March 26, 2016
LONDON - The final print edition of The Independent newspaper went on sale Saturday, ending its 30-year appearance on British newsstands with an exclusive on an assassination plot against a former Saudi king.
A poignant wrap-around front page carried the words "STOP PRESS" in red lettering on a white background, followed by the words "Read all about it in this, our final print edition - 1986- 2016".
The newspaper will now be available online only, with its final editorial claiming history would be the judge of its "bold transition....as an example for other newspapers around the world to follow".
In its final front-page exclusive, the "Indy" reported that British-based dissident Mohammed al-Massari was being pursued through the courts over a plot ordered by former Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi to assassinate Saudi king Abdullah.
Journalists earlier posted footage online of the team "banging ourselves out" - an old tradition of banging the desks to mark the departure of a colleague.
"Today the presses have stopped, the ink is dry and the paper will soon crinkle no more," it said.
"But as one chapter closes, another opens, and the spirit of The Independent will flourish still."
Saturday's edition contained four souvenir supplements along with an interview with old adversary Alastair Campbell, the spin doctor of former Prime Minister Tony Blair with whom the publication clashed over its opposition to the 2003 Iraq invasion.
"I think it's really sad," said Campbell of the paper's demise. "What concerns me is that the Independent is going, and there are job cuts at the Guardian, but the wretched Daily Mail is rampant."
The Independent's Russian-born British owner, Evgeny Lebedev, who announced the closure of the print edition last month, wrote that journalism had "changed beyond recognition" and the newspaper "must change too".
The Independent was set up by three former journalists in 1986 and became known for its eye-catching, campaigning front pages and emphasis on photos.
At the peak of its popularity, it had a circulation of more than 420,000, but this slumped to 40,000.
In an editorial, The Guardian paid tribute to a "really rather wonderful newspaper" that had suffered from dramatic changes to the advertising market, notably the shift in revenues to sites such as Facebook.
"Great newspapers which have survived for centuries find their business models challenged as never before. So no one will celebrate the end of the Independent in print," it said.
Like The Guardian, The Independent was politically left of centre, and campaigned strongly against Britain's involvement in the US-led war in Iraq in 2003.
It becomes the first daily national to close in Britain since 1995, when Today folded.
The weekly News of the World owned by US media tycoon Rupert Murdoch closed in 2011 after a series of phone hacking scandals, but was replaced by the Sun on Sunday, which is owned by the same group.
ESI Media, which controls The Independent, is also selling off the "i" - a cut-price sister title launched in 2010 - to Scotland-based publisher Johnston Press.
The sale price is estimated at Â£25 million (32 million euros, $36 million), according to British media reports - money which will be invested in the website.
Independent.co.uk currently has nearly 70 million monthly global unique users, while ESI Media has also launched a new subscription app offering a 'virtual' print edition.
Some staff will move to the "i" but ESI Media warned there would be some redundancies.
Many reporters tried to stay upbeat on the final day.
"Vain scramble for final-edition bylines begins," regular contributor Simon Usborne tweeted earlier.
Parliamentary sketch writer Tom Peck added: "The whiskey's out. Nothing would amuse me more than a massive breaking news story right now." - AFP
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