he fell out with his two co-founders, Andreas Whittam Smith and Matthew Symonds, and it is a sad one.

It goes without saying that the book is one-sided. Glover presents the story of the paper as a feud, without at any point understanding that he was edged out not by personal bitterness, but because his newspaper was drifting badly.

There are a mysterious number of rudimentary mistakes which one hopes would not, in the author's newspaper days, have slipped past the copy editors. I feature in one anecdote: as sports editor I go to Monte Carlo with Matthew Symonds to watch a Grand Prix. It was not Monte Carlo, it was San Marino - though it was equally enjoyable. The name of the deputy sports editor is also wrong. These are trifles, but they do hint at the author's lack of interest in the life of the paper, as opposed to the life of the boardroom.

More upsetting is the enthusiasm with which he sets about old friends. The book is strewn with direct quotations from conversations which took place up to seven years ago; these may or (more to the point) may not be correct. Private quips, uttered in the strain of the moment, are used, one of their intentions being to embarrass those involved. But alert readers will be wise to the sense in which stories designed to embarrass people often wind up embarrassing the teller. When Stephen Glover mentions his co-founders' company cars, with an apologetic whinge about his own 'largeish Mercedes', it is not quite clear whom we are supposed to feel sorry for.

To someone whose life has been bound up in the Independent since its birth, it was a pleasure to relive those emotional early days. Glover successfully recreates the highs and lows, and he captures well the romantic streak about the whole operation. It is unnerving to be reminded how little the founders then knew about starting and running newspapers. (Glover recalls merchant bankers who used words like 'venture capital' - which he pretends to be bemused by, even though this is exactly what he was asking for.) But, generally, they chose their staff well - and I would say that, wouldn't I?

In Fleet Street it is no myth that the Independent reporter is the one in the hair shirt, charging minimal expenses. So it may come as a surprise to some of the writers who have passed through City Road how much dining at the Savoy and elsewhere went on at the top. It is odd, in these episodes, how easy Glover finds it to satirise his ex-colleagues for events in which he himself (he half-wishes us to think) played a leading role. He does not attempt to conceal how proud he is of having once edited Isis at Oxford; but otherwise he wants us to believe, like George Bush during Iran-Contra, that he was right at the heart of things, but that nothing was up to him.

At the end, Glover paints a picture of a Sunday staff united behind him, fighting off the marauding Whittam Smith, who was after all the editor-in-chief and still is, and Symonds. This is not correct. Several of the Sunday men he thought were active in trying to find a new owner for the Sunday title (a ridiculous concept, if they had thought about it for a minute) were already wondering who would succeed him. He was outmanoeuvred, sure, but he had to go: it is hard to find anyone who does not feel that the paper, under its new editor, Ian Jack, is vastly improved.

The truth about Glover is that if he had not been a founder of this newspaper, which can never be taken away from him, he would have been unlikely to have been made a foreign editor, let alone editor of a national newspaper. It was his good luck that his friendship with Symonds, both at Oxford and at the Telegraph, where they and Whittam Smith worked before setting off on the great adventure, led to his being in the triumvirate.

A certain amount of good fortune, to be sure, led to the launch of the Independent into the last few years of the Thatcher boom. The Sunday paper, on the other hand, was launched slap bang into the teeth of the recession. Now, Glover's book has been equally lucky, hitting the review pages of self-interested rivals at a time when the Independent has just failed to buy the Observer and more money is being sought to finance a fightback against our wealthier competitors.

The timing is good, but Glover has only small fish to fry. There are recent books about the British press that would appeal to the outsider, notably Peter Chippindale and Chris Horrie's Disaster, the hilarious account of the rise and fall of the ill-conceived and short-lived News on Sunday, and Duff Hart Davis's brilliant story of The Daily Telegraph, The House the Berrys Built. But Paper Dreams, alas, was never intended to appeal to a general audience.

Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

film
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

film
Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Jess Glynne is UK number 1

music

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

film
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor