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‘Stuff of legends’: editors around world salute the Guardian on 200 years 

Leading newspaper editors and publishers from around the world have paid tribute to the Guardian, saluting its independence, influence and investigative courage as it celebrates its 200th anniversary.

Publishers from Hong Kong to Denmark, the US to Brazil remarked that the Guardian had remained true to its roots as a liberal voice championing reform.

“When you have been around 200 years as a media institution, that means you have something enduringly valuable to offer the public,” said Marty Baron, the former editor of the Washington Post, who retired in February. “The Guardian surely does. Its spirit of vigorous, independent, public-spirited journalism is a source of admiration and inspiration.”

Surviving and thriving for 200 years was “an extraordinary achievement”, said Fran Unsworth, the director of BBC News. “The Guardian’s history is a rich tapestry of investigative journalism, holding power to account and putting their readers at the forefront of everything they do.”

Javier Moreno, the editor of El País, expressed admiration that “a daily founded in Manchester in the 19th century has become one of the most influential global voices”, adding that many of its journalists were “the stuff of legends”.

The Manchester Guardian published its first edition on 5 May 1821 in response to a massacre in the city of demonstrators calling for political reform that came to be known as Peterloo. Since then it has published more than 54,000 editions, several million pieces of journalism, changed laws, prompted resignations and won thousands of awards, including a Pulitzer prize and, most recently, an Oscar.

Christian Broughton, the managing director of the Independent, said it sometimes took a tragedy to start a movement. “The Peterloo massacre was one such incident,” he said. “While there are difficult truths to be reported, we will need journalists to do their work, and readers who recognise its value.”

Wolfgang Krach, the editor of the Süddeutsche Zeitung in Munich, said the Guardian was a “model of journalistic integrity” that had successfully held on to its nonconformist ethos. “Giving voice to liberal and democratic values, it has shown how to report the world’s news … it represents the best that Fleet Street tradition has to offer.”

The Guardian’s independence of spirit was widely recognised among journalism’s leading editors. John Witherow, of the Times in London, said CP Scott, who edited the Guardian for 57 years, “would have no difficulty in recognising that, as it celebrates its bicentenary, his paper still has a soul of its own. Long may it continue.”

Roula Khalaf, the editor of the Financial Times, said the role of the media was “to hold the powerful to account and to deliver the facts to readers – the Guardian does this and has done since its inception. Here’s to many more years of hard-earned headlines and true journalism.”

The Irish Times editor, Paul O’Neill, said that in this independence “of mind, and from commercial or political masters”, the Guardian and his paper were “kindred spirits”.

Alison Phillips, the editor of the Daily Mirror, noted that the two publications were often on the same side of the argument when campaigning and highlighting injustices, even if the Guardian used “more words and way longer sentences”. She added: “The importance of trusted, quality journalism which refuses to shy from the subjects which the rich and powerful would rather not discuss can never be underestimated.”

But as Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the New York Times pointed out, the Guardian has not traded on its history. “What [the Guardian] accomplished is becoming a truly great investigative paper willing to take on the most ambitious subjects – big government, big tech, the surveillance state. It forced us all to lift our game and it made us all better.”

The masthead of the first edition of the Manchester Guardian on 5 May 1821. Photograph: David McCoy/The Guardian

Channel 4’s head of programmes, Ian Katz, a former Guardian deputy editor, celebrated the publication’s continuing capacity to cause trouble, from exposing super-rich tax avoiders to the Windrush scandal. “The measure of a paper’s true independence is the range and power of the enemies it makes,” he said. “The Guardian has amassed a formidable – and formidably eclectic – collection of them over 200 years.”

Other editors credited the Guardian with providing inspiration and resisting the recent slide towards fake news, churnalism and conspiracy theory.

“We were inspired by its principles of holding the powerful to account and being a voice of the voiceless,” said Tom Grundy, the editor of Hong Kong Free Press, adding that the crowdfunded outlet he launched in 2015 would not exist without the Guardian. “Somehow, this 200-year-old paper manages to constantly reinvent itself whilst maintaining its identity and broadening its readership.”

Others praised the recent innovative efforts to build a global supporter base to underpin the Guardian’s financial model. “It has found a financing system compatible with its editorial DNA,” said Juan Luis Sánchez, co-founder of elDiario.es. “It has changed the business to fulfil the mission, not sacrificed the mission to fulfil the business.”

Sérgio Dávila, the editor of Folha de S Paulo, added: “It is invigorating to see an outlet of the Guardian’s quality turn 200 at a moment when professional journalism is under attack, in Brazil and all around the world, and when scientific facts are treated as opinion and the factual truth as fake news by a portion of society that is growing dangerously in size.”

Christian Jensen, the editor of Politiken in Denmark, said the Guardian was at the forefront of the fight against social injustice and the climate crisis. “This [newspaper] is where so much of the world finds inspiration when we discuss democracies that could end up dying in the dark as democratic thinking comes under pressure and privacy is eroded.”

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