HEADLINER: A crusader who has stamped his mark on the Independent - Andrew Marr reveals he is willing to take risks to win rewards

’I will not be an editor of another newspaper,’ Andrew Marr, editor of the Independent, declares as he defends the dramatic changes he has made to the paper over the past few months. Marr dismisses critics who refer to his latest creation as ’a newsless newspaper’, saying: ’Well, it’s just bollocks really, isn’t it? If you look at the newspaper on any day, there are more news stories now than before, and there are more words in the paper than before.’

’I will not be an editor of another newspaper,’ Andrew Marr, editor

of the Independent, declares as he defends the dramatic changes he has

made to the paper over the past few months. Marr dismisses critics who

refer to his latest creation as ’a newsless newspaper’, saying: ’Well,

it’s just bollocks really, isn’t it? If you look at the newspaper on any

day, there are more news stories now than before, and there are more

words in the paper than before.’



The Independent has become a crusade for Marr. He has put his

distinctive mark on a newspaper that has been handicapped by a limited

budget and an inability in recent years to push past the crucial

circulation point of 300,000. In September he created a new look to try

to broaden the newspaper’s readership, while setting it apart from the

sameness and conservative approaches of its rivals. The conventional

front page was scrapped in favour of a stark, photo-led page, running a

maximum of two stories. The usual run of home and foreign news has been

replaced by feature-length news analysis, placed according to Marr’s

news agenda that day.



October’s ABC figures, released last week, were the first real test of

the new Independent’s success, following an exceptional surge in sales

in September caused by a price cut, heavy promotions and the death of

Diana, Princess of Wales. In October, the newspaper’s circulation fell,

in line with other national newspapers, but at 265,156 it was its

highest circulation for a year, after September.



It’s too soon to open the champagne but Marr is optimistic about the

paper’s future. ’Everything we expected to happen by and large has

happened.



We have attracted a lot of the readers we were hoping for - bright young

professionals. Inevitably, we have lost some of our traditional readers,

and that was going to be the case.’



Marr likes to swim against the tide. At university he was known as Red

Andy because of his membership of the Cambridge hard left and his

tendency to wear a beret.



A tutor described him as one of the brightest pupils he had ever taught,

and Marr looks more like an affable Oxbridge don than a broadsheet

editor. ’He’s willing to be eccentric and take risks. He’s thoughtful,

provoking and original. His decisions are sometimes woeful, wilful,

bizarre and ’look at me, aren’t I clever’,’ one broadsheet editor

muses.



Marr describes himself as a political animal who fell into journalism

after abandoning a PhD and working in a bookshop. He trained on the

Scotsman and came to London in 1985 as the paper’s Parliamentary

correspondent.



He was at home with his parents in Scotland when he read in the FT that

a few people from the Telegraph were leaving to set up the Independent

and, shortly afterwards, he was asked to join as lobby

correspondent.



After two years, aged 29, he became the political editor of the

Economist, which Marr describes as ’a mixture of an Oxford college and a

newspaper - gloriously old-fashioned’. In 1992 he returned to the

Independent as its chief political columnist, before taking up the

editor’s reigns in May 1996, following the resignation of Ian

Hargreaves, who had failed to stem the paper’s circulation decline.



Married to the ITN political correspondent, Jackie Ashley, with children

aged eight, six and three, time is a rare commodity for Marr. ’Life is

unbelievably busy. I am lapsing into the cliche of the ex-new man, and

have turned into a useless workaholic.’ If he had to choose an

alternative career, Marr says he would be a cartoonist. He’s a prolific

doodler, particularly during news meetings, and in the past produced a

strip cartoon for the newspaper, Radical Scotland.



Like Citizen Smith, Red Andy likes to be seen as a man of the people,

familiar with everyone on his editorial team and ready to haggle with

them over his news decisions. He glowingly describes his team as: ’An

oasis of good humour with intellectual but non-stuffy and non-pompous

people. It’s not a big newspaper - it’s a guerrilla operation compared

with the brawn of the FT or the Times.’ The redesign, he admits, suits

the newspaper’s tight editorial resources. ’I have certainly constructed

it around the resources I have. I don’t believe you require the

resources of the Telegraph or the Guardian to produce a proper

newspaper. I would like more staff, of course. Anybody would say the

same.’



As I leave Marr’s office, an orderly queue waits outside for the morning

news conference. Compared with the shouts, squawks and constant din of

ringing phones at Campaign, the Independent’s newsdesk is eerily

quiet.



Marr’s PA says it’s because everyone talks in whispers - but then again,

maybe it’s because there’s hardly anyone working there.



The Marr file

1985   The Scotsman, Parliamentary correspondent

1986   The Independent, political correspondent

1988   The Economist, political editor

1992   The Independent, chief political commentator

1996   The Independent, editor



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