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What next for the Independent?

The loss of the Independent titles would be a severe blow to press pluralism. Progressives should su

The Independent's renegade shareholder Denis O'Brien has called time on the uneasy truce between himself and the O'Reilly dynasty by calling for the title, and its Sunday sister, to be closed or sold.

This isn't the first time that O'Brien has called for the Independent titles to be disposed of, but with the paper's parent company, Independent News and Media (INM), threatening to buckle under the weight of a long-overdue loan of £178m he may now get his way.

There are many who would not miss the Independent; however, its closure would leave the Guardian as the only quality progressive daily. That the Independent makes it on to the newsstands at all with a third as many journalists as some of its competitors is achievement enough, but in recent years it has also featured some of the finest foreign affairs journalism on Fleet Street, notably Patrick Cockburn's exemplary reporting from Iraq.

During his time as INM chief executive, Anthony O'Reilly took an admirably paternalistic approach to the title, consistently recognising that its historical value far outweighed its ability to turn a profit.

By contrast, O'Brien, who made his fortune as a mobile-phone tycoon, is a man relentlessly focused on the bottom line and with no conception of the wider value of the Independent titles to the group.

The prestige attached to the titles and the political freedom that successive Independent editors enjoyed under O'Reilly persuaded many papers in the developing world that they would be safe under his stewardship, and ultimately proved profitable for the company.

The closure of the Independent would be a severe blow for press pluralism in this country. Progressives should get behind the title now.

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