'Butch' Stewart's recommitment to the Jamaica Observer

Thursday, March 08, 2018

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For newspapers globally, it is the best of times, it is the worst of times.

The onrushing advancement of modern technology has buried countless newspapers — large and small — particularly those who had not retooled and reshaped their product since the years when the written word was king of the media world.

It was not as if the writing was not on the wall. The invention of the transistor, bringing with it massive radio usage; the television and its visual appeal; and latterly the Internet, sounded the death knell for newspapers, as some would have us believe.

The struggle to produce and maintain newspapers had begun in Jamaica long before all that. The local cemetery of newspapers is filled beyond capacity, mainly because reading was an issue for far too many people, coupled with the unbelievable expense of keeping them on the streets.

Some of the better known newspapers which came and went included the Jamaica Herald; the Jamaica Record; Jamaica Daily News; The Times, The Blackman; Public Opinion; The Royal Gazette ; St Jago de la Vega Gazette; Falmouth Post; Colonial Standard; and Jamaica Despatch.

In fact, the National Library of Jamaica boasts of having “the most comprehensive newspaper collection of its kind in existence”, with over 100 titles of Jamaican newspapers dating back to 1718 when printing was introduced in Jamaica by Mr Robert Baldwin.

Over all those 300 years, Jamaica has produced only four daily newspapers, two of which are still in existence — The Gleaner since 1834 and The Jamaica Observer, which yesterday, March 7, marked its 25th anniversary.

In his message marking the milestone, the Observer's publisher, Mr Gordon “