Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

Media Focus: “THE INDIE” BITES THE DUST

In A.Graham on May 3, 2016 at 4:44 pm

The Independent, both its daily and Sunday editions, is being phased out – at least in printed form . Both papers are now going “on-line” only.

The daily edition of the paper first appeared in October 1986 as a soberly produced broadsheet (the Sunday edition was to come some years later). It attempted to provide a progressive, independent coverage of news and opinion, and soon settled down to provide a “quality” take on issues of the day.

In more recent times financial problems  forced it to lose some of its independence when it was taken over by Russian oligarch, Alexander Lebedev. But, to be fair, his role was to bank-roll the papers involved without interference in the content of the “Indie”.  The papers maintained a non-party-political line and continued to provide a voice of sanity in a media world increasing dominated by the right-wing press. It goes without saying that there will be jobs lost.

Sadly, the Independent was no longer in the business of making money. As losses mounted, the owner decided to pull the plug. The print edition would cease – and the cut-price “i” would be taken over  by the owner of a string of regional newspapers, including the Yorkshire Post, Sheffield Star and the Scotsman – Johnson Press.

TILTING THE BALANCE:

And so the balance in the press tilts even further to the right. And such papers as the Sun, the Mail, Telegraph and the Daily Express, now dominate the print media whilst spewing out a daily diet of anti-trade union and xenophobic rubbish that often bears very little relationship to the truth. Out of the major players only the Guardian and the Daily Mirror remain to attempt to redress the balance.

It wasn’t always thus of course. Before Murdoch arrived from Australia to launch his newspaper empire in Britain, there was a much more level playing field.

The first major casualty was the News Chronicle. It was a progressive liberal paper, owned by the Cadbury family. It still had a circulation of over a million – yet, without any warning, its owners abruptly decided to sell it to the Daily Mail for a derisory sum.

Whether the Mail gained any readers from the purchase is doubtful. News Chronicle readers were outraged. A packed meeting was called to protest – but there was little that readers could do. They were presented with a fait accompli.

CONSOLIDATION:

The next left-of-centre newspaper to fold was the Daily Herald. The Herald had once been the paper of the Labour Party, and in its infancy  had been edited by George Lansbury. Although its trade union backers had sold out, it still maintained a sizeable circulation – and still backed Labour. Until it decided to transform itself into the Sun.

The new Sun was not a success and was easy pickings for Rupert Murdoch when he came looking for a daily paper to add to his portfolio. He soon transformed it into what it is today.

Another casualty during those years was the long established Sunday paper, Reynolds News, owned by the Co-operative movement. Until, that is, the Co-op decided to close it down.

This shift in the balance of the press has taken a few decades to achieve, but the result can be seen on any news-stand or in any newsagent. And we’re all the poorer for it as a result.

However, the newspaper industry remains in a state of near crisis, with circulations falling.

Take the Guardian, for example. This long established journal of the metropolitan left has seen its sales sink to critical levels. In 2000 it was selling 401,560 daily. Today it’s sunk to a circulation of 164,163.

Alarm bells are now ringing. Faced with this situation, the Guardian is cutting back. It is seeking 250 redundancies (including one hundred editorial jobs). It’s hoped that these job cuts will be achieved by voluntary means. But, of course,  cuts on this scale could well be the start of a downward spiral.

Few newspapers, it seems, are immune. Even the Murdoch camp has been affected. During the same period the circulation of the Sun has sunk from some three and a half million to 1,787,000.

The drain in sales has been blamed on the rise of the “social media”.  In the circumstances, it seems strange that the Mirror group chose to launch a new newspaper – a rather anodyne daily called the New Day. Having read the odd copy, it’s difficult to know what niche market it was aimed at.

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