Launching a new national newspaper in 10 days flat.
Part one of the story behind The New European
WALKING around London, a week ago last Friday, was like walking through the world’s biggest funeral parlour. Everywhere the sense of bereavement was palpable.
Strangers talked to strangers (not a London thing) openly about what had just happened; the great, shocking spectacle they’d just helplessly witnessed, the way you form random bonds with the people who just happened to witness a ghastly car accident, and you were all waiting for the police to arrive to clear up the mess.
Except no police were going to arrive to clear up this mess.
This car crash was going to stay crashed. In fact, if anything, the crash was going to crash some more. It’s still crashing.
That’s how it feels to be one of the 48% who voted to Remain and feel like something precious was taken away from you a week ago last Thursday.
The sense of dismay and disenfranchisement has continued without any sign of fading. The fact that the Leave camp is so openly clueless about what the plan is now only adds to the sense that this is a self-inflicted wound of elephant gun proportions.
Add to that the constant, oppressive admonitions to shut up, quit whining, move on and just accept democracy. It’s hard not to wonder how quickly the Leavers would shut up, quite whining, move on and just accept democracy had the vote swung 650,000 crosses the other way.
The divisions are there, as clear as a tectonic fault line, with all the attendant earthquakes, tremors and volcanoes.
The established political structures in the UK are struggling to get their heads around just what happened, out there, in the real world. Because out there, in the real world, is not a place they very often visit.
The new lines of division — which have nothing to with their old party politics — are attitudinal. Along the fault line itself, the lines of division are intense; tolerance versus intolerance, hope versus hatred. Nasty, dangerous stinking stuff bubbles up to the surface with alarming regularity.
But on the broader plains, where most of us choose to live, the lines of division are less harshly drawn, but fundamental all the same. Open versus withdrawn. Expansive versus defensive.
(And the plains of a volcano can be some of the most fertile soil on earth. This is what we hope will happen; that this new ground isn’t barren, but eventually produces something wonderful and sustaining.)
But in the great swathes of media we are blessed to enjoy in the English language, something seemed missing. A printed product that reflected very clearly the values of the 48%.
The values of the 52% seemed much better represented by the national press. Although how well served that constituency was, in fact (and I mean literally, in fact) is a question mark that hangs over the entire referendum result.
But what is there for the 48%? A couple of newspapers traditionally perceived to be on the left of British politics, but both of which had seemed uncommitted to the Remain cause up until the last moments of the campaign, by which is was — evidently now — too late.
I recalled the launch of the Independent in 1986. I was 17 years old. I bought the first issue and every issue afterwards for years and carried it, like a badge of honour, on the bus to college. It seemed like it had articulated a set of values I didn’t realise I belonged to, until I saw them in print.
That’s one of the magic elements of print. It’s a visible indicator to the world about who you are. None of this promiscuous site hopping from brand to brand. Print is committing. The price of the paper is your membership sub to a club.
So what was there that felt like a visible articulation of the 48%? I could see nothing. That’s when the idea for The New European was born.
That was last Tuesday, seven days ago.
Nobody launches a new national newspaper in a few days. But we will. We go to press on Thursday and we’ll be in shops on Friday, and on sale online at www.theneweuropean.co.uk
WHY? Because this is a paper of the moment and that moment may pass soon enough. Every week’s delay weakens our opportunity to command attention.
But also because we can. The traditional model of months of market research, designing dummy after dummy, and drawing up three year business plans and a team of journalists, designers, marketeers and circulation managers seems unnecessary if you only plan to exist for a short while. Cut away those big ticket items and you are left with a relatively conservative cost base and the opportunity to act with remarkable agility.
If we were a digital company, trying to spin out an innovative model to see how an audience might respond, nobody would bat an eye. But for a legacy print business, steeped in tradition and century-old brands, it seems like outrageous temerity.
So that’s where we are. Two days until we go to print, and then on Friday the very first edition of The New European will go on sale. It will not be perfect. Newspapers are not supposed to be perfect. But it will be energetic, eclectic, celebratory, thoughtful and in places wonderfully random.
We have some fantastic experts writing for us; Miranda Sawyer, James Brown, Suli Breaks, Saul Klein, Simon Calver, Mike Butcher, Osman Ahmed, Peter Bale, Tanit Koch and Wolfgang Blau. More are joining the party every day. I hope you join the party too.
…. to be continued …
You can pre-order copies of The New European here: www.theneweuropean.co.uk