FROM my desk in The Northern Echo newsroom, now on the first floor of our historic home on Priestgate, Darlington, I can see the team are busily putting together our New Year’s Day edition.

We’re also working ahead, on Saturday’s special pull-out marking the 150th anniversary of the Great Daily of the North, updating our website to make sure it is carrying all the latest news, sport and travel information, and sharing all the stories to the widest possible audience via our social media channels.

Some reporters are writing up copy for tomorrow, some are working on slower burning stories, and others are focused purely on the website. It’s a quiet day on the news front, but everyone is still working hard.

  • Don’t miss The Northern Echo on Saturday for an 88-page souvenir supplement celebrating the 150th anniversary of The Great Daily of the North

It’s a typical 21st century regional newsroom, with rolling TV news on a big screen keeping us up to date with the latest national and international developments, and real-time website analytics on other screens so we can see which stories are resonating with our audience.

The Northern Echo: The Northern Echo's editor Hannah ChapmanThe Northern Echo's editor Hannah Chapman

How does it compare with the Echo newsrooms of the last century and a half? Rummaging through the photos in our archives, the most obvious changes are the reduction in heavy, industrialised equipment – and clutter, but increased numbers of telephones – and women.

Looking back through these images, it makes me proud to have played a part in the Echo’s history as the paper’s first female editor. I joined the Echo in 2003 as a trainee reporter in my home town of Northallerton, and I think it’s probably fair to say that in those 16 years, the regional press has faced some of the greatest challenges in its history.

It’s no secret that the shift to online away from traditional print advertising has caused huge difficulties. Budgets, and therefore resources, have shrunk, and the printed media has lost many good people – and good newspapers – as a result.

But if we are not careful, there is a risk that the industry will talk itself into oblivion. If I have to read another article in the national press about the death of local newspapers, or be asked one more time how we can hope to compete with social media-inspired citizen journalists, I might throw my phone into the River Skerne.

And that’s not me looking through rose tinted spectacles. These are undoubtedly tough times, and we may be a bit battered and bruised, but we’re a long way from the description of the regional media that is commonly circulated.

WE’VE just come through an election campaign that was marred by dishonesty and nastiness, with the national press sticking determinedly to their party lines. It was left to the largely non-partisan local and regional media to focus on the actual issues that matter to our readers, and hold candidates to account for their campaign statements.

There were some quite specific pledges made in the North-East prior to the Tory victory wave sweeping through, and rest assured, we will be checking the progress of those promises in the coming weeks and months, when once again the nationals have forgotten about this part of the country.

In the summer, scores of Northern titles published by rival companies joined forces for the Power Up The North campaign, urging the Government to finally put its money where its mouth is for its much-vaunted Northern Powerhouse. Was it a coincidence that Boris Johnson chose to give his first speech in the Tory leadership campaign in the North following the resulting publicity? Or that just months later the Conservative Party gave such focus to campaigning in Northern seats in the run up to December 12? I’m not suggesting it was the only factor, but I believe the strength of a united regional press in demanding attention for our region played a part.

It is this kind of campaigning journalism that The Northern Echo has built its reputation on, and in this era of fake news, and political spin, it is more important than ever to have committed, professional, independent journalists telling fact from fiction. This goes for covering historic events such as the election, and for reporting on the day-to-day issues in communities across our patch.

Celebrating The Northern Echo’s 150th anniversary is not just about the many brilliant achievements of the last 15 decades, it is also about looking to the future, and continuing our commitment to “attacking the devil,” as our most famous editor, William Stead, wrote in 1871 as he was about to take on the role.

And to you, our loyal readers, a big thank you for all your support, and all the very best for a happy and healthy New Year.