Wyn Harness, assistant editor of The Independent, died on 3 October in Hove, Sussex, at the age of 47. Harness was one of the founding journalists at The Independent when it launched in 1986.
His first job at the paper was as a layout sub-editor. During two decades at the paper he took on growing responsibility, as chief sub-editor and then as assistant editor, and as a member of the Sunday editing rota.
The Independent’s founding editors set out to pursue a distinct news agenda that was free from party political bias, outside the lobby system, and that eschewed all coverage of the royal family’s doings. Harness was one of the team that first put these principles into practice. The Independent’s news pages were well-planned from the outset, making strong use of photojournalism; and with journalist-driven copy making for a consciously unpredictable news list.
Harness was a pivotal figure in the creation of The Independent’s news pages, working with the editor, executive editor, picture editor and news editors, to plan the content, layout and subbing for that evening’s edition.
As the paper evolved, under changing ownership and changing format (The Independent became the first dual-format newspaper in 2003 and the first quality compact in 2004), Harness acted as a sheet anchor for the paper’s character and editorial standards.
Wyngate Edwin Harness was born in Lincolnshire in 1960. He attended Boston Grammar School, from where he went to the Lincolnshire Standard in 1978. In 1981 he joined the Brighton Argus. One of his finest hours there was the creation of the Brighton Bomb issue. When he left the Argus in 1986 his job was taken by Sue Royal. Five years later Wyn and Sue became a couple, and they were married in 1998.
Less than a year ago Wyn had to give up work at The Independent after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour.
At the time of highest stress – the 11 September attacks and the 7 July London bombings – Harness was at his calmest and most competent. In an industry much given to histrionics and excitability, he maintained a soft voice and equable demeanour.
When he edited the newspaper on a Sunday, he was a model of clarity: decisive in establishing the content and priorities for the newspaper. He edited in great detail, well aware of the face that the newspaper should present to the world the next morning.