Media Profile: A woman of Independent means - Rosie Boycott, Editor, Independent on Sunday

What do you think most journalists want to do? Set up a magazine?

What do you think most journalists want to do? Set up a


Write a novel? Edit a national newspaper? Work in publishing? Jet set

around the world? When it comes to Rosie Boycott, she’s been there and

done that.

Most journalists would be pretty happy to have the founding of Spare Rib

and Virago Books under their belts. Boycott got that sort of thing out

of the way at the beginning of her career and spent the next few years

hurtling around the world to New York to work on the Village Voice and

Kuwait to work on an Arabic women’s magazine. Last October she got the

national newspaper editorship at the Independent on Sunday. Not bad for

a woman whose academic background was in pure mathematics.

Boycott is from the 1970s school of journalism - people who went into

the media to change the world rather than to carve out a glamorous


From college she started work on a radical underground title called

Friends where she worked with the likes of Germaine Greer. It was with

Greer that she founded Spare Rib and even now she is employing her old

pal on the IoS. From Friends it was a tortuous route to Esquire, taking

in radical titles such as the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and even

Harpers and Queen along the way. She’s still interested in the radical

ideas though.

’One of the things we did at Esquire, and I hope to do at the

Independent on Sunday, is help people interpret the world so they can

change it,’ she says.

Under her editorship, Esquire tripled its circulation, although latterly

it struggled in the face of the Loaded generation of laddish


She clearly can’t resent Loaded’s meteoric rise as one of her new

writers on the papers is the magazine’s editor James Brown. But she

doesn’t think she was wrong to stick to her guns and not follow Loaded’s

agenda slavishly.

At the IoS, she is planning to bring some of the elements of Esquire’s

feel to bear on the paper as well as some of its writers.

’With a monthly magazine you have the luxury of getting involved in

deeper investigative features and we used to get our biggest response

from the in-depth 8,000 word pieces,’ she explains. ’In the review

section we’ll be able to do that sort of thing and I want to encourage

it. To an extent, you have to do that with Sunday papers anyway because

you have to set your own agenda. Most of the time nothing really happens

on Saturdays.’

She also wants a stronger emphasis on people within the paper, although

she wants to avoid gossip and tittle tattle. ’After all, people make

politics,’ she says. In addition there will be more on science and the

arts and she is keen to support the paper’s legendary environment

correspondent Geoffrey Lean.

’We’re not taking on the Sunday Times,’ she explains. ’That paper has so

many resources and so much money that you’d be stupid to think you

could. We can take on the Observer though.’ Then she thinks for a


’Having said that, the Sunday Times circulation has hardly risen at all

for ages. It’s a monolithic title which means it could be



1987 Commissioning editor, Sunday Telegraph

1989 Deputy editor, Harpers and Queen

1991 Editor, Esquire

1996 Editor, Independent on Sunday

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