Exciting Times: Big changes and a whole new look are afoot as The Oxford Times celebrates its 150th birthday (From The Oxford Times)
Exciting Times: Big changes and a whole new look are afoot as The Oxford Times celebrates its 150th birthday
This week you are going to see a whole new Oxford Times as it celebrates its 150th birthday.
We live in a time of enormous and constant change. Society, technology, demographics, climate.
Almost every aspect of our lives seems to be in a permanent state of rapid, and at times bewildering, transformation. Set against a global perspective, The Oxford Times is a tiny speck on the map.
To you, its loyal readers however, it is an important part of weekly life and one that we know, from our conversations with you, that is valued highly.
That is why I would like to share and explain our own plans for change, as we celebrate our 150th anniversary.
First published on September 6, 1862, The Oxford Times and Midland Counties Advertiser , as it was known, comprised nine broadsheet pages and cost two old pence, or just under 1p.
It was not a local paper as we know it. In the first issue, its columns told of the capture of Garibaldi, the Battle of Baton Rouge in the American Civil War and the Naples manure riots.
In more local news, an African lion hunter was due to appear at St Giles’ Fair, complete with a menagerie of zebras, lions, tigers, leopards and panthers, which he promised to “chase, fight, capture and subdue”, presumably unfettered by any health and safety regulations or animal rights protests.
Five monarchs, two world wars and countless governments have come and gone, but The Oxford Times is still here, in rude health and facing up to the challenges confronting the media in the 21st century. Newspapers are not what they were, of that there is no doubt
There was a time when they were the most immediate — and often the only — source of local news and information.
The rise of free newspapers and local TV and radio were a challenge, but the dawn of the Internet, the digital age, and latterly the worst economic downturn since the depression of the 1930s have changed the landscape forever.
People can now receive news and information in print, online, or on their mobile or handheld device and not just from traditional publishers.
This has led to a fragmentation of the audience which has hit newspaper companies across the world like a tornado.
For some, it may prove fatal. Here in Oxford, we have not been immune.
But our glasses are most definitely half full, even in the midst of the current economic uncertainty and the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking and other corrupt practices at a number of national newspapers.
That is because we have stuck to the job in hand, to provide a comprehensive news and information service to the people of Oxfordshire, without fear or favour, but always with care and balance.
Such a service is vital in any healthy democracy and holding those in power to account is an essential part of our role in society.
Despite what the doom mongers say, print is not dead and The Oxford Times will survive and flourish in the digital age.
But it must change with the times and face up to some tough realities.
That is why, from this week, you will notice some significant changes to your local newspaper as we celebrate our landmark anniversary.
These follow a series of focus groups with readers which took place in June.
Their views were fed into a major overhaul of the paper aimed at making it easier to read, providing more news and information and modernising the look, without sacrificing the identity that so many readers hold dear.
The popular Weekend section will become a pull-out to make it easier to find and we will also help readers make decisions about their leisure activities by looking ahead more.
New writers and columnists will add breadth and depth to our coverage and there will be a year-long programme of activities, sponsorship, competitions and offers to mark the paper’s 150th year.
The long history of the newspaper and our view of its future will also be covered in depth this week in a 28-page supplement to mark its anniversary.
Finally, and no doubt most controversially, we are increasing the price of The Oxford Times to £1.30 with effect from this week.
This is a recognition of the fact that many of the advertising sectors which effectively subsidised quality local journalism are receding and if we want to maintain our high standards and provide coverage which is high quality and comprehensive, then we must charge a fair price.
I believe you will find that your new-look local newspaper remains excellent value for money, particularly as there are significant discounts available for readers who take out a subscription.
We look forward to seeing you next week and explaining more about The Oxford Times and its continuing place at the heart of Oxfordshire life.