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THE EDITOR’S CHAIR: Gary Cullum reflects on PJ’s 60 years as ‘the industry’s Bible’
PJ has just celebrated its landmark 60th anniversary as the UK news industry’s own monthly journal. And what a 60 years it has been, chronicling all the issues associated with hot metal page make-up and letterpress printing, to photo typesetting and web offset printing, the birth of desktop publishing via cheap PCs and the advent of the Apple Mac.
Columns in early editions of PJ were full of production headaches and how newspaper companies overcame those problems, sharing their solutions with the industry. The typical PJ story back in the 1950s was a million miles from today’s big issues that focus on sustainability of the printed word, the tech giants and their share of the advertising cake, fake news, and the transition from print to digital.
PJ’s own story started at the Midland Hotel in Birmingham on 19 May 1958. That was the day 100 newspapermen (and I’m not being sexist) met to discuss the business of printing newspapers. This West Midlands conference was organised under the auspices of the Newspaper Society’s Technical Committee, whose chairman, Mr Richard T Crabtree, the joint managing director at the Birmingham Post & Mail, presided.
‘Dick’ was a man with foresight. He was concerned that newspapers had not made the same progress in the field of quality print as some sections of the printing industry, notably the magazine sector – “all so sparkling, attractive, alive and full of advertising”.
The conference was reported almost verbatim in July 1959 in a one-off 12-page commemorative newspaper called Production Journal (PJ), produced in hot metal type and printed by the Birmingham Post & Mail.
It was edited by Crabtree on behalf of the NS (now News Media Association) Technical Committee and had major input from his son, Tony, and a young chap at the Society called Tindle.
R S Tindle, now Sir Ray, was the Society’s young, ambitious assistant secretary who, according to Dick Crabtree, was instrumental in the early success of PJ.
Crabtree’s commitment to the cause obviously paid off, for in October 1958, in issue two of Production Journal, the strapline not only priced PJ at one shilling, but pronounced it a quarterly publication for all engaged in newspaper production. Issue number 5 was printed two months late because of the general printing strike, in September 1959 – the same month and year, incidentally, that yours truly, the current PJ editor was born.
By then, PJ was firmly established, and continued to go from strength to strength. Often described by production staff as the industry’s Bible, it has always been produced by newspaper people, for newspaper people.
In fact, in its 60 years of continuous publishing, PJ has only had four editors – all named and dated on this page.
PJ is not glitzy, it is not glamorous, nor is its associated website at www.pjnews.co.uk, but it tells it as it is. True to its 60-year-old origins, PJ remains focused on informing and celebrating our glorious industry. In a changing and rapidly evolving media landscape, long may that continue.