IoS 1000th issue: 1998-1999, Kim Fletcher:
I had a small, perfectly formed staff, but little money. Thank goodness, then, for our appreciative readership and the clodhopping 'Observer'
Sunday 26 April 2009
The best advice I got came from Andreas Whittam Smith: "It's important to follow your instincts, however idiosyncratic. If you find something interesting, the chances are your readers will."
I'd met The Independent's founder 12 years previously, when he offered me a job on the daily paper he was launching with Matthew Symonds and Stephen Glover. It must have been premature middle age, but I'd joined Max Hastings, at The Daily Telegraph, instead. Now Whittam Smith was a columnist and member of the editorial board, and The Independent and its Sunday sibling, perilously close to disaster on the financial rocks of the 1990s, had limped into the safe harbour of Tony O'Reilly's Independent group.
I'd been deputy editor at The Sunday Telegraph. Simon Kelner, recently installed as group editor-in-chief at the Indy, had happened on me after Roger Alton, then at The Guardian, turned down his invitation to edit the Sindy. The post was mine when, on meeting Kelner for the first time, I said how much I enjoyed Alan Watkins' column.
If the courtship had been longer, we might have discovered that shared admiration for Watkins was a necessary but not sufficient basis for marriage. But the deal was done in minutes. Fresh from the sibling rivalries of the Telegraph titles, I was eager that the Sindy should be seen as the more gifted child in the Independent family. This was not a wise approach in a company that regarded such mischief as destructive rather than creative.
So what, to take up Whittam Smith's advice, were our instincts? "Our" because, as was explained to me, The Independent on Sunday believed in a collegiate approach, with vigorous exchange of ideas at conference. Our strength lay not in news but in provocatively intelligent comment, features, arts and books. Business, outsourced to the Bloomberg news agency as a cost-cutting measure, came back in-house, but I failed to redevelop the pages as I should. Sport, under the tireless Neil Morton, was excellent.
Naturally, we redesigned the paper, a move that traditionally excites journalists more than readers, though many of the latter kindly approved. Keith Howitt, lynchpin of production since the first edition in 1990, is probably the only man who has kept score of editors and their redesigns.
We couldn't throw money at contributors – Jeremy Paxman declined to write on the basis that the sum offered represented a tip rather than a fee – but ideas were free. On that basis, we rotated guest writers with local talent, benefiting from a good will towards the paper that continues to this day.
I hope the paper was unpredictable and entertaining, taking on its better-funded rivals with more interesting pieces, better written. The Observer was going in the opposite direction, and week by week we persuaded readers to come across. But then Roger Alton took that chair and, with money to spend, introduced the intelligent, non-hectoring approach that we had made our USP. Our core readers kept faith, but the flow of converts dried up.
Click on the image above to see Kim Fletcher's selection
interviewThe producer and activist, Trudie Styler, whose film 'Filth' is up for five film awards, is tapping into the industry's neglected female talent
interviewHer estate has become the nation's glossiest food empire
theatreTheatre's hitmaker Daniel Evans on 'Oliver' and bringing 'The Full Monty' to the stage
food + drinkMichelin-starred Tom Sellers on being this year's hottest property
tvParents (and kids) rejoice! A new wave of fantastic family entertainment is here
booksGeese, gorillas, grandads... and growing up
food + drinkHow one grocery e-tailer is gearing up for the Yuletide rush
food + drink
travelFor broadcaster Mishal Husain, a long-haul Club Med holiday was a chance for her family to explore its sense of 'zen' and 'animation'
Hundreds arrested as Canadian police smash worldwide paedophile ring
Nelson Mandela: 11 inspirational quotes to live your life by
Ja Rule forced to deny leaving wife for prison cell mate
Crash pilot who threatened Ukip leader Nigel Farage found dead
Japan cracks down on leaks after scandal of Fukushima nuclear power plant
- 1 Hundreds arrested as Canadian police smash worldwide paedophile ring
- 2 Sherlock series 3: Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman provide teasers for the biggest comeback in British television
- 3 Why Barcelona chose Everton to educate their latest prodigy
- 4 Mass murder in the Middle East is funded by our friends the Saudis
- 5 Japan cracks down on leaks after scandal of Fukushima nuclear power plant
- < Previous
- Next >
£35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: "Exciting Audit S...
Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: As part of an ongoing effort to support local...
Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: Put your media, photography and arts flair in...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + excellent benefits: PCR Recruitment Limited: Europ...