Letter from the Editor

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The Independent Online
First of all, thank you. Thank you to everyone who has written in about the new paper - to the enthusiasts, who seem to be a hefty majority, but also to the complainants too. I have been touched by the trouble people have taken to go through the paper carefully, often raising detailed questions of typography, design and editorial philosophy when they write. You may be, at times, a difficult bunch; but you must also be one of the most knowledgeable and opinionated newspaper readerships in the world.

I simply can't write a personal letter back to everyone who has commented, but there is a couple of specific points which need to be raised.

First, readability. This confuses me. Quite a lot of you find the paper easier to read. But a minority are having trouble. They ask, for instance, why the typeface of the main stories is smaller. It isn't! It was 8.75- point Dutch Roman before, and is still. But we have increased the ``leading'' - the gap between lines - slightly, to 10 points. Perhaps that, with the greater use of white space, is causing more glare for some readers, while others, with different eyesight, find it easier. The problem could be corrected by closing up the leading, but that would make the text look a bit more cramped, and probably annoy others. Anyway, all comments are welcome.

Second, the index on page two. That has replaced the ``significant shorts'' column, though the ``people'' and ``briefing'' material is still there. Some think the index essential, others would like the shorts returned. What do you think?

Finally, many of you have asked: where has the design come from? Is there another, overseas paper which is the model? The answer is no, though I have been slouching around international newsagents for many months. There are plenty of better-looking papers elsewhere, from Scandinavia to America. I particularly like the looks of, for instance, La Vanguardia of Barcelona (a truly beautiful-looking paper), Die Woche from Germany, Brazil's O Globo, and Liberation in France - though we'd never get away with the wild, Gallic enthusiasm of their typefaces.

Hints and suggestions have come from these and other papers. But the new Independent looks nothing like any of them. The brief story is that it was created by a small huddle of us, including a London-based designer, Vince Frost, over many long evenings of experiment and argument. There was a lot of scribbling on large bits of paper, tearing up and Sellotaping back together again. Then, encouraged by the owners, we tested it with groups of readers, and refined our designs. I sat listening to some say, ``it's gorgeous, don't lose your nerve'', and others who said, ``it's terrible, what are you up to?'', and tried to make sense of who was saying what, and why. As time went on, more and more colleagues came into the loop, added ideas and subtracted others. Colleagues from other papers periodically telephoned to congratulate us on our bold decision to go tabloid and downmarket, or to print on green paper, or to become a glossy magazine. We thanked them politely and kept our counsel.

Then, finally, earlier this month we printed the new newspaper as for ``live'' on a couple of long nights, after the real paper had been sent to the print sites, and took the results - new, printed papers with that morning's news - to panels of genial commuters in different parts of the country, who munched their way through Danish pastries and told us what they thought. Then we took a deep breath and pressed the ``go'' button. Here, we are all baggy-eyed with exhaustion. But it was worth it.

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