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THE EDITOR’S CHAIR: Gary Cullum laments the loss of the Independentand welcomes dawn of The New Day

IT’S not every month we hear of the closure of a national newspaper and the launch of another. I was saddened at the announcement that The Independent would be closing this month.

As the youngest of our national dailies, launched in 1986, it was always going to be a struggle for it to compete for revenue. 

But in its all-too-brief 30 years, the Indy made its mark on our national media landscape. Remember those striking black and white images before it was able to print colour on the same pages at the several printing plants it was produced at in its early days before colour was freely available on every page?

It was also the first national to move to a compact format – in 2003.

I hope its loyal and talented staff find jobs and that it can enjoy success in its continuing digital-only format. And it launched the quick read newspaper - another first – and a former National Newspaper of the Year, now heading across to the Johnston Press stable.

As one door closes so another opens and, as PJ went to press, Trinity Mirror was one week into publication of The New Day – with the strapline ‘Life’s short, let’s live it well’.

Trinity Mirror says to survive in print it has to be a new type of newspaper. It has not been launched with an app, nor does it have more than a holding page on its website. Social media is the new way to engage with readers, according to The New Day.

It is a new concept newspaper, which some of my older ‘Fleet Street’ journalist friends are struggling to grasp. “I can’t believe it,” said one male colleague. “Just two pages of sports nibs and they didn’t even cut in last night’s football results.”

Another ‘mature’ journalist friend, reviewing the launch added: “There was nothing longer than three pars and no mention of the Capital Cup final in my edition, so already early deadlines showing their teeth.”

While deadlines will always play a part in what can be reported in print, my friends are missing the point.  Readers already knew the football results, thanks to their smartphones, car radio and television.

The New Day has to be different and, early days, but it is.

With its bright white and turquoise livery, the tabloid is produced in a tight, no more than 40 pages paper, to appeal to both men and women with no ‘no go areas’ for either.

I’ve placed a two-week order for my local village newsagent to deliver The New Day with my regular newspapers so I can make an informed decision when the price doubles to 50p.

I was slightly uncomfortable on day one, although I found it a refreshing read. It is now growing on me and I hope it finds a sustainable level of readers and a new day continues to dawn for the paper for many years to come.

World class printing

I’M just back from two intensive days judging the print categories for newsawards 2016 where there were 13 of us locked in the customer showroom and supporting rooms at Fujifilm’s UK headquarters at Bedford. I chaired the panel of industry experts who were given the unenviable, but exciting, task of scrutinising around 850 individual newspapers in the search for world class printing, world class news publishing and all-round production excellence.

It was the 20th time the awards team of Mark and Helen Hargreaves and myself have assembled such a panel of judges. As PJ went to press a second expert panel of judges was about to convene at the Internet Advertising Bureau in London’s Covent Garden to assess the business and digital categories. 

The print judges are pictured on the opposite page and the digital and business judges will be featured in PJ next month. I know I will receive some flack for the lack of female industry executives among the print judges, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

At one point I thought there would be four senior female production executives/directors on the team, but each one dropped away for genuine and unavoidable reasons. 

Judging proved challenging in a number of the categories where the standard of entry and quality of printing across three consecutive newspaper editions was high. “It’s rather like showjumping,” said one judge. “It’s down to the number of faults on an otherwise clear round.”

And so it proved, especially where printers were responsible for submitting copy. Judges scrutinised every page to seek the tiniest of blemishes – a small belt mark or ink off the edge of a printing plate, for example – in otherwise near perfect printing.

 Judges observed that a small number of regional publisher entries containing unacceptable blemishes had been submitted unchecked – possibly by overstretched editorial teams.But they were few and far between and it’s great to see that a number of our print plants are up there with the world’s best.

I can’t wait for the glittering awards dinner to be here – 27 April at the Lancaster London – when we can showcase the very best the industry has to offer in terms of print, business and digital publishing excellence.

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