A QUARTER of a century ago, journalist Vicent Partal, critical of the media of the 1990s and convinced he could do better, led a small team to create one of the world’s first online newspapers.

Since then, VilaWeb has become one of the most successful, connected and authoritative publications in Catalonia – and yesterday it marked its 25th anniversary, with Partal musing about the next 25. He said “We celebrate them as the first 25 years of a history that we want to be very long and better every day.

“We want to make one of the best newspapers in the world, in Catalan. We want to make VilaWeb to be a much stronger newspaper because we want to grow in freedom … over any border and dialogue.”

Partal admitted that when VilaWeb was conceived the internet was “another world … another society … another culture” and that, looking back, they could not be more proud of what they had achieved.

“VilaWeb has paved the way for many things, not just a new and better model of journalism,” he said.

“VilaWeb has contributed to changing the country and for us it has been an honour to participate ... in the fight for a better informed society, for a more participatory democracy and for Catalan countries more aware of their national reality and of the importance of language.”

The business model they used then and still use today was open access to as many people as possible in the belief that a free newspaper could only function if a significant part of their readership understood that it had to be paid for.

That model has worked so far and VilaWeb now has more than 19,000 subscribers, although like any newspaper it always needs more.

Since the coronavirus pandemic was first declared, the team has introduced a “Coronavirus Daily Report and “Confined Conversations” videos to help them relate “thread by thread one of the most difficult crises we have ever experienced”.

“A study by Ramon Llull University has highlighted ... precisely the very high credibility of VilaWeb during the pandemic,” Partal wrote in an online editorial.

He said VilaWeb had closed its newsroom and had staff teleworking, but they could see how vital its news was. When they started, he said the Catalan government, which then used the Spanish language, was not convinced it could be successful using the Catalan tongue. However, the team were now certain they could “make a newspaper in Catalan as good as the best newspapers in the world”.

Partal added: “We have more information than ever in our hands but knowledge is also more threatened than ever. The further it goes, the harder it is to navigate the sea of communication, full to overflowing with unspeakable interests and extraordinarily elaborate machinations.

“There is a large core of citizens which wants … committed newspapers that make them think and understand the world better … after 25 years proving that VilaWeb can always be counted on, this is our commitment and the challenge we take on: to make for the Catalan countries one of the best newspapers in the world, now.”

Catalan president Quim Torra, a writer, publisher and regular contributor to VilaWeb, tweeted:

“In the last 25 years we have all changed a lot and a lot has happened but @VilaWeb has always been there to explain it. For many more years!”