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June 24, 2013

Simon Kelner proud his protégés Rajan and Duff have become Indy editors

By Gavriel Hollander

The two new twenty-something editors at the Independent group were both given their break at the paper by former editor Simon Kelner.

Last week, Amol Rajan became the first non-white editor of a national paper in the modern era.

Executive editor Oli Duff has been named new editor of the i amid a reshuffle of top editorial positions that also saw Chris Blackhurst become group content director.

Speaking to Press Gazette, Kelner told how both 29-year-olds got their first jobs at The Independent after approaching him when he was editor.

Describing them as “protégés”, Kelner revealed that he met Rajan when he was a guest on Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff.

“After the programme, a young man came up to me and said: ‘I think I’ve got what it takes for journalism. Can I come and do work experience with you?’

“I was rather taken with his enthusiasm. At the time he was the man in the audience putting the microphone to people, but I could see he was a bright guy.”

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Kelner also brought Duff in on work experience, having met him when he was invited to give a lecture at Cambridge University.

“They have both been there ever since and now they’re both editors,” added Kelner. “I feel very proud that two of my real protégés have risen to be editors.”

Rajan grew up in south London after emigrating from Kolkata at the age of three. He was educated at a comprehensive before going to Cambridge where he became editor of the student paper, Varsity.

He initially joined The Independent as a news reporter before becoming a media advisor to new owner Evgeny Lebedev after he bought the paper in 2010. He was made editor of the Independent Voices comment section earlier this year.

Rajan, besides being the first editor of non-white background to edit a national paper, is also one of the youngest in Fleet Street history.

Commenting on the appointment, a spokesperson for the Journalism Diversity Fund told Press Gazette: “Amol Rajan’s appointment as editor of The Independent is encouraging, as he could prove to be an inspiration to those with diverse backgrounds who want to become journalists.”

Duff, another former Varsity editor, landed his first job at The Independent as an editorial assistant before rising through the ranks as a reporter.

He has replaced Stefano Hatfield at the i, with Hatfield moving to take charge of the group’s television channel London Live.

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