An `Independent' challenge to Fleet Street stalwarts

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The Independent, bidding to grab readers from the Times (London) and Britain's other most prestigious national newspapers, was reportedly selling out yesterday, its first day on newsstands. The daily, produced with computer technology, is the first major non-tabloid established in Britain since the Financial Times was founded in 1888. The tabloid Today, launched in March by Eddy Shah, was beset by problems and has new owners who plan to resume publishing.

The Independent's lead story concerned the falling value of the British pound. The 32-page issue, printed in four computerized plants on contracts, had four inside pages of British news, three of foreign reports, plus arts and health pages, a letters column, four pages of business news, and four sports pages.

Launched soberly without gimmicks, exclusives, or brash headlines, but with the benefit of some of Britain's top journalistic talent, the Independent looked set to provide a determined challenge to established papers in what Press Association, a British domestic news agency, has dubbed ``the battle of the broadsheets.''

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``For a launch night, I can tell you it's a success,'' said managing director Douglas Long. ``We printed 650,000 copies and we distributed 650,000 copies -- and we're selling like hot cakes.''

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