The abandonment of its print edition by The Independent newspaper – to a wholly digital future – is imminent. When it was first published in 1986 under Andreas Whittam Smith I was still idealistic and young enough to welcome it with open arms, pleased to encourage a brand new non-Murdoch broadsheet – especially since it had the word ‘independent’ in its title.
What was there not to like about it?
However, unlike those who rant and rail against the supposed cartel of the right-wing British press barons (included in which definition of course are Mr Murdoch, the mysterious Barclay brothers who own The Daily Telegraph and apparently live on Brecqhou, the tiny sister island of Sark, and Jonathan Harmsworth, 4th Viscount Rothermere, ultimate owner of the Daily Mail group, who seems to operate through a maze of oversea trusts for tax purposes), I take the view that – for good or ill – in the UK, as in any Western democracy, we tend to end up with the media organs we deserve and I don’t have a problem with that.
My distrust and cynicism towards the left-wing, campaigning, champagne socialist, ‘chattering’, Hampstead-set (as it used to be) media classes is just about as pronounced as Simon Campion-Brown’s of the political class.
What they fail to appreciate, as they talk endlessly about the need to establish a left-of-centre media organ to match The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph et al. is how capitalism and the world actually works. In order to survive under its own steam, let alone thrive, said organ would need to make a healthy profit … and there’s the rub – it wouldn’t.
Given that fact, the only other way to establish a left-wing alternative to the media outlets we have now would be to create a false market, or indeed set up some sort of state-sponsored or funded media organisation with taxpayers’ money.
The trouble is that the right-on, politically-correct, ‘progressive’ campaigns that the Hampstead-set [and yes, I’m sorry, but it’s a neat catch-all description] love to espouse, write about and demand – allegedly on behalf of the advancement of women, ethnic minorities, the disabled, the LGBT [the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community and anyone else you can think of – are never quite aimed at advancing all those grouping they claim to represent. They’re actually writing about themselves and how they’d like things to change in order that they can have better lives.
Take the average middle-aged female columnist – my readers can fill in the names of their favourite examples here if they wish – who finds herself banging on about the iniquity of unequal pay, the ‘glass ceiling’ in the City, the under-representation of women in the board rooms of FTSE 100 companies and other similar former bastions of male exclusivity. For the most part, she’s actually referring to aspirations that she has herself, or even perhaps to issues that her very-well-educated, recently-graduated, daughter has recently encountered during her six-month period as an intern in a City law firm or leading Soho advertising agency.
She might think, even believe, that she’s addressing the issues that affect the majority of women in the UK but generally-speaking she’s quite wrong. She’s actually living and operating in – and indeed commenting upon – a rarefied, elite, and self-absorbed strata of British society, not discussing the issues that ordinarily confront the great mass of average female mothers, employees or housewives on a daily basis.
In my view the fact is – and I’m not being dog-in-the-manger, or ‘so out of touch I might as well be in the 19th Century’ about it – the vast bulk of the British population does not know anyone in their own lives who is bisexual (let alone open about it) and has a good deal of difficulty coming to terms with the theoretical concept that someone might be enduring a life-struggle with the conviction that they’ve been born in the wrong-gendered body and might want to do something about it.
Which brings me back to the plight of The Independent and the demise of its print edition.
I have to confess that I have personally contributed to its problems in the sense that, apart from during the first six months or so of its existence, I have never bought The Independent on a regular basis.
Over the last decade or two I have only read it online. With some notable exceptions, I have always regarded its contributors (to use a soccer analogy) as generally top of the Championship, rather than Premier League class.
Furthermore – and this may not bode well for its digital future – I have always found its website the least dynamic and user-friendly of those of the major UK newspapers that one would habitually read.
Considering today how we on the Rust might mark the demise of The Independent‘s paper edition, I came across this article by its former sports editor Paul Newman today on The Independent‘s website and it occurred to me that it was about as fitting as anything – see here – SPORTS REPORTING OVER THE PAST THIRTY YEARS