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The editor who sacked all her critics tries to reassure the market

Lisa Markwell, editor of the Dependent on Sunday which has got rid of its arts critics, is trying to reassure readers and advertisers that there will still be something cultural to read in her paper. Here’s what she says:



The Independent on Sunday is as committed to arts and books coverage as it has always been. The arts critics have been made redundant from their current reviewing contracts (as part of a wider process at the Independent titles) but there will continue to be significant arts coverage – in a dedicated arts and books section – in the Independent on Sunday and it is hoped that the excellent arts writers will continue to contribute. 

That statement is content-free, even by present standards of equivocation. I ran into one of the sacked critics yesterday. The impression I got was of a newspaper group that is ditching what remains of its core values in order to stay afloat a brief hour longer.

Eventually, and before long, a single set of reviews will appear in the Evening Standard and the Independent titles. Since the Standard is a freesheet, there will be no cultural reason left to buy the Indy.


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  1. This is the end result of what started back in 2001 when .com sites (which were a place critics could get salaried, published and insured) started firing their writing staffs…starting with arts. The purges were excused with the idea that the skeletal editorial staff could then manage “user-driven content” in other words that they’d edit the reader’s blatherings and postings on message boards.

    What the management teams didn’t bank on was that the moment editorial content vanished from the website, and that the editors were no longer there to manage, update, refresh and rewrite the database content, that readers (who, despite what management thinks, aren’t stupid) quickly went elsewhere for their content.

    Same foeces, different century.

  2. and has anyone tried to find a copy of The Indy in Europe recently.??? Impossible to find…… Distribution problems or just a desire to wind the whole thing up?? No wonder Andy Marr had a funny turn, after his years of nurturing what was a necessary and valued breath of fresh air, it must be heartbreaking to see the demise of his beast.

  3. As I have pointed out before on these pages, the German (and many other European) newspapers and magazines put the UK Arts coverage to shame. From the humble local Abendzeitung to the tacky Bild to the grand Sueddeutscher, the Arts are comprehensively covered and reported on a DAILY basis as a matter of course. It is sad that the press in the UK seems unable to properly address the needs of its readers when the seemingly unnatractive words “Arts & Culture” raise their ugly heads. Considering how much Arts & Culture goes on in the UK generally – it is, after all, a popular pastime – you would think that the powers that be would want to help spread the word and even express an opinion on what is going on. Alas, no! Arts & Culture is only for eggheads and snobs and intellectuals, and not for the general newspaper reading public.
    So typically condescending of the UK press.

    By the way, the press release above from Lisa Markwell is just an insult to anyone with an ounce of intelligence. I get the feeling she is in the wrong job.

  4. Theodore McGuiver says:

    @Ks CR:

    Agree wholeheartedly. Even Bild runs the odd story on the Wagner family; imagine the Sun doing that with the Christie clan, for example. I’ll always remember Rattle saying that Germany considered culture a necessity, not a luxury (or words to that effect). Considering the general public interest in the arts in the UK the lack of decent coverage is a strong indication of how seriously it’s taken by those who should know better.

    • Either Ms. Markwell has it right (and remember, broadly newspapers /reflect/ the opinions and interests of their readers), in which case whilst we may not like it, it’s the right decision for that paper, or she has it wrong and they will find out the hard way
      The lack of decent coverage in general is likely to be because of the relative lack of interest from the public at large, sad to say.

  5. Ms. Markwell’s nervous smile seems to say it all. I remember the Independent from the early nineties, read it every day. What a shame.

  6. More generally, they’re running an increasing number of barely edited things from PA etc, and buying in more articles from other papers: they’ve long had a relationship with the Belfast Telegraph but I see more stories from US papers. Hence, the freelance market is also shrinking. If it carries on at this rate, it will become nothing more than a glorified Google News.

  7. John Colvin says:

    Maybe this move is shortsighted. It’s just been announced that 1.99 million of us listen to Radio 3.

  8. The Indy has been a shadow of its former self for some time now.

    What hasn’t helped is the way they have cornered the market in dull writing. I don’t expect to agree with what the writers have to say, but I do expect to at least be entertained. And for some time now I haven’t been.

    This shows in the amount of comments Indy writers get on their pieces online.


    Poor Lisa has been promoted but it’s like the stoker on the Titanic being promoted just after someone said ‘hey what’s that big white thing?’ Now she spends all Saturday on Twitter, no doubt under orders, pimping the Sunday paper in the most embarrassing fashion.

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