Leading figures from the journalism industry have paid tribute to Press Gazette this week as it celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first edition.
Senior journalists from across the industry have spoken of the importance of UK journalism's trade title. Press Gazette began life as a weekly magazine on 22 November 1965 and is today a rolling news and features website with a daily email newsletter, a prestigious annual awards event and an emphasis on campaigning.
“Avid reader and fan” Piers Morgan, the former editor of the Daily Mirror who is now a presenter of Good Morning Britain, said: “In the often deeply competitive, very partisan screeching noise of the newspaper world, Press Gazette acts as a vital bastion of calm, reasoned, sensible reporting and intelligent thought about the industry.
“The best friends are always critical friends, and PG doesn’t shy away from delivering a few well-deserved whacks where appropriate; but there is a pervading warmth, understanding and appreciation too for the business of journalism, and those who work in it, which guides its editorial tone.
“I am an avid reader and fan, and wish PG a very happy 50th birthday.”
Private Eye editor Ian Hislop said: "Happy Birthday Press Gazette – it’s irritatingly good."
Rebekah Brooks, the News UK chief executive who formerly edited the News of the World and Sun, said: “Press Gazette has proved itself a great advocate of this profession, a critical ally in the battle for freedom of the press and a reliable source for the twist and turns, news and gossip of the industry.”
Geordie Greig, editor of The Mail on Sunday, said: “Ever since it was passed round the newsroom at the South East London Mercury in 1983, when I was the most junior reporter, Press Gazette seemed to me to be the essential billboard for the newspaper industry.
“Upwards and onwards to the next half century…”
Times editor John Witherow said: "Press Gazette has been an important chronicler of our trade for 50 years. It has followed strikes, splashes and spoilers, recent low points for our industry and the high points of campaigns. The Times particularly supports its recent championing of the Freedom of Information Act and we wish them continued success."
Sun editor Tony Gallagher said: "Press Gazette is an indispensible source of information for what's going on in the industry and an important voice of support for journalism in general. I'm confident there's a lot of life still left in the newspaper industry, despite reports of our demise, and it's good to know Press Gazette will be there to both chronicle and campaign on our behalf. Here's to another 50 years."
Daily Telegraph editor Chris Evans said: "Happy birthday, Press Gazette. You're 50 years old and more important than ever. On behalf of all of us at The Telegraph, I'd like to thank you for standing up for journalists. Your campaign to protect the Freedom of Information Act, in particular, is to be applauded. So, congratulations again on a marvellous half century and our best wishes for the next 50."
Peter Preston (pictured above), who edited The Guardian for 20 years to 1995, said: “I was there, reading it 50 years ago – and I watched the struggles to make a living from a world where dog eats dog with sympathy and some shame.
“But happy birthday – the old title is sharper, quicker and braver than ever it was in 1965. If transition from print to online is a difficult feat then at least you've full rights to lecture the rest of us.”
Sunday Times editor Martin Ivens said: "Many congratulations on your 50th anniversary. UKPG has been a staunch defender of press freedom in good times and bad. Here's to another fifty good years."
Trevor Kavanagh, the former political editor of The Sun and now columnist for the newspaper, said: “Press Gazette has been transformed by Dominic Ponsford from a worthy house journal into a well-informed ‘must read’ for all journalists and anyone interested in journalism, free speech and a free press.
“It has delivered powerful commentary on the long and spiteful vendetta against journalists by police and prosecutors under ill-advised Operation Elveden, which ended in a raft of acquittals and an implied rebuke for the CPS from the Lord Chief Justice.
“PG also played a key role this year in the successful campaign to for a change in the law to curb iniquitous abuse of police bail which is soon to reach the statute book.
“We all owe it a huge vote of thanks.”
Guardian and Evening Standard media columnist and blogger Roy Greenslade said: "I’ve been reading Press Gazette ever since I came into journalism, which means the whole of my career because I’ve been in the job for 51 years. I got my second job through it, have featured in its pages on many occasions and have been an avid reader throughout its history. It has been invaluable organ throughout its many manifestations.
“It was always a good reporter of events in our trade. Now, under its current editor, Dominic Ponsford, it has proved to be an admirable campaigner on behalf of press freedom. It defended wrongfully prosecuted Sun journalists, it is fighting to preserve source confidentiality and it is trying to prevent the watering down of the Freedom of Information Act.
“We journalists would be poorer without it, and I say this in the knowledge that we who work for Media Guardian are often seen as rivals. We are, more properly, complementary commentators and reporters of a media world that requires consistent scrutiny."
Evening Standard editor Sarah Sands (above, Reuters) said: “Happy Birthday Press Gazette, you are looking very good for your age. You are a constant voice in a turbulent trade.”
Independent editor Amol Rajan said: “Press Gazette is as vital a source of gossip, analysis and journalistic news as at any point during my time as a journalist. People in this industry fear and respect it in equal measure, and I wish everyone there all the best for the next 50 years. Not least William Turvill, who is an extremely impressive young reporter.”
i editor Oliver Duff said: "A brilliant half-century of fighting for journalism, of defending the reporters who expose unwanted truths, of protecting our sources. Time and again, Press Gazette has battled attempts to stifle the world’s liveliest press. Now more so than ever before. Our media and our democracy benefit from your campaigning journalism – and we raise a glass to your future. Cheers."
