THE voice of the Orange Order is celebrating its 40th anniversary this month.
The Orange Standard was first published in January 1973 and from those roots has now expanded to become both a paper and an online publication.
It was created following a report to the press committee of the Orange Order in 1971 that there was a lot of work to be done in putting across the Protestant and unionist perspective.
The most recent edition of the newspaper includes articles about the murder of prison officer and Orangeman David Black, a move by the Institution to develop interpretative centres and a review of 2012.
David Hume, director of services for the Orange Order and editor of the Orange Standard, said most of the stories come from within the membership of the Institution, such as revealing the fact that Coleraine rower Alan Campbell, who won a bronze medal at the Olympics in London last summer, was a member.
“That was really significant for us as an Institution. No one realised he was an Orangeman, and he is a very proud member,” he told the News Letter.
“We had another great story last August about reuniting a group of children who were taken out of Belfast because of rioting in 1971. We brought the woman who took them over to Liverpool back to Northern Ireland for a reunion.
“That originated from our membership too.
“Copies of the paper go overseas too to the US, Australia and the rest of the UK.
“One of the highlights last year for us was covering the Ulster Covenant celebrations. We also covered the Titanic anniversary, as well as other less well known ships, such as the Patriotic, which Lord Carson sailed to Liverpool on.”
Key figures involved in the formation of the Orange Standard and production over the years include former Grand Master the Rev Martin Smyth, the Rev Canon Dr S E Long, the late Dougie Sloan, a Co Armagh newspaper editor, and veteran News Letter journalist Billy Kennedy.
Up to 2010 the Standard was printed in Co Armagh but then moved to a new publisher who was able to provide full colour. The paper has, over the years, evolved to provide comment, news from around the lodges, world Orange news, leisure pages, historical articles and profiles of members of the Institution.
In 2012 the board of management agreed to take on a deputy editor to assist with the development of the paper, and the Orange Order said there are exciting plans for the future.
Most recently the Institution has embraced new media to help spread its message online through Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube.
The Orange Order also said while many newspapers were facing a challenge to sustain their readerships, the sales of the Orange Standard have gone up slightly in recent times.
More than 5,000 copies are produced of the newspaper each month and are distributed to lodges and individuals. It is also possible to subscribe to the Standard. The current subscription rate is £16 a year.