Letter from the editor: Newspapers build a community of readers


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The Independent Online

Readers have written in to ask why we have removed the staples from i yesterday — which is odd, as they were holding together our office copies as usual.

This is neither evidence of alleged cost-saving, nor is it proof of any mythical southern bias in action. Remember, dear reader, as I have written before: when things are not as they should be it is usually down to c***-up not conspiracy, and I trust normal stapling service will be resumed today.

At least two readers close to my heart would have been happy not to see staples. David and Jemima sit at the breakfast table with toast, porridge and screwdriver to hand, ready to unpick those vital staples, so as to better share out their i. Make no assumption as to who gets the sport pages first by the way. I have tried to persuade them to buy two copies (for a bargain 40p), but to no avail.

Amid the endless debate about the future of newspapers, this tiny anecdote tells its own story. At their best, newspapers build a community of readers, both in the macro (ie all of you ) and the micro (the many couples who write in telling us how they divide up i in their households). To date there is no satisfactory digital equivalent of sharing parts of a newspaper together. Sitting there side by side on two laptops or iPads is an excluding, distancing form of adult social interaction, whether you are both on the same website or not.

Having said that, I often see my otherwise relatively bookish girls and their friends lined up on the sofa with BlackBerrys and laptops FB-ing or BBM-ing each other as if it were as normal as I find it strange. Teens will point to the huge virtual community of those PlayStation and other networks where they do battle against strangers on other continents. Will these “communities” grow up to love and share papers in the same way so many i readers do? The only honest answer is we don’t know. But to make newspapers relevant in the ever more digital future is the most exciting of challenges for all editors.