What the Independent's Simon Kelner did next: fair reporting

By Simon Round, December 8, 2011
Simon Kelner

Simon Kelner

Former Independent editor Simon Kelner this week spoke of his new project to provide journalistic training to those involved in the Arab Spring – and took the opportunity to defend his own newspaper's Middle East coverage.

The Journalism Foundation, a charitable organisation backed by the Lebedev family, which owns the Independent and the Evening Standard, will be led by Mr Kelner, who stepped down as the Independent's editor-in-chief in July.

He said: "We will be working in Tunisia. Since the overthrow of former leader Ben Ali, 20 newspapers have sprung up, plus lots of new TV and radio stations. Because there is no tradition of free and fair reporting there we will be helping with practical courses, in partnership with City University."

He felt that such support was essential, particularly at a time when the traditional definitions of journalism were changing. He said: "Journalism can be an 1,800 word piece on The Times opinion page but it can also be 140 characters from a bedroom in Tunis. The means of dissemination of journalism is becoming cheaper and easier. When I started, it was tough to find a job. Now, you can get into journalism if you have a mobile phone."

The foundation will also fund a website set up in Stoke-on-Trent that aspires to boost the quality of reporting on local politics.

Mr Kelner acknowledged that the Independent's own Middle Eastern coverage had come under fire over the years.

"A lot of JC readers took exception to [Middle East correspondent] Robert Fisk. But I will always believe that that he is one of the most trustworthy and experienced reporters in the region."

He added; ""I'm Jewish and as editor of the Independent I would never be party to something that would demonise Israel. I accept that Fisk is a journalist who polarises opinion but his views have utter validity." He added that Fisk's output was balanced by others who wrote from the region, including former JC writer, the late Eric Silver.

Mr Kelner, who edited the Independent for 13 years, said that he felt his greatest achievements were launching the compact format in 2003, and the i, which went on sale last year. "We won lots of awards during my time but both of these launches had ramifications well beyond the Independent."

Last updated: 12:42pm, December 8 2011