Independent thought

Anne McElvoy (NS Profile, 19 July) has clearly not entirely missed the point of what I wrote since she seems to agree with me that the appointment of a man who had virtually no experience in either news or papers to edit a serious Sunday newspaper would be unthinkable. What, then, does Janet Street-Porter's appointment signify?

McElvoy says that the Independent "broke the mould" in this appointment. I disagree. Appointing one of the many well-qualified and experienced women available would have broken the mould. Appointing what McElvoy calls "a creature of bright plumage" merely reinforces it. My point was not that Street-Porter has no skills or achievement to her credit, far less that a woman should not be named as editor. I simply lament, as McElvoy does, that serious journalists (like McElvoy herself) are still, all these years on, so rarely appointed to serious jobs at the top of their profession. Whether in the BBC or in the print world, women still tend to be treated either as tokens or as gimmicks.

As to her charge that I am unfair: it is not unfair to Street-Porter's undoubted talents (to which I paid full tribute) to record the acknowledged fact that male executives have been charged with getting the paper out. (They could equally well have been female executives but they are not.)

Isabel Hilton
London N5

This article first appeared in the 26 July 1999 issue of the New Statesman, I took tea with Pinochet