LETTER from THE EDITOR

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The Independent Online
We need some more enemies. I am now approaching this editing business in a scientific spirit and my researches suggest that newspapers are defined as much by their natural enemies as anything else. Thus, the Daily Mail hates liberals, Channel 4, shifty foreigners; The Telegraph hates Irish republicans, European federalists and people who have had abortions; The Sun hates certain football managers (I can never remember which ones), women with their clothes on ...

And The Independent? Well, we are primly promiscuous in our disapproval. Our political and commercial foes are legion, from Tory nationalists to Rupert Murdoch. But we are, it must be confessed, a little short of proper, blood-summoning, sinew-stiffening enemies. Paul Johnson won't do; hating him is over-fashionable. Michael Howard would be a popular choice among readers; but he would be far more worried if The Independent didn't consider him an enemy: give him a favourable mention and it would do him such damage with the right that he'd probably sue. The same is true of many other obvious targets.

What about picking some wider group to demonise, then? Who could we treat as our version of single mothers? Utility chairmen? Purveyors of combat knives? Cult leaders? The designers of Legoland? Men who wear moustaches? You see the problem - it's all too pointlessly easy. And in some of these cases, the spasm to be fair ruins what would otherwise have been a promising campaign. In an editorial the other day we took a savage pop at media studies, the sociology of the Nineties, and thus at professors of media studies. No good either; they only smiled knowingly and ... analysed us back. I think the only answer is to seize randomly upon some previously innocuous-seeming group and attack them relentlessly until circulation soars. But since this is purely a commercial, branding exercise, it must be a unique enemy - some group no one has yet found an excuse to attack. Canadians? Manicurists? The people of Chelmsford, with their goatish lusts and dark philosophies? All suggestions gratefully received.

I only took this job in order to be glamorous. I thought I'd go to all these swanky parties and exciting receptions, arriving late and smoking with the latest news, before dropping a few tinkling epigrams and causing famous authors to choke with admiration. No go. Apparently, the job of newspaper editors is to edit newspapers - they never made that clear at the time - and this makes it difficult to get out in the evening.

This has been a typical week. I was invited to the launch of Andrew Neil's book, arrived just too late and was refused a drink. Then there was an incredibly glitzy Vanity Affair affair - Tina Brown, Harold Evans, Michael Jagger, Salman Fry, Stephen Rushdie, etc, etc. Too bad; stuck in traffic.

Never mind. I did finally make it to lunch with Granta magazine, however, which is glamorous in a literary sense. A long taxi-ride prepared me for a grand entrance; the restaurant doors swung open,;I had an epigram ready to spit ... but there had been a mix-up and there was nobody there.

Finally, a word from James Gilmour, who writes spiritedly from Kilmarnock, strongly attacking this paper's ``fence-sitting'' attitude to party politics: ``The British newspaper-buying public really don't appreciate `fairness' ... what they like is pure unashamed prejudice.'' Mr Gilmour, I think you may be right. Chelmsford had better watch out.

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