Woman Accepts Revival Task In Male U.K. Press Realm p.44

By: Dan Ehrlich Boycott brings fresh approach to faltering Independent
TO ROSIE BOYCOTT, running a newspaper is all fun and games. It's the way she wants it to be. But Britain's first female editor of a national daily may find her brand of joyful journalism quickly wearing thin.
The Independent, a left-of-center quality broadsheet, has had four editors in its 10-year existence. Boycott, 46, was No. 5, until being replaced by her predecessor, Andrew Marr.In her short tenure as top editor, Boycott was charged with saving the paper. She wanted what might be described as a journalism school atmosphere in the newsroom. As she says, "I think a jolly office produces good headlines. . . . It's like working with an extended family in which everyone gets to see the larger picture."
But the larger picture has been clear for a long time: a slow de-cline under crushing economic pressures in one of the world's most competitive newspaper markets.
The Independent, while a direct competitor of its political soul mate, the Guardian, has, in fact, been crippled by Rupert Murdoch's Times. Now, more than ever before, money, not political philosophy, is driving the press to the scene. In the past five years, Murdoch has spent millions waging a price war against the three other quality broadsheets. While now selling weekday papers for the equivalent of 33 cents, the Times for 18 months until January was selling for 15 cents.
The Times' annual losses were estimated at up to $50 million. Britain has no law forbidding predatory pricing. The strategy has more than doubled the Times' circulation to 750,000, while the Independent declined to 250,000, from 414,000.
Boycott's job was to turn the tide ? like she did as editor of the U.K. edition of Esquire magazine, where she won two editor of the year awards and caught the eye of Independent managers, who last year made her the first woman editor of a quality national broadsheet, the Independent on Sunday.
Boycott knows the job is daunting. "There's no point in beating about the bush. They're vulnerable papers. It's a gigantic task," she said.
Yet, her deputy editor at Esquire, Tim Hulse, thinks Boycott is up to the challenge.
"She has boundless energy and enthusiasm which she manages to communicate to the people around her. She also listens to people," Hulse says, noting Boycott's skills at networking and promotion.
As for breaking gender barriers, Boycott, a
'60s-era feminist and co-founder of the British
sisterhood magazine, Spare Rib, doesn't hoist burning bras these days. Maybe because overall more women than men are now employed in Britain. But that's on the shop floor. In journalism, top-level news management is still largely a male bastion.Still, all she said about her job was, "It's significant for women. Women have got to get heavy duty jobs. It's important that women run papers."
Why? "Well, women probably do it differently." With that vague explanation, Boycott leaves the gender struggle behind her ? something she learned at Esquire. As she says, "You're not going to be very successful running a men's magazine if you seem anti-men."
Her predecessor, Andrew Marr, tried to lift Independent circulation with a redesign to a more feature-oriented front page. Management offered to allow Marr to stay on to manage political coverage ? with Boycott running the sections ? but Marr rejected the offer, until former Heinz soup magnate Tony O'Reilly bought control of the Independent and reinstalled Marr as chief editor.
Boycott wanted to stress news, while rebuilding the feature section and redesigning yet again.
Boycott says she "worships" writers who produce "magic," and, indeed, she'll need some magic. But, even with circulation declines, the Independent still turns a small profit, thanks largely to cost cutting.But, the enemy re-mains ? Rupert Murdoch's Times.
Boycott had the benefit of a private education but only spent a year at college before taking up Spare Rib. She left to travel to India and the Far East, eventually landing at a Buddhist school in the United States. She edited a newspaper in Kuwait before returning to Britain at age 29 and became deputy editor of the teen magazine Honey. A marriage to another journalist ended in divorce. She is the single parent of a 14-year-old daughter.
She joined the Sunday Independent as editor in 1996. Her reign was highlighted by a campaign to legalize marijuana. It failed but created a lot of controversy ? and publicity ? for the paper.
?(Ehrlich is an American journalist based in London) [Caption]
?(Rosie Boycott, an editor who demands fun and games in her newsroom)[Photo & Caption]
?(E&P Web Site:http://www.mediainfo.com) [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher April 18, 1998) [Caption]


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