IoS 1000th issue: 1998-1999, Kim Fletcher:

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

I had a small, perfectly formed staff, but little money. Thank goodness, then, for our appreciative readership and the clodhopping 'Observer'

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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
footballHe started just four months ago
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Brand Marketing Manager - Essex - £45,000 + £5000 car allowance

£40000 - £45000 per annum + car allowance: Ashdown Group: Senior Brand Manager...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer /.NET Software Developer

£26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer /.NET Software ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

Guru Careers: Technical Operations Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Technical Ope...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect