Letter from the editor: Choosing top stories


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The Independent Online

We at i agonise nightly about our story choices, particularly so when it comes to the front page.

In that regard we are no different to any other newspaper or magazine, particularly those with a cover price (even a 20p one), where purchase is an active choice.

Two stories about covers gave us pause for thought this week.

First, an American report revealed that newsstand sales of the current issue of the venerable Vanity Fair magazine featuring the “teenage pop sensation” Justin Bieber were down as much as 50% on their average, and then a rare interview given by outgoing Daily Express editor Peter Hill, contained his admission to an overreliance on the Madeleine McCann story — which was to cost the paper dear in libel payouts.

To this day, newspapers like the Express and many magazines still miss the iconic Princess Diana, the one absolute sales banker. We can all think of newspapers that rely on subjects ranging from the weather, immigration and MPs’ sexual peccadillos to Katie Price, Big Brother and, um, footballers’ sexual peccadillos in the belief they sell copies.

Most of these are long-established brands. Our view is that we should try to bring you the most significant story of the day, be it home or foreign, that we believe will interest our target readers. In turn our readership will be defined (and, its numbers limited) by interest in such stories.

Privately, newspaper bosses acknowledge that stories like Egypt or Libya do not sell papers, but that doesn’t mean I won’t feature them prominently. We believe you are buying the cumulative values of the paper over a period of time, and not just a particular day.

Our challenge is to present complex and serious stories in as accessible a manner as possible. Today, this includes Colonel Gaddafi’s defiance and the tragic devastation of Christchurch.

We hope you agree they are both important, and are sure that you will let us know if you don’t.