February 17, 2016
All change in British journalism
by Zeljka Marosevic
Last week saw big changes in British journalism.
First, the dramatic news came that The Independent and The Independent on Sunday print editions would cease publication in March. After 30 years, the newspaper will transition into an online-only news outlet. It means Britain will lose one of its major daily and Sunday newspapers and it sends warning signals across print journalism: who’s next?
Evgeny Lebedev, the Russian billionaire owner of The Independent and the Evening Standard tried to put a positive spin on the decision, claiming that the newspaper would be “the first national newspaper title to move to a digital-only future.” According to The Guardian, there will be over 100 staff redundancies, out of a 150-strong staff.
As well as a huge loss to quality print journalism, it will hurt publishers who have relied on the generous space afforded to books in the arts pages of both The Independent and Independent on Sunday. Lisa Campbell at The Bookseller reported on Friday that “it is so far unclear if the Independent On Sunday’s literary editor Katy Guest’s position at the company has been affected.”
The second story was not as widely reported but it affects books coverage just as much: the weekly literary paper the Times Literary Supplement is to have a new editor, Stig Abell. Abell will replace current editor Sir Peter Stothard when he retires in February. Stothard has been at the helm of the TLS for 14 years and before that was editor of The Times.
Stig Abell might appear a strange choice. He is currently the managing editor of The Sun tabloid newspaper and before that spent nine years at the Press Complaints Commission. But according to Roy Greenslade at The Guardian, the choice is not as unexpected as it might seem:
He spent 10 years reviewing fiction for the TLS, as well as the Spectator and the Telegraph titles. His enthusiasm for literature is so great that in 2013 he spent his commuting hours reading the complete canon of Shakepeare’s plays– 38 in all. A News UK source described him as “the most intelligent guy in the company”.
As a lover of Shakespeare, Abell will find lots to enjoy at the TLS, and it will surely be a welcome change from tabloid journalism. But for The Independent, readers forgive me, “the rest is silence”.
Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.