Why The Planet fell to earth

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The Independent Online
It was the briefest of orbits in the heady world of newspapers. The Planet on Sunday, launched by a millionaire environmentalist and travel entrepreneur, folded after only one edition this week, after its owner described it as "despicable".

The Planet was dubbed the "newspaper of the future" and for Clifford Hards, 65, who made his fortune selling cheap package holidays to Eastern Europe, it was to be a national platform for his beloved environmental issues. So how did the Planet and Mr Hards' pounds 500,000 dream of a green newspaper go up in smoke?

In the best possible tradition of the media, it was over the content and "editorial differences" with his editor, Austin Mitchelson. In the first and only edition, Mr Hards who has stood unsuccessfully as an independent candidate for Parliament, set out his green agenda, calling for a reduction in international trade to reduce pollution, and suggesting that Britain was better outside the EU. But when he opened the paper, which sold 115,000 copies, he found little else to please him than the Dan Dare comic strip. The alarmist tone of some stories and the celebrity articles, television and sports coverage, were not to his taste. He said: "I feel it is better to withdraw than produce a publication that does not match the ideals of the environmental movement. I do however, appreciate how hard the staff have worked."

Among the more striking stories in Planet was the tale of a jilted gorilla who turned violent, how sun-bathing could bring on "Aids-like diseases", and how Anthea Turner's sister had been bitten by a bat.

For the 12-strong editorial team it was a disappointing end to the newspaper's brief life. Mr Mitchelson, a founder mem-ber of the Sunday Sport when it was still writing of B52s on the moon, had arrived for the first day of his editorship in buoyant mood. But at Wednesday's 10am meeting, Mr Hards arrived with his son, an accountant with his travel company, New Millennium, and said the whole venture was a mistake.

Mr Mitchelson said: "I was stunned by his decision. The publisher had seen it at every stage. Then he said no-one would buy the second edition because it was so terrible."

The staff had hoped to dent the circulation of the middle market including the Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Express. Now Mr Mitchelson is negotiating with a British backer to relaunch the Planet.

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