History::The Independent


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1986 to 1990

The Independent was first published on 7 October 1986 as a broadsheet.<ref name="Griffiths">Dennis Griffiths (ed.) The Encyclopedia of the British Press, 1422–1992, London & Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992, p.330</ref> It was produced by Newspaper Publishing plc and created by Andreas Whittam Smith, Stephen Glover and Matthew Symonds. All three partners were former journalists at The Daily Telegraph who had left the paper towards the end of Lord Hartwell's ownership. Marcus Sieff was the first chairman of Newspaper Publishing and Whittam Smith took control of the paper.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=news }}</ref>

The paper was created at a time of a fundamental change in British newspaper publishing. Rupert Murdoch was challenging long-accepted practices of the print unions and ultimately defeating them in the Wapping dispute. Consequently, production costs could be reduced and, it was said at the time, create openings for more competition. As a result of controversy around Murdoch's move to Wapping, the plant was effectively having to function under siege from sacked print workers picketing outside. The new paper attracted staff from the two Murdoch broadsheets who had chosen not to move to his company's new headquarters. Launched with the advertising slogan "It is. Are you?", and challenging The Guardian for centre-left readers, and The Times as a newspaper of record, it reached a circulation of over 400,000 by 1989.

Competing in a moribund market, The Independent sparked a general freshening of newspaper design as well as, within a few years, a price war in the market sector. The market was tight and when The Independent launched The Independent on Sunday in 1990, sales were less than anticipated, partly due to the launch of the Sunday Correspondent four months before the IoS, although this direct rival closed at the end of November 1990. Some aspects of production merged with the main paper, although still with a largely distinct editorial staff.

1990 to present

In the 1990s, The Independent was faced with price cutting by the Murdoch titles, and started an advertising campaign accusing The Times and The Daily Telegraph of reflecting the views of their proprietors, Rupert Murdoch and Conrad Black. It featured spoofs of their mastheads with the words 'THE RUPERT MURDOCH', 'The Conrad Black', and below, 'THE INDEPENDENT'.

Newspaper Publishing had financial problems. Several other newspapers launched in the 1980s in the industry as a whole had collapsed without winning enough readers to be profitable, and The Independent was experiencing similar problems. Two European media groups took small stakes. A number of other media companies were interested in the paper. Tony O'Reilly's media group and Mirror Group Newspapers had bought substantial stakes by mid-1994. In March 1995 Newspaper Publishing was restructured with a rights issue, splitting the shareholding into Independent News & Media (43%), MGN (43%), and Prisa (El País, 12%). In the same month, Whittam Smith left the paper.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }}

In April 1996 there was another refinancing and in March 1998 O'Reilly bought the other 54% of the company for £30 million, and assumed the company's debt. Brendan Hopkins headed Independent News while Andrew Marr was appointed editor of The Independent and Rosie Boycott of The Independent on Sunday. Marr introduced a dramatic if short-lived redesign which won critical favour but was a commercial failure, partly as a result of a limited promotional budget. Marr admitted his changes had been a mistake in his book My Trade.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=news }}</ref>

Boycott left in April 1998 to join the Daily Express and Marr in May 1998, later becoming the BBC's political editor. Simon Kelner was appointed as the editor. By this time the circulation had fallen below 200,000. Independent News spent heavily to improve circulation, and the paper had several redesigns. While circulation improved, it did not approach the level which had been achieved in 1989 or restore profitability. Job cuts and financial controls reduced the morale of journalists, and compromised the product. Ivan Fallon, on the board since 1995 and formerly a key figure at The Sunday Times, replaced Hopkins as head of Independent News & Media in July 2002. By mid-2004, the newspaper was losing £5million a year. A gradual improvement meant that by 2006, circulation was at a nine-year high.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=news }}</ref>

In November 2008, following further staff cuts, a move of production was announced to Northcliffe House, in Kensington High Street, the headquarters of Associated Newspapers.<ref name="Northcliffe move">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=news }}</ref> The two newspaper groups' editorial, management and commercial operations remained separate, but they shared services including security, IT, switchboard and payroll.

On 25 March 2010, Independent News & Media sold the newspaper to Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev for a nominal £1 fee and £9.25m over the next 10 months, since closing The Independent and The Independent on Sunday would have cost £28m and £40m respectively, due to long-term contracts.<ref name="i2010-03-25">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=news }}</ref><ref name=bintliff>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=news }}</ref> In 2009, Lebedev had bought a controlling stake in the London Evening Standard. Two weeks later, editor Roger Alton stood down.<ref>Ponsford, Dominic (9 April 2010) "Roger Alton steps down as Independent editor", Press Gazette (London).</ref>

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