I took a call this morning from a reporter with Canwest News Service, who is doing a story about ongoing troubles at The Independent.
Until now, I haven't offered my views on this, partly because I didn't want to interfere with negotiations that are purportedly ongoing with potential investors. (When I worked at The Sunday Express, rumours of our demise were widely reported long before they were true, a fact that still pisses me off.)
I did share my views with the Canwest reporter, so I'm going to dish here as well but mainly because I think they may add value to the discussion.
I think we need a weekly paper like The Independent. And I think the market is there to sustain such a paper. However, before signing on the dotted line, any new investors should insist on a new editor.
Ryan Cleary had his shot. Two shots, in fact. (The paper closed once under his leadership, in April 2006, and is close to folding again.) If new investors sign on to the status quo, it will be more of the same.
It is time for Cleary to step aside and let some fresh blood into the editor's chair. New leadership. A fresh start. Perhaps some major repositioning, with a focus on truth and objectivity first (rather Newfoundland nationalism first).
A clean break would be difficult for Cleary, as he owns shares in the paper.
However, complete severance isn't necessary. Cleary doesn't need to leave. He could go back to being a reporter. He could still write columns. He could start breaking stories again.
There are some decent reporters working at the paper (and perhaps an editor in waiting) along with some excellent columnists.
I could write a detailed analysis of what went wrong with The Independent, and will probably do so later. I have plenty of notes on that.
But for now, let's not lose sight of what's at stake.
We need a weekly paper like The Independent.
And The Independent needs new leadership at the top.