Stephen Glover on The Press: A triumph? A disappointment? So far, it's somewhere in between

The only new newspaper design that I have unequivocally liked was that of The Independent in October 1986. I love it still and have a front page from the first issue hanging on a wall. The Guardian re-launch in 1988 - a reaction to The Independent's roaring success - seemed to me a great disappointment. I remember Nick Garland, then The Independent's cartoonist, saying that The Guardian had made a historic mistake. We all more or less thought that. And yet, over the years, I grew almost to love its new design, though one couldn't say the same about the content.

So in discussing The Guardian's re-launch as a so-called Berliner, or mid-sized format, we should be humble. I will probably change my mind. I already have several times. At 7.30am last Monday morning I hated it. By about 11am it had grown on me a little, and by the following morning, when someone rang me up from Press Gazette, I really rather liked it. Since then, doubts have crept back, though I still have more positive feelings about it than I did at first. The chances are that, as time goes on, I will like it more. And it is also almost certain that it will improve, as the 1988 re-design unquestionably did.

At the moment it is a designer's paper. There are some over fussy touches - occasional coloured headlines that suggest a magazine; huge inverted commas hung in white space - which will surely go as the hurly-burly of daily journalism asserts itself. The rigidity of a design template is especially evident on the front page, which is the weakest part of the paper. At the bottom of the page there are five short stories, identical in length and presentation, referring to longer inside pieces. An item called Column Five also restricts the rest of the page, so that the fluid space, for the main story and a photograph, is very limited. Quite soon there will be an important news event, and Column Five and the pieces at the bottom will have to be junked - let's hope forever. I don't much like the masthead or the overlarge puff boxes above it, which give the front page too soft an impact. I can see that these puffs are there to entice the reader, since with the paper folded on the newsstand (unlike the smaller tabloid) only one story is visible above the fold.

In that sense the Berliner format carries a problem. But I don't agree with those who say that it can barely be differentiated from a tabloid. On a full page there is scope for several stories. (But sometimes a news feature is run over a whole page, simply because the space is there, though it could easily be run at half the length.) Some inside pages look handsome. The sports pages are particularly fine, and the comment pages work well. But the highly effective G2 tabloid section has been reduced to magazine size, and no longer begins with a long feature. The argument seems to be, as Glamour magazine has shown, that young readers like a smaller format for featurey pieces. I wonder. The new G2 feels like an afterthought, rather than the forum for substantial pieces.

We could analyse the new design of The Guardian until the cows come home. Let's think about content. In various interviews the paper's editor, Alan Rusbridger, has cited the inclusion of columnists Simon Jenkins and Max Hastings as evidence that The Guardian is becoming politically more broad-based. He has also spoken of the paper becoming more centrist, the implication being that it might fill some of the Establishment territory vacated by the increasingly dumbed-down Times. (Here I should declare an interest, being involved with a group of people eyeing up the same terrain.) I must say that I cannot see that The Guardian's journalism has yet shifted very far in the direction Mr Rusbridger says he wants to go: Sir Simon is only one new voice, and Sir Max has been setting out his wares for many months in The Guardian. More importantly, perhaps, the new design seems calculated to appeal to young readers rather than the fortysomethings and fiftysomethings, many of them male, who still comprise the Establishment. This is no criticism of The Guardian, only a feeling that in tone and appearance the new paper does not reflect the high seriousness of, say, El Pais in Spain or Le Monde in France.

My feeling is that this is still the familiar Guardian we love or hate, dressed up in new clothes, some of which are rather fetching, others of which are less so. Overall, it is less brilliant than I had expected, and even hoped, that it would be. My guess is that it will win a few new young readers, who may find the new paper stylish and less intimidating than the old Guardian, but I don't see it becoming the new Times. How many sales the paper will add, God alone knows. At the launch party last Wednesday, Liz Forgan, chairwoman of the Scott Trust, which owns The Guardian, told me that it would not matter very much if there were no circulation gain. In a sense, she is right: The Guardian does not live by the same commercial rules that govern the rest of Fleet Street. But she and Mr Rusbridger and the others will look pretty silly if in three months' time, having shelled out £80m, the paper is back to the 27-year low point where it resided before its re-launch. On the other hand, if The Guardian can put on 5 or 10 per cent in circulation, let alone more, they will be able to point to a revival. In this sense the figures will matter far more than anything that I or a dozen other media pundits may say now.

Telegraph editor has Californian accent

The Daily Telegraph has been unable to lure Jon Steafal away from the Daily Mail to be its deputy editor, as I thought would be the case. Mr Steafal has been made co-deputy editor of the Mail . The Telegraph has decided to appoint Neil Darbyshire, a long-time servant of the paper, and Will Lewis, its new city editor, as joint deputy editors.

Students of these matters should study the press release circulated by the PR firm Brown Lloyd James. Martin Newland, the editor of The Daily Telegraph, was miffed that it was the paper's chief executive, Murdoch MacLennan, rather than himself, who approached Mr Steafal. When that deal fell through, he asked to be able to act as master of his own ship. The press release duly accords Mr Newland the central role in the new dispensations. "The editor of The Daily Telegraph is delighted to announce" and "Mr Newland today announced" - and so forth.

But the editor of The Telegraph should not allow PR men to put words in his mouth that make him sound like a Californian management trainee. He is quoted as saying: "In Will, we have a true innovator with an eye for detail and structural change, attributes that will help me drive development at the title." Ugh!

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
Life and Style
Baroness Lane-Fox warned that large companies such as have become so powerful that governments and regulators are left behind
techTech giants have left governments and regulators behind
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin visits her 1990s work ‘My Bed’ at Tate Britain in London, where it is back on display from today
artsBut how does the iconic work stand up, 16 years on?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Recruitment Genius: Advertisement Sales Manager

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A publishing company based in F...

Guru Careers: Product Design Engineer / UX Designer

£20 - 35k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a tech savvy Product Design Engineer /...

Day In a Page

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