Tag Archives: the Independent

Independent announces a price rise and new journalist appointments

The Independent announced an increase in the price of its weekday editions to £1.20 today, which editor Chris Blackhurst said was “bringing it into line with other newspapers”.

In a note to readers published online Blackhurst said:

For almost four years, the Independent has not raised its price. During that period, we have faced intense financial pressures. Inflation has been high and the recession severe and prolonged.

Newsprint, transportation and other production costs continue to rise, seemingly inexorably. Despite that, we have held off asking for more from you as long as we can. Alas, we cannot hold out any longer.

The 20p rise comes into place from Monday (23 April). Its Saturday edition will stay at £1.60.

Blackhurst also outlined new supplements and the appointment of new writers to the Independent (including Grace Dent, who joins from the Guardian) in his message to readers:

From Saturday week, we will be offering refreshed supplements and a flagship arts, books, listings and culture magazine: Radar. From its name you can guess that Radar’s aim is to give you advance notice of everything that’s worth knowing in that space.

… The Independent recently added to its award-winning team of writers two of the brightest new, young stars in the journalistic firmament: Owen Jones and Laurie Penny. They are now joined by more talent, wooed from the competition – the brilliant, sassy, funny Grace Dent.

Independent launches bold new masthead and dumps viewspaper in makeover

The Indy has a bold new masthead to celebrate its 25th birthday. It certainly sticks out among all the other papers in the shop, which can be no bad thing for the relatively low-circulation title.

The new-look paper also comes with a new typeface and headline fonts.

The other big change is that the “Viewspaper”, a pullout comment section created by recently-departed editor Simon Kelner, has been ditched.

New editor Chris Blackhurst said:

We have decided to use the occasion of the paper’s 25th birthday for a makeover. The masthead is bolder – still ‘the Independent’, complete with eagle, but now more striking and harder to miss on the news stands.

The body typeface and headline fonts we use have been made more readable. The other, main alteration is that the Viewspaper has gone. We thought long and hard about this. Viewspaper was created to draw attention to the unrivalled quality of the Independent’s commentators.

We continue to take pride in this quality. But since taking over three months ago, I’ve become aware that the Viewspaper could be something of a ghetto, to be taken out and read later – but in truth, put on one side and, during a busy day, all too often forgotten.

He added that the aim was to create a “faster, more accessible and urgent paper, one that is easily navigated and that puts you in no doubt what The Independent stands for”.



MediaGuardian: Independent editor to rule on Johann Hari plagiarism claims

The Independent’s internal investigation into plagiarism accusations levelled at columnist Johann Hari is now finished and a decision is expected from editor Chris Blackhurst, the Guardian reports.

The investigation was conducted by Andreas Whittam Smith, one of the founders of the newspaper.

Those close to the newspaper say that Whittam Smith, the founding editor of the Independent, was inclined to be lenient as he completed his deliberations, but it is unclear whether Blackhurst will reach the same conclusion. A decision from the newspaper’s new editor is expected shortly.

Read the full MediaGuardian report at this link.

More from Journalism.co.uk on the Johann Hari plagiarism accusations:


Mea culpa? Johann Hari apologises for ‘error of judgement’

‘Is there a better way of doing this?’: Johann Hari responds to plagiarism accusations


Orwell Prize delays ‘unanimous’ Johann Hari decision

Johann Hari suspended pending investigation

Orwell Prize Council begins investigation into Johann Hari

Media Standards Trust calls for inquiry into Johann Hari’s Orwell Prize

Facebook study finds Independent’s content was shared and liked 136,000 times in one month

Facebook has published a report on the way the Independent uses the social network to share content. The study has found people liked or shared content from the Independent 136,000 during a “recent” month.

These actions were then seen 68,845,050 times on Facebook, with a click-through rate of 0.53 per cent.

The study also found “each action through a social plugin”, such as the recommend button, has driven an average of 2.67 referrals back to the Independent. It also found Facebook referrals result in readers spending an average of seven seconds longer on a destination page.

