Editorial: The Standard's decline need not be terminal

The fact the Evening Standard is looking to harness the power of some of adland's best brains to get it out of its malaise is both heartening and sad. Word is that executives of the troubled title will adopt a "bunker mentality", working with a small team of creative thinkers, meeting almost daily to assess the challenges and how best they can be overcome.

What is heartening is that a famous but beleaguered brand should be turning to agencies rather than strategic consultants for ideas that are both innovative and pragmatic. What is sad is that a newspaper that has long commanded much affection and a place at the heart of the capital's daily life should have become so enfeebled.

Nevertheless, it has to be said that the paper's problems are largely self-inflicted. Not only has it remained static as a new media landscape has evolved around it but, worst of all, it seems to have fallen out of love with London. While rival freesheets celebrate the capital as a vibrant and exciting place to live for its mostly young readership, the Standard sees it as "a cesspit where drugs, rape and violence are commonplace", as a leading agency planning director puts it.

While nobody would deny that these problems are real and serious, the paper's hectoring - including a ridiculous vendetta against the mayor, Ken Livingstone - smacks more of arrogance and complacency than concern. Not surprising, perhaps, given that the paper has invariably used spoiling tactics to see off any opposition, rather than been inspired by competition to improve its product.

Such a stance is no longer an option. News International, which owns thelondonpaper, has the resource and the will to go the distance against it. That said, it is inconceivable that a city as big as London can't sustain a diverse range of newspapers. For all their zest, thelondonpaper and London Lite would never pretend to be offering serious journalism.

The Standard can and should. There are a plethora of issues affecting the capital needing proper explanation and analysis. There are any number of causes that it should be championing and rallying Londoners to support. Time for the paper to offer a premium product to match its premium price. But agencies are probably already telling it that.