Letter from the editor

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The Independent Online
I've never had signer's hand before. Hundreds and hundreds of letters about the new paper have come in; hundreds and hundreds of replies have gone out. Pro forma, many of them, I admit. But an aching forearm and numb finger-ends proves that they are at least all read and signed. The content? Some of it has been wonderfully flattering, some of it rather the reverse. But there are still very large numbers of thoughtful suggestions and responses which are, I promise, genuinely talked about up here on the 18th floor of Canary Wharf. Action will follow, at least some of the time.

On the front page there is still an articulate and stroppy minority who want a more conventional treatment, with lots of stories piled up, a la Daily Telegraph. Most people, though, seem to be enjoying the zippier feel, and the stripped-down list of essential news, plus one main story and a big picture.

Interestingly, the most hostile group of all are older journalists: one media writer from another paper told me he had rung round for opinions and found that there were two almost mutually exclusive groups: the hacks who hate it, and the rest, who like it. Of course, if those were the proportions, it would be wonderful. (Being a post-presbyterian Scot I doubt it.)

Most people seem to have enjoyed the front-page images, particularly the whale shark and the Indian in Brompton Cemetery. But quite a lot deeply disliked the photomontage of King Fahd with the two British nurses below him. OK, I am getting the photomontage message. Another thing is the page two index. We put that in to help people through the paper, but very few of you seem to need it or want it much. So I may put back a column of news shorts there before very long, as some readers have asked us to.

But the main thing to say is that all the early indications are of success; the new paper is simply liked more and read more than our much-loved old version. As is traditional on these occasions, a couple of media commentators from rival papers have sagely announced our imminent death. One was a former editor of the Independent on Sunday who fell out badly with the other founders, wrote a book about how beastly everybody was, and has been sadly proclaiming the end of The Independent almost monthly ever since. He is our ever-present professional mourner, hovering in the background with a wreath at the ready. And as year follows year, and we fail to die, his face has grown steadily longer. It now swings fetchingly around his knees. The other is the Labour MP Gerald Kaufman who used to bang on about what a wonderful paper this was ... until we turned him over for taking a freebie holiday in Malta. (Naughty Gerald.) Since then he has changed his mind - I can't think why.

Anyway, bad news for all Eeyores, at least for a while. Our first week of the new paper, admittedly at the low price, was stormingly successful, breaking all our internal forecasts. This week, far harder since we were at 45p, was equally happy: the early shouts from newsagents put us up at least 20,000 a day on our normal sale. I don't suppose we'll keep that up, but it has had me wandering about with a sillier-than-usual smile. Ach weel. Nae doot life will wipe it off again next week.

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