The Independent’s success in engaging with readers using Facebook and traffic referrals form the social media site increasing by 430 per cent last year has been well documented by Journalism.co.uk. Jack Riley, the Independent’s head of digital audience and content development explained in this post and this podcast, how the Independent has created specific Facebook pages for football teams and columnists such as Robert Fisk, whose page has accumulated more than 24,000 fans.

The first stage of the implementation of the Independent’s Facebook strategy involved adding the recommend plugin at the top and bottom of the article; the second involved the creation of open graph pages for columnists and sports teams.

Mea culpa? Johann Hari apologises for ‘error of judgement’

After yesterday’s storm, this morning’s calmer weather brings with it some reflection from Johann Hari about the scandal he has found himself caught up in.

Writing in today’s Independent, Hari has apologised for an “error of judgement” after being shown to have passed off unattributed material from elsewhere as direct interview quotes.

I did not and never have taken words from another context and twisted them to mean something different – I only ever substituted clearer expressions of the same sentiment, so the reader knew what the subject thinks in the most comprehensible possible words.

The front-page headline for his piece seems to have been changed at the 11th hour from “What I think about the attacks on my professional integrity” to “The lessons I must draw from these attacks on my journalism”.

Both have a certain amount of fighting talk about them. The second is softer around the edges and closer to Hari’s piece in the paper, which is an awkward mix of mea culpa and mea innocentia.

I don’t want to harp on about this. I’m not out to get Johann Hari, I don’t want to see him bullied or hounded, and some of yesterday’s frenzy left a sour taste in my mouth. But seeing people on Twitter call his piece in this morning’s paper “gracious” and “exemplary” and so on sticks in the craw a bit.

Hari is a very intelligent guy, intelligent enough for it not to wash that he was innocently doing something for the benefit of the reader. A “gracious” and “exemplary” response would be an honest one, which I don’t think this is. An honest response would admit that he knew then what he was doing was wrong, rather than sees now that it was. An honest response would admit that part of the reason he did it was to improve his own journalism. To make out that it was all about the reader is disingenuous, I think.

Commenting on my previous blog post on this, Guardian technology correspondent Charles Arthur disagreed with my claim that Hari was being disingenuous in his response. He says instead that a lack of proper journalism training is to blame. Arthur claims that the route up through King’s College, Cambridge to the New Statesman and on, didn’t give Hari the journalistic nous to know that what he was doing was wrong or the arsenal to defend himself against the allegations that followed.

It may be the case that Hari’s sentiments in the paper today are genuine, and bear out Arthur’s assessment that he didn’t know any better, but I don’t buy it. This was not about the readers. It does not do a disservice to the reader to give them an unpolished thought, the disservice is giving them one thing and telling them it’s another, and you don’t need to pass your NCTJs or come up the ranks of a local paper to know that.

Of course, phone hacking is worse, inventing quotes from scratch is worse, and there are probably plenty of other things that happen in our industry that are worse. But we don’t need to judge one thing by another, as if the worse of the two mitigated the lesser. Those other bad practices just serve to show that the reaction to this situation was way out of proportion. As James Ball pointed out in a discussion with me this morning, the fact of this 2003 Private Eye piece about Hari adequately demonstrates the amplifying power of Twitter today.

This is the last thing I’ll write about the issue, I hope, but I do think it merits further discussion. It’s a shame that the debate about the practice itself has been somewhat hijacked and deformed by the brouhaha on Twitter. I know these things aren’t black or white, and that Johann Hari is no Jayson Blair. There are shades of grey in between. And I don’t want to see a campaigning writer and someone who is a force for good in journalism end up on the scrap heap over something like this. But I’m just not sure that today’s defence stands up. As Samira Shackle notes in her New Statesman post today, Hari still hasn’t addressed the charge of lifting material from other interviews as well as from the writings of his subjects.

