SubScribe: With no Indy to hold its hand, who will write the i? Google+

Friday 12 February 2016

With no Indy to hold its hand, who will write the i?

Independent and i

Amol Rajan reportedly sent staff a "no comment" email about the future - or lack of it - for his 30-year-old paper. But the message to readers via his front page could hardly have been clearer: the Independent was facing a black hole.

Now the death of the print newspaper has been announced and we are all sad.

Commentators far more in touch with the background than SubScribe have written obituaries of the Independent, remembering the great hopes of the "It is, are you?" campaign, running through the series of owners who tried to make the paper pay.

But what I haven't seen addressed anywhere is the question of what Johnston Press will get for its £24m when it takes over the i?

Who is going to write the paper?

It sells well - though less well than it did last year - not only because it is cheap, but because it is the thinking person's tabloid. It has its own editor and elements of identity, but it is essentially a digested Independent.

Do Andrew Grice, Steve Connor, Steve Richards, Kim Sengupta, Mark Steel, Yasmin Alibhai Brown et al consider themselves i writers? When they stroll along the corridors of power, do they say "Hello, I'm Steve, I work for the i?" Do they have the i on their business cards?

Or do they say they're from the Independent?

Of course they do.

So will they stay with the online-only version of the grown-up paper, or are they being sold to a local paper cost-cutter as part of the package? And if the latter, how long will they stay?

My suspicion is that Ashley Highfield is going to have to start pretty much from scratch and build a new paper, so that all he's buying is a title and a circulation that may very well plummet without the star names at the paper's heart.

And if they are not part of the package, how long before the Guardian, Times and Telegraph come along to start poaching them from the online title?

The symbiosis between the i and the Indy (less so the Sindy) runs throughout the papers and is so vital to both titles and it is hard to see how they can face the  future apart. This doesn't apply only to the columnists and senior political writers, but across the board - arts reviews, sport, business, even lifestyle - and, as ever, the unsung heroes and heroines of the subs' desk.

To illustrate the point, here are some bits from today's editions:
junior doctors
saudi arabia
arts reviewindependent feature
i feature

LVG the independent

LVG the i

Presumably Mr Lebedev and Mr Highfield have thought all this through. But there can be few people apart from them who don't think this will all end in even more tears than are being shed today.

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