THE EDITOR’S CHAIR: Gary Cullum enjoys a look back – and forwards at an industry focused on the future

I HAVE had a great couple of days trawling through the PJ archive to research the past two decades of newspapering.

I’ve come across some amazing stories and fantastic headlines in back copies of PJ (Production Journal). My browse through the back copies has been a fascinating reminder of the important happenings and events, investments, press and mailroom installations and, more recently, huge digital developments that have taken place in the 20 years since the original Newspaper Awards were launched back in 1997.

I’m hoping the awards team can use some of these highlighted headlines on screen when the industry gathers to celebrate the very best in news media print, technology and business innovation at newsawards 2016 on 27 April.

The event is being compered by comedian Alan Davies, known to many as television’s Jonathan Creek. Like me, and our first year sponsors – many of whom are still with us after so many years – Alan was up on stage at the Grosvenor on London’s Park Lane the night we launched, which was the night before the 1997 General Election that put Tony Blair into power.

We will enjoy a little reminiscing at this year’s awards night, and there’s a taster of what’s to come from the PJ archive pictured here.

Although we are starting the awards night with a similar brief blast from the past, the night of celebration will be very much focused on today and the future. And that’s a future that is strong, vibrant, robust and resilient.

As the News Media Association’s new mission statement brochure says: The UK’s newspaper market is one of the strongest and most diverse in the world.  It’s ability to inform, entertain and hold power to account is unmatched. And it reaches more people today than ever before across its print, online, mobile and social platforms.”

The statement adds: “Newspapers are the powerhouse for news provision in the UK, investing two-thirds of the total spent on original news content, setting the political and social agenda and feeding other news outlets.”

The mission statement is backed by some pretty impressive stats as reported opposite … including news brands driving 967 million social media interactions in 2015 and digital delivering an incremental increase to news brands print readership of 36 per cent.

Furthermore, the statement is supported with comments from senior industry and media agency chiefs. I’m particularly taken with the view of Numis executive PLC director and head of media Lorna Tilbian who says: “Innovation… will ensure that newspapers – a vital component in preserving communities, upholding democracy and keeping power in check – will not only survive, but prosper.”

Many of the entries in newsawards 2016 – both printed and digital – showed innovation in abundance, and noticeably so from UK and Irish printed editions over their European and global counterparts.

In 1997 I spoke of the hundreds of newspapers across the country that nurtured and sustained their readers and, by their existence, enrich us all.

Twenty years on, those words still ring loud and clear.

Newspapers today, across all platforms of print, online, mobile and social media, reach out to international, national, regional and local communities like no other medium can.

They educate and inform, they probe and they investigate, they hold those in power to account and, as News UK chief operating officer David Dinsmore says: “We are lucky that we live in a country where a free – and mischievous – press is allowed to operate.”

This is a right we must protect at all costs.