Russian-born media owner Evgeny Lebedev has decided to close the print editions of The Independent, and its sister The Independent on Sunday. An estimated 75 journalists will lose their jobs. But “star writers” including war reporters Patrick Cockburn and Robert Fisk will continue to work for the newspaper’s website www.independent.co.uk. The print editions will cease at the end of March 2016.
The Independent has provided distinctive coverage since it was founded in 1986. It was known for critical, left-of-centre commentary and memorable pictures such as the photograph of the three–year-old refugee boy who drowned and was washed up on a Turkish beach.
During the negotiations to prevent Britain leaving the European Union, the Independent ”named and shamed” the seven most negative pieces of reportage about the so-called “Brexit” debate in its rival newspapers. They include Hollywood actress Emma Thompson’s view that Britain is a “rainy corner of sort-of-Europe, a cake-filled misery-laden grey old island.”
The newspaper has always claimed to be as independent as its title. So, for example, Travel Editor Simon Calder always pays for his own trips rather than relying on freebies from the industry www.simoncalder.co.uk
However the title was losing money, with circulation as low as 50,000. The website by contrast attracts 3,331,403 unique browsers per day.
The Independent Political Correspondent Andy McSmith told ECPMF:
The imminent closure of The Independent has been predicted so often for so many years that it can't be said that this was a total shock, though it is very disappointing. … thousands of people are going to miss the Indy and the Sindy.
Meanwhile the Independent’s younger brother, the "i", a profitable print tabloid aimed at the youth market, is to be sold to rival Johnston Press, owner of The Scotsman. And Lebedev retains ownership of the London Evening Standard which has been in profit for the past three years, with its local television channel London Live TV.
In his letter to staff explaining the closures, Lebedev insists:
The future is digital.
So the launch of a new British print-only newspaper with no website comes as a surprise. Trinity Mirror, owners of the left-wing, Labour party-supporting Daily Mirror and more than 150 regional papers, is making this leap of faith.