Monday, September 24, 2007

Incestuous plot in London

These sister papers should not marry, hurrumphs Stephen Glover, a media analyst at the Independent newspaper.

One story you will not have seen in MediaGuardian concerns goings-on at 'The Guardian' and 'The Observer'. As I wrote here a little over two months ago, there have been discussions about turning 'The Observer' into a seven-day version of its daily sister paper. The 'Evening Standard' has even suggested that Roger Alton, 'Observer' editor, may be considering his position. He denies this.

The rationale for making 'The Observer' into some sort of Sunday version of 'The Guardian' is that it is losing a good deal of money. Integrating some departments would reduce losses. A similar thought process has been going on at the 'Telegraph' papers, where there appear to be plans afoot (though they are denied) to make the Sunday title closer to the Daily one.

The contrary case is that making 'The Observer' into a seventh day 'Guardian' would weaken it. I would like to know of a successful instance in this country of a Sunday paper being successfully merged with its daily stablemate. Almost invariably, the process, having been embarked upon, is reversed. Of course, some resources, such as foreign correspondents, can be shared. But if it is to punch its weight in a very competitive market, a Sunday title needs its own editor and staff.

One can understand why the Guardian Media Group should be concerned by losses at 'The Observer', but I hope it keeps it separate. In 1993, Newspaper Publishing, then owner of 'The Independent', almost acquired 'The Observer' with the idea of merging it with the 'Independent on Sunday'. At the last moment 'The Guardian' bought the paper with the assurance of keeping it alive as a separate title. It must not break this pledge.

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