Michael Williams: Readers' editor

We are not the BBC, thank goodness

Men in offices still wore fat braces, mobile phones were the size of bricks, Madonna and Kylie Minogue were in the Top 10 and 'The Independent on Sunday' was born. The world may have changed since January 1990, but readers are still arguing about what it means to be "independent".

James Tyrell, from Cirencester, emails: "I think we accept that global warming is a serious matter, but why do you have to go to such extremes in your reporting? Last week's front-page picture made it look as though the world was on fire, and you use headlines such as 'catastrophe', 'devastating', 'a world dying'. Two months ago the BBC was forced to drop a day of programmes about climate change because they breached the corporation's guidelines on impartiality. If you lived up to the name established by your founders, you, too, would be separating fact from fiction in an unbiased way."

Looking at that first front page on 28 January 1990 in the light of what you say, Mr Tyrell, it was certainly pretty neutral, with a sober lead on Nelson Mandela's impending release, and a report on petrol prices. But it's wrong to think this newspaper ever took on the same obligations to impartiality as the BBC. The title "Independent" was coined, not with any public service remit, but against the background of Rupert Murdoch's Wapping dispute in 1986, amid what was seen as increasing editorial interference by newspaper owners.

Like its older sister, the IoS has evolved and matured over the years. That quieter notion of independence has developed into what you have in your hands today – a paper independent of proprietorial interference and which speaks passionately on matters which it thinks important to its readers.

Sometimes those issues chime with the general consensus. On global warming, we're happy to stand shoulder to shoulder with 2,500 of the world's top scientists who reported last week that the quickening pace of climate change is a threat to world stability.

But, equally, we're not afraid to go against the grain – as we did with the Iraq war – the IoS stood alone among Sunday newspapers in opposing it. Independence for The Independent on Sunday is not about sitting on the fence. It is about knowing our own mind. And not being cowed by those who want us to keep quiet.

Corrections and clarifications

Last week I claimed this newspaper was "not secular". I'm delighted to be corrected by Marilyn Mason from Kingston upon Thames, who writes: "You are not the 'Church Times', thank goodness. You probably meant to say 'not secularist'." I did – and thanks, too, to Frances Wilson for spotting an error in Weeklypedia last week."The queen was heir presumptive, not 'heiress apparent', at the time of her wedding. As the UK has a system of male primogeniture for the monarchy, it is impossible for the daughter of a king to be heir apparent as there is always the theoretical possibility that her father may have a son who could take precedence." The sub-editor who changed the original copy is now in the Tower.

Message Board: Is the world dying or is this a false alarm?

Alarming evidence that polluted seas are hastening global warming ignited a fierce debate between bloggers, who share their views at www.independent.co.uk/IoSblogs

John Wood

There is a lack of urgency among world leaders about dealing with climate change, particularly in the UK. At least Bush will be gone relatively soon. Brown, having shown little understanding of the situation, is a different matter.

Ian Fitzsimmons

Global warming is an entirely natural aspect of this planet, as is the carbon cycle, and should not be confused with waste and pollution, which can be avoided.

Ian Smith

Isn't it amazing that in a world which is more technically advanced than in any time in history, we are talking in years rather than months to make any significant changes?

Dennis D

While I think these predictions are on the verge of hysteria, reducing carbon emissions would be a wonderful thing.

F Steiner

Ocean acidification is very real... you can simply go and measure the acid level anywhere in the world. Unlike global warming... which is very difficult to predict... ocean acidification is quite simple.

Roderick M

It's just a matter of time before the global warming police come and inspect our carbon footprints and tax us, based on this faulty science.

C Russell

Should we all clean up our "rooms"? You bet. Will it change the world? A tiny bit. Will it save the world? No. Humans are not that powerful.


When will people realise that global warming is more about politics and the associated agenda than real science?

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