Wyn Harness

Journalist of unbending standards


Wyngate Edwin Harness, journalist: born Boston, Lincolnshire 1 February 1960; staff journalist, Lincolnshire Standard 1978-81; staff journalist, Brighton Argus 1981-86; Layout Sub-Editor, The Independent 1986-91, Deputy Chief Sub-Editor 1991-96, Chief Sub-Editor 1996-99, Assistant Editor 1999-2007; married 1998 Sue Royal (one son, one daughter); died Hove, East Sussex 3 October 2007.

Wyn Harness was a pivotal figure in the history of The Independent. He was one of the founding journalists at the paper when it was launched in 1986. And for more than 20 years, he played a vital part in setting high standards for news coverage at the title; standards which saw The Independent established as a newspaper of record by 1989; standards which he helped perpetuate through changes of editor, ownership and format.

During those years, Harness took on gradually increasing levels of responsibility, always in areas closely related to the daily choice and presentation of the news. He rose from being a layout sub-editor, working with the Home News Desk, to Chief Sub-Editor and then to Assistant Editor, one of the senior executives who took it in turns to edit the newspaper on Sundays.

In those years, he had a growing influence on the face of the newspaper; what it contained, and how that content was presented. And a firm control on the bon ton which has been a special characteristic of the paper for the past 21 years.

When Andreas Whittam Smith, Stephen Glover and Matthew Symonds launched The Independent, one of their founding principles was to run a distinct news agenda that was free from party political bias; standing outside the lobby briefing system; free from the influence of over-mighty press barons who controlled rival papers; and which rose above the pervading obsession with coverage of the doings of the lesser satellites of the royal family.

Wyn Harness was one of the close-knit team who first put these principles into practice. The establishing character of The Independent's news pages was that they were well-planned (the first edition seemed startlingly modern to the waiting world), making strong use of photojournalism; driven by the specialist knowledge of the contributing journalists (rather than the day's run of press releases); and ultimately unpredictable in content.

Working with the founding news editor, Jonathan Fenby, and the editor, Harness and his colleagues had the task of pulling together a formula that would see the paper match the sales of The Times within three years of its launch.

The Independent has had six editors since Whittam Smith stepped down in 1994, and has evolved in content and in style of presentation, become a dual-format newspaper, and then the first quality compact newspaper in Britain. And throughout all those years, through times of price wars and change of ownership, to the recent years of stability and growth, Wyn Harness, with his unbending standards, his sense of symmetry and good form, was an anchor for the paper.

A typical day for Harness would see him in the morning news conference, where all present were expected to have a feel for the general news agenda, and where the special agenda of The Independent would be agreed. Over the next nine hours or so, it was Harness's role, and special skill, to act as a crux for that day's news pages, working with the editor, executive editor, picture editor and the news editors. And to do so while keeping the variables of edition size (the number of pages available to news) and advertising content in sync with the news lists; at all times to act as a touchstone for his colleagues in a constantly fluctuating environment. And to end up with a newspaper worth selling the next day.

Wyn Harness was born at home in Boston, Lincolnshire in 1960, the youngest of four children of Ray and Freda Harness. He attended Boston Grammar School, from where he went straight to the Lincolnshire Standard in 1978. In 1981 he joined the Brighton Argus, where he was marked out as a rising star. He was always a lover of motorbikes. He had an easy charm about him, his mother recalls, and persuaded her to get him a Douglas motorbike for his 16th birthday. He was a first-rate footballer as a youth, and played in midfield for Lincolnshire County under-18s. He was a committed Liverpool fan.

When he left the Brighton Argus in 1986 his job was taken by Sue Royal. Five years later Wyn and Sue became a couple, and they were married in 1998. Harness commuted each day to The Independent from his happy family life in Hove and his afternoon conversations with his son and daughter gave him an excellent sense of proportion amid the pressing clamour of world events.

Despite the vagaries of the rail service on the Brighton line, he was a constant presence. Less than a year ago he had to give up work after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour. The staff at the Martlets hospice who cared for him at the end were deeply impressed by the large number of friends who gathered round him. He inspired the same loyalty in his friends as he did in his colleagues.

At the time of highest stress – the events of 11 September 2001 and of 7 July 2005 – Wyn Harness was at his calmest and most competent. With his liquid but purposeful gait, he moved quickly about the newsroom without ever seeming to hurry. In an industry much given to histrionics and excesses of testosterone, he maintained a soft voice and calm demeanour. He spoke in a half-confidential whisper, broken by an easy, amused laugh, occasionally raising and darkening the tone in his voice to be heard by colleagues two desks away. He sat with an upright posture and level gaze, with an Olympian, aristocratic air of detachment. The son and brother of Lincolnshire farmers, he liked good architecture and good landscape – his favourite reading was Country Life – and to eat and drink well.

When he edited the newspaper on a Sunday, he was a model of clarity: decisive in establishing priorities for the newspaper. And he edited in great detail, forever aware of the face that the newspaper would present to the world. If, at some unexpected time of day, Wyn Harness picked up his notebook and headed for the editor's office, accompanied by the executive editor and the news editors, the watching newsroom knew a big story was breaking; that new plans were afoot. And as he made his meditative way to the coat rack at the end of a long day, those same colleagues could read the signal that another paper was complete, and that the next day The Independent would be The Independent.

Louis Jebb

News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
peopleSir Patrick took a more understated approach to the challenge
News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
scienceTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
Arts and Entertainment
tvWe have created an infogaphic that looks back over the previous incarnations of the Doctor
Sport
Olivier Giroud celebrates after his late goal saved Arsenal a point at Goodison Park
football Giroud rescues a point for Arsenal after they trailed by two goals
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
i100
News
newsComedian Lee Hurst started trend with first tweet using the hashtag
News
i100
News
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea was left red faced but, thankfully, unhurt after taking a few too many steps backwards, sending her tumbling off the stage.
people
Life and Style
A nearly completed RoboThespian robot inside the Engineered Arts workshop is tested in Penryn, England. The Cornish company, operating from an industrial unit near Falmouth, is the world's only maker of commercially available life sized humanoid robots
techSuper-intelligent robots could decide destroying the human race is the kindest thing to do
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
News
i100
Extras
indybest

Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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 General

Software Developer (Java /C# Programmer)- London

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global investment management fi...

Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CCNP, Cisco, London)

£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...

Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, Cisco, CISSP)

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...

Senior Network Engineer-(Design, Implementation, CCIE)

£60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition