The call came at the 35th annual PANPA conference at Broadbeach, Queensland, which was attended by more than 600 delegates.
In his state of the industry address, association president Ken Steinke spoke of "renewed confidence" as newspapers in Australia and New Zealand proved once again to be the most vibrant sector of the media industry.
But there was one particular task for publishers as they went about securing and expanding their position in an ever- fragmenting market place.
"It is high time we found ways to work together as an industry to promote the unique and evolving medium of the newspaper", he says.
"We have a very good story to tell. Lets get to work on it as a top priority."
The three-day conference - the first run by PANPA’s new CEO Alan Armsden – developed the theme "Embracing opportunities: Tackling threats".
It came at the end of a season which saw the five major Australasian newspaper companies reporting significant profit increases and only days after News Limited announced plans to spend $500m upgrading and expanding its Australian plants.
Journalist and publisher Eric Beecher (who describes himself as a "newspaper nutcase") warned delegates of the major threat to quality journalism posed by the "withdrawl of the classified subsidy" because of increasing competition for classifieds from the internet.
"The most vulnerable newspapers are the ones that commit the greatest resources to journalism," he says.
A highlight of the conference was a presentation by the editor of The Times of London, the Australian journalist Robert Thomson.
Since the compact version of the paper was launched last year circulation had increased 10 per cent, he says.
Thomson explained that it was not so much the reporters on The Times who needed to learn new skills, as the sub-editors and designers.
Terry Quinn, editor in chief of APN regional papers in Australia and New Zealand, told delegates of a new "reader focus" culture across that business.
Content was the key to readership growth and the challenge was to "create useful, relevant and compelling newspapers which champion their communities".
Quinn says research showed that people today had the same amount of disposable time as 30 years ago.
There were those who could not find 20 minutes to read a daily newspaper but watched three hours of " crap television."
Some of the most encouraging and useful contributions came from Eamonn Byrne, deputy director general of the World Association of Newspapers who spoke at a number of sessions.
Byrne drew extensively on the work of the Future of the Newspaper project now in its fourth year (and found at www.futureofthenewspaper.com).
There are 10 major factors which this research programme found distinguished "circulation winners" (and there were plenty of these) from other newspapers.
* taking the "long view" in their approach to building circulation; departmental managers on such newspapers had usually worked together for a long time.
* understanding that circulation today = profit tomorrow.
* a passion for working in teams; the importance of close co-operation between editorial and commercial operations.
* having to be "the best" – hiring and developing the best people, having the best technology and the best marketing expertise.
The study found there was invariably a "moment of truth" – a do or die moment in the business after which new directions followed.
In a paper likely to be controversial among journalists (at least) Byrne says it is "possible and valuable" to measure every aspect of a newspaper’s performance. This includes measuring newsroom efficiency.
But he did concede that it was a particular challenge to demonstrate the benefits of such activities to staff.
Two South East Asian papers – Taiwan’s Apple Daily and Hong Kong ‘s South China Morning Post - dominated the 2004 Newspaper of the Year Technical Excellence Awards winning two awards each out of the six major categories.
The 2004 Newspaper of the Year (daily and Sunday over 50,000 circulation category) is Brisbane’s Courier-Mail. Full details of the awards can be found at www.panpa.org.au.
John Tidey is a Melbourne journalist and a former President of PANPA.