Buzzfeed UK editor Janine Gibson, formerly deputy editor of The Guardian, said: “Thank you Press Gazette for proving that in 2015 it is still possible to celebrate 50 years in journalism.
“You survived being owned by Emap, Matthew Freud & Piers Morgan and venture capitalists and still stay close to your core purpose of caring about journalism.
“Congratulations and thanks for standing up for us all.”
Former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said: "Happy Birthday Press Gazette. On a local paper it was the place to find jobs and to read tales of far off doings in Fleet Street. Over time it chronicled the dramatic transformation of an industry just as it, itself, moved from print to digital. It's been an invaluable and enjoyable read over the years and long may it thrive."
Stephen Hull, the editor of Huffington Post in the UK, said: “I remember my first subscription to PG was as a NCTJ trainee before I'd even landed my first job in newspapers. I saw an advert for a junior reporter, applied and got the job.
“Like all reporters I dreamed of getting myself in PG for challenging a Section 39 order or something similar. Thankfully I managed to barge my way into the pages with a Tony Blair scoop I managed to get while on the Reading Chronicle.
“It's wonderful to see such an important organisation continuing to thrive in a digital world. Fifty more years, please.”
Keith Harrison (above), editor of the UK’s largest regional newspaper, the Express and Star in Wolverhampton, said: “I’ll always remember the thrill of my first mention in the UKPG many years ago when I passed the old NCTJ Proficiency Test (I’ve still got the cutting somewhere!).
“Back in the days when I was a chief sub, we regularly tried to get mentions in ‘headline of the week’. Mostly, caps were doffed as we were often (but not always) outdone by sharper wits elsewhere.
“In terms of importance and relevance in the modern age, the PG has firmly established itself as the leading digital source of information about our industry.
“High-profile campaigns such as Save Our Sources and Hands Off FoI are absolutely vital to maintain pressure on those who would otherwise seek to weaken our position.
“It is important to have a credible voice leading the way with such matters and Dominic Ponsford has worked tirelessly in recent years to keep these issues at the forefront of the political agenda, particularly RIPA.”
Peter Barron, editor of the Northern Echo, said: “During 35 years working in the regional press, I’ve never had cause to complain about Press Gazette’s coverage of either my personal antics or the activities of the papers I was representing at the time. It has always been fair, accurate and balanced, which is what we should all aspire to be.
“My biggest Press Gazette memory is the time The Northern Echo broke a story about a 14-year-old girl who had suffered a still-birth and, unbelievably, was told by staff at Bishop Auckland General Hospital to take the foetus home in a jar and put it in the fridge. Even now, it sounds too bad to be true but it really happened.
“The Northern Echo decided not to name the girl but The Sun splashed her picture across its front page the following day, with a double-page spread inside. It sparked an intense and important media debate about who was right and who was wrong, and the Press Gazette gave both editors a full page to explain their positions.
“I was right.
“Happy 50th birthday Press Gazette.”
Leo Whitlock, editor of the Kentish Gazette, Whitstable Gazette, Herne Bay Gazette, Faversham News, Canterbury Extra and Thanet Extra, said: "I have been an avid reader of Press Gazette since I started as journalist almost 20 years ago.
"In that time the industry has changed beyond recognition and the Press Gazette has been an indispensable guide to the people, the trends and the future.
"As a trainee I lapped every tip and piece of advice I could to make me a stronger reporter, sub then editor.
"As an industry we're not always great at sticking together to fight for what we believe in and presenting a united front.
"Our opponents do not need to divide and rule because we often do it ourselves.
"But in recent years Press Gazette has been able to unite the industry with campaigns to Save Our Sources and the fight to protect our audience's rights under Freedom of Information legislation. That is no mean feat.
"Press Gazette remains one of the sites I turn to every day."
Former Sun managing editor Graham Dudman (pictured, Reuters) said: “Press Gazette is a beating heart at the centre of British journalism. It stands up for journalists and is a voice of common sense amid some deafening online noise.”
Mail on Sunday editor-at-large Tim Walker said: “For half a century, Press Gazette has always led by example – the most important example it sets for us in its new online version is to remain, above all things, relevant.”
Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said: “Happy fiftieth birthday to Press Gazette. Its dedicated campaigning journalism in the last year alone – in support of Freedom of Information and Save Our Sources – goes to show why the publication has endured for decades and remains a must-read for the media industry.”
David Newell, chief executive of the News Media Association, said: "I would like extend my congratulations to Press Gazette on its 50th birthday. Press Gazette continues to provide an important forum for debate on the key issues affecting the news media industry, as well as acting as an effective champion and campaigning force for the journalism community."
Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, said: "Given the service and support Press Gazette has given to journalists for so long it is surprising that it is only 50 years old. It is part of the fabric of the media industry. Happy Birthday!"
ITV news political editor Robert Peston said: "Another 50 gloriously gossipy years please".