A newspaper is like a caricature family gathering. As a reader, you move around, avoiding one relative and sharing a sherry with another; LETTER from THE EDITOR

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The Independent Online
Nineties austerity, tinged with environmentalism, is arriving in the newspaper market. After launching The Eye, we have had some letters urging us to offer a smaller paper, not a bigger one. I have some sympathy: one of the penalties of being in the business is that I get almost all the Sunday papers delivered at home. Well, not The News of the World or Sunday Sport, of course, but the rest of them. Under the slew of grey or yellowing paper, the bedroom, kitchen and hall slowly dissolve into a West London imitation of the Sao Paulo municipal rubbish tip - only instead of the seagulls' cry, there are small Marrs chirruping: "Daddy, why has that lady got no vest on?"

But for The Independent, the practical problem with giving way to the "less is more" philosophy, or down-shifting the paper, is that everybody has strong opinions about what is unnecessary - and they mostly conflict.

One reader would ditch chess, or John Lyttle; others would give up the paper if they went. Some say "no football"; others go there first. A quick count tells me that I have so far been advised to get rid of most of our commentators, the sports pages, colour pictures, all the supplements, coverage of pop music, and food, politics, ("mostly propaganda") and "things about Africa". Which would leave, of course, very little indeed.

If people were really hostile to the size of papers, surely the mammoth, ungainly Sunday Times would be a commercial flop, and tiny Tribune would be hugely popular.

The truth is surely that a newspaper, when it works, is like a caricature family gathering: there are the excessively well informed uncles, angry daughters, hectoring spouses, aged wits, spritely gossips, black sheep, crooners, ranters, hearty story-tellers, drunks, puritans. As a reader you pass around, stopping here and there, avoiding this one and sharing a long sherry with that. You might sometimes wish there were fewer; but once you start dropping them, life suddenly seems a little emptier. At the same time, of course, one house can only accommodate so many raised voices.

A sign of the times: at Southwark Cathedral this week there was a packed memorial service for the brilliant journalist Nico Colchester, inventor of the Mars Bar index of global value, ex of The Financial Times and The Economist. It was a moving and uplifting occasion. Nico was described, accurately enough, like this: "Quintessentially English, he was at the same time thoroughly cosmopolitan and enthusiastically, though not uncritically, pro-European." True: but the apologetic cough of that "though not uncritically" grated. The spirit of Bill Cash was amongst us: Nico, a generous-souled debunker, would have hooted.

The hunt of the week is for the identity of "Cassandra". This famous political nom de guerre has been revived by Tribune as its pseudonym for the Labour MP, a former front-bencher, who attacked Tony Blair in its latest issue, darkly warning of a palace coup against him next summer.

Over-heated stuff, in my opinion: readers of yesterday's paper were able to judge for themselves. But if Tribune say the writer is senior, perhaps that's so. Conceding this is generous on my part, since the previous edition of Tribune had a piece "outing" me as the author of another pseudonymous column, "Lynton Charles MP", in the New Statesman. This is not so. But I know the name of the hapless verbal assassin responsible. And for a small consideration, I may still be persuaded (David) not to reveal it.