I’m sure that over the coming months Hari will vie with his Independent colleague Robert Fisk for the dubious honour of most-scrutinised journalist, and I’m equally sure they won’t find any new copy and paste jobs. The level of coverage of this has been sufficient to teach anyone a lesson.

It remains to be seen whether an inquiry into his 2008 Orwell Prize will find that his submissions are affected.

UPDATE: A discussion on Twitter between myself and the Guardian’s Charles Arthur followed this post after he commented on it below. You can see the whole thing at this link, starting at the bottom of the page. The first tweet should start “Interesting comment from @charlesarthur…” and the last “@charlesarthur @jeremyduns Sobering. Threatening to escalate…” – if this is no longer displaying properly please let me know: joelmgunter@gmail.com.

Image by internets_dairy on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

‘Is there a better way of doing this?’: Johann Hari responds to plagiarism accusations

Independent columnist and interviewer Johann Hari has come under fire over the past week for so-called copy and paste journalism.

First the DSG blog pointed out the remarkable similarities between Hari’s 2004 interview with Tony Negri and Negri’s own 2003 book, Negri on Negri. Then Brian Whelan, an editor at Yahoo! Ireland, did a little more digging around and unearthed more similarities. Whelan took a close look at Hari’s interview with Gideon Levy, published in the Independent last year, and found that chunks of it had been lifted from both Levy’s own writing and interviews he gave to other journalists.

It’s important to note the copied passages are not cited as quotes from their original source, which would be perfectly acceptable, but rather passed off as having been said in Hari’s own interview, complete with such dramatic additions as: “With a shake of the head, he says…” and “After saying this, he falls silent, and we stare at each other for a while. Then he says, in a quieter voice…”

What is perhaps more surprising than the evidence that the Independent’s star interviewer has been lifting quotes from elsewhere to neaten up his work, is a blog post from Hari last night defending the practice.

The post, titled “interview etiquette”, explains that he occasionally replaces quotes from an interview with quotes from elsewhere in which the subject has better expressed the same idea.

So occasionally, at the point in the interview where the subject has expressed an idea, I’ve quoted the idea as they expressed it in writing, rather than how they expressed it in speech. It’s a way of making sure the reader understands the point that (say) Gideon Levy wants to make as clearly as possible, while retaining the directness of the interview. Since my interviews are intellectual portraits that I hope explain how a person thinks, it seemed the most thorough way of doing it.

Hari claims to be bemused that a blogger considers this plagiarism, and says that he has called round “a few other interviewers for British newspapers” who told him that they do the same thing from time to time.

But Hari’s defence that he would expect somebody interviewing him about Martin Amis to replace something like: “Um, I think, you know, he got the figures for, uh, how many Muslims there are in Europe upside down” with something he’d written “more cogently about him a month before” is disingenuous. No journalist is expected to quote so verbatim as to include ums, uhs, and you knows. Features would be a complete mess. But they should, without doubt, be expected to not pass off other material as having been said in their interview.

Hari’s simplistic take on the practice is also disingenuous, and I suspect he knows it. There are all sorts of problems associated with this kind of fudging, not least the question of whether his subjects can be confident of having any control over an interview, or whether his editors and readers will be able to trust what they get given. And once misrepresenting what was said a little bit, where do you stop?

It should be acknowledged that all journalists pick and choose quotes from an interview as they see fit, eschewing thousands of words for a few quotes sometimes, and this can carry with it its own forms of misrepresentation. There is a fine, but important line, however, between that and falsifying what was said in an interview.

Hari finishes his post by saying that he is “open to suggestions from anyone who thinks there’s a better way of doing this”.

I have one: ask the right questions, get the answers you are looking for if possible, or if not work with what you’ve got. If your subject has expressed an idea more cogently elsewhere, point your readers in that direction and let them decide for themselves. If they um and ar, cut out the umms and arrs. No one is going to write an accusatory blog post about you doing that.

Hari’s actions aren’t a far cry from the recent case of Brian Walski, who was fired from his job as a staff photographer on the LA Times for filing a composite image. There were few objections to Walski’s sacking, and none from the man himself who issued a contrite apology. Alterations and composites are unacceptable in professional photojournalism, why should it be any different with the written word?

Image by internets_dairy on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Guardian: David Banks on Bahrain’s attempt to sue the Independent

I spoke to media law consultant David Banks this morning for this article about Bahrain’s announcement that it intends to sue the Independent for defamation.

He explained that under case law in the UK local and national governments can’t sue for defamation, as outlined in Derbyshire County Council vs The Times, 1993. He went on to say that one way to circumvent the Derbyshire judgement would be for an individual Bahraini minister to take legal action against the newspaper, but added that the minister would have to prove personal defamation and would likely be up against a robust defence from the Independent. See more on the story in my report.

This afternoon, Banks expands on these legal issues for the Guardian, adding “a note of caution” regarding the Derbyshire judgement:

The judgment refers to the “democratically elected” local and central government of the UK. It does not expressly include the unelected governments of other countries. Whether the high court would take a different view of the unelected government of Bahrain as a claimant than it would a local authority here is not set out.

It would set a curious precedent, though, for the courts here to say that our own elected governments should expect robust media criticism, but unelected dictators and despots can rely on the full protection of our libel laws.

Full the post on Guardian.co.uk at this link.

Jemima Khan joins Independent as associate editor

Activist and human rights campaigner Jemima Khan is to join the Independent as an associate news editor.

Khan will be writing interviews as well as contributing comment and features pages of the Independent and cut-price sister title i. She will also take on some commissioning duties.

She joins the Independent after guest-editing April’s edition of the New Statesman, which focused on freedom of information and free speech.

Khan interviewed Nick Clegg for the edition, about life in the coalition government and his relationship with David Cameron.

Simon Kelner, editor-in-chief of the Independent and i, said: “Anyone who knows Jemima will know that she is a forceful character with strong views. And anyone who saw her issue of the Statesman will have seen that she has an editorial flair.”

Khan said that she was “thrilled with the opportunity”.

“I am a huge fan of both papers and am very excited to be able to work with a talented team of writers and editors,” she added.

Khan appeared in an advert for i earlier this year alongside comedian Dom Joly. The Advertising Standards Agency ruled in May that the advert was misleading in its claim that i contained “no celeb gossip nonsense”.

The Wall: Independent.co.uk boosts Facebook referrals by 680%

Independent.co.uk has been doing its social media homework by the looks of things, with a report from the Wall suggesting that Facebook referrals to the site are up by 680%.

According to the post, Twitter referrals are up by 250%. The site’s digital media editor Jack Riley puts the growth in part down to being one of the first big sites to integrate the Facebook Recommend and Like buttons.

Another nice touch is the paper has started to allow readers to get their news through social networks in categories that reflect their interests and the Independent’s breadth of output. For examples this means you can like individual writers in your news feed or if you’re a footie fan you can like its coverage of your particular team.

Full post on the Wall at this link.

Stephen Glover: ‘Attack Google too, if you value privacy’

In an article for the Independent this morning, Stephen Glover critiques the Murdoch backlash championed, he claims, by the Guardian and suggests that those opposing the BSkyB bid should consider how Google affects privacy.

there is a more powerful organisation that may pose a far greater threat than Rupert Murdoch, and yet it is barely criticised by right-thinking people. Its name is Google.

Glover looks at the role Google plays in daily life through features such as Google Maps and Google Mail as well as comparing the company’s Conservative political sway with that of Rupert Murdoch.

I know which organisation worries me more. I should say in his defence that my old friend Henry Porter has attacked Google in the past, describing it as “an amoral menace”. I am sure he would agree with me that, for all his sins, Mr Murdoch publishes some very good newspapers and produces some good programming. Google may provide an invaluable service but it actually produces nothing much of value while taking billions of pounds of advertising from newspapers and television.

You can read Glover’s opinion piece in full here.