Ben Lowry: Thank you to our readers who help keep our 280-year newspaper alive and vibrant

The earliest surviving copy of the world's oldest English language daily, the Belfast News Letter from October 1738. The paper was founded a year earlier, in September 1737, but all the editions from the first 13 months are lost
The earliest surviving copy of the world's oldest English language daily, the Belfast News Letter from October 1738. The paper was founded a year earlier, in September 1737, but all the editions from the first 13 months are lost

The News Letter, the world’s oldest English language daily newspaper, keeps marching on.

The paper turns 280 tomorrow (see link to story below), the only English language daily title ever to have reached such a grand age.

A cast of thousands has been involved in putting out the title, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade.

Against such a backdrop, my own service has been minor – ten years on the staff.

Billy Kennedy first worked here decades ago. Trevor Stewart, our night editor until a few years ago, spent more than half a century at the paper.

In 2012, when we held a reception to mark the paper’s 275th anniversary, at least one person in the room – Reid Armstrong – had first worked at the News Letter as far back as the 1950s.

In addition to the thousands of people who have worked at the News Letter over the centuries, an even larger group of tens of thousands of people have kept the show on the road by continuing to buy us every day – particularly today, on Saturdays, when our sales still approach almost 30,000 copies.

This means a total print readership on Saturdays of more than 50,000 people.

In addition, this 1737-founded paper has adapted to the digital age so that tens of thousands more people see us online. A single web story on the News Letter site might get more than 10,000 readers.

The print edition is not cheap due to the vast costs of producing a newspaper, so we are grateful to those regular readers who help both to keep us in employment and keep our great title alive and thriving.

During my own employment here, probably the most interesting project I have ever had the privilege to work on was an ‘On This Day 275 Years Ago Column’.

You have probably seen On This Day columns in other newspapers, in which the paper gives readers a glimpse of what it was reporting exactly 50 years previously or 100 years perhaps.

We are the only English language daily in history ever to have been able to do such a column from 275 years previously.

Most of the early News Letters, from 1737 to the 1750s, are lost but there is an intact batch from late 1738 and early 1739.

It is a treasure trove of history. Exactly 275 years after each of those surviving copies, in 2013 and 2014, we ran our On This Day excerpts.

The News Letter is about to turn 280 years old

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

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