Independent relaunches as a more thoughtful paper...but will it really be free from Lebedev's influence?

Independent editor Simon Kelner takes his Viewspaper philosophy of what a national daily newspaper should look like today to the next level with his his latest relaunch of The Independent.

It’s a serious and upmarket relaunch evidently designed to appeal to the Independent’s somewhat rarefied audience these days which makes sense and sticks to the heart of what The Independent is about.

But it can’t hide the fact that at £1 a copy, The Independent does feel pretty thin.

Roy Greenslade doesn’t think much of it, but admits that he does not write from an unbiased viewpoint.

For me it is an improvement on the 2008 relaunch. It feels like a more thoughtful paper, which is trying hard to keep ahead of the news agenda and look askance at it. The Independent cannot hope to outgun its rivals so it must out think them by doing things a little differently.

The beefy Election 2010 section reflected well the drama that has been injected into the campaign by Nick Clegg’s surprise debate victory – and headlines like “Tory decapitation squad targets Jacqui Smith”, certainly grabbed my interest.

“Interrogation by email” between Richard Garner and Tory education spokesman Michael Gove across a double-page spread was another nice touch.

Although the whole package felt decidedly thin, there were enough big reads in there to keep most people going through a half-hour or more train journey.

But the new Viewspaper second section feels a little gimmicky to me, and simply repackages existing content into a new slot.

The front page of it looks like it has been created by designers for designers and I found it to be all but unreadable.

Caretaker editor Simon Kelner’s claim on page two that the Independnet is now the only newspaper which is free from proprietorial influence and political affiliation is a bold one and clearly aimed at winding up the opposition (which judging by Greenslade’s reaction it has done).

And the “FREE FROM PROPRIETORIAL INFLUENCE” claim below the masthead must be based more on hope than reality as Kelner can have little idea yet what sort of proprietor Lebedev will turn out to be. But at hopefully it will at least serve to stiffen the resolve of the new editor, whoever that may be, if Lebedev does turn out to be more hands-on than he is at present indicating.

If Lebedev really does turn out to be as saintly as Kelner is suggesting his claim may hold water.

The News International titles are influenced to varying extents by Rupert Murdoch, ditto Telegraph Group and the Barclays, the FT is arguably influenced to the extent that it is in favour of capitalism and making money (albeit in a non-partisan way), Richard Desmond at Express Newspapers needs no explanation, the Rothermeres claim not to influence their titles – but they do reflect a very distinct world view and The Guardian is constitutionally bound to promote ‘liberal journalism’.

Mind you Kelner probably should have said only “national newspaper” as, unlikely the nationals, the majority of regional newspaper in the UK really can claim to be absolutely free of proprietorial influence.

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