MEDIA PROFILE: In the Independent hot seat - Simon Kelner, editor, the Independent

When Simon Kelner was named as editor of the Independent in May, a few eyebrows were raised. His ’laddish’ history as a sports journalist seemed to lead many to assume that he would turn the Independent into a broadsheet version of Loaded.

When Simon Kelner was named as editor of the Independent in May, a

few eyebrows were raised. His ’laddish’ history as a sports journalist

seemed to lead many to assume that he would turn the Independent into a

broadsheet version of Loaded.



’There was a lot of condescending and patronising comment made about

me,’ Kelner says bluntly. ’But I’m quite happy for people to

underestimate me.’



Kelner attributes those comments to the fact that he does not ’come from

the Oxbridge Garrick Club school of editing - I didn’t even go to

university’.



’What I’ve learnt through my life and career is you can never affect

what people think of you, so I don’t worry about it.’



The Independent had been through a turbulent few months, with the

resignation of Andrew Marr as editor in January, the arrival of Rosie

Boycott, the return of Marr as editor-in-chief and then the resignation

of both. Boycott joined the Express, and Marr left following Kelner’s

appointment.



’When I first walked in there were several problems which were quite

easy to identify,’ says Kelner. ’The demoralisation of staff, the

physical appearance of the newspaper and lack of editorial structure,

caused by several years of lack of investment.’



Kelner tackled the design issue quickly, unveiling a revamped

Independent in mid-June, which saw the tabloid second section give way

to a broadsheet review section. ’We want to produce authoritative,

urgent news pages. We need top writers, people who are the reason to buy

the paper every day,’ he says.



Some have criticised the changes as retrogressive - ’it’s like a dull

version of the Telegraph or Times,’ commented one industry source,

although he also admitted that the content had improved.



Kelner believes investment goes a long way in dealing with demoralised

staff. ’Morale is a very fickle thing - it doesn’t take much to go up or

down.’



’He has an unvarnished and workman-like approach,’ says one staffer.



’But it works.’



The only target Kelner claims to have set himself is to see a

year-on-year increase of readers by December 1998.



’The clearest reader opportunity for us lies with the Times,’ says

Kelner.



’A lot of people see the dumbing down of the Times and would like to

return to a paper with a more upmarket feel.’



Kelner agrees the editor’s role is that of a senior marketer, but wants

to avoid self-promotion. ’It’s not an ego trip. I’ll do my bit as a

spokesman for the paper but my job is to edit the paper, not to appear

on Newsnight or Question Time every night. I don’t believe in the cult

of the editor and to be fair most editors don’t.’



Kelner, however, says he can’t think of a better job. ’It’s just

fantastic fun. Seeing the paper move in the right direction is

terrifically gratifying. It’s a ball breaker, but I knew that.’



HIGHLIGHTS

1991

Editor, Observer magazine

1993

Sports editor, Independent on Sunday

1995

Features editor, the Independent

1996

Editor, Night and Day magazine, Mail on Sunday

1998

Editor, the Independent



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