FOR those who can remember the days when news vendors in London would shout News, Star and Standard to the home going crowds, the present state of the newspaper business in London is truly depressing. The Star disappeared a long time ago and a little later the Evening Standard was only narrowly the survivor when either it or the Evening News had to go. The 182-year-old Standard is still on the streets -- but only just and as freesheet - a term that seems to describe the decline and fall of a great newspaper tradition in London. Yesterday the owners of another freesheet, London Lite said that they planned to end publication soon, leaving the field to the Standard which now distributes 600'000 copies a day and hopes that its advertising revenue will keep it afloat.
Newspapers of all kinds around the world are currently under pressure from an unprecedented combination of factors - the availability of almost instant free news from a wide range of new sources and the decline in advertising revenue in the wake of the global recession. Some famous titles have disappeared or re-formed themselves on the Internet. One thing is certain, though. The gathering and commenting on news is an essential function in a free society and will continue in one form or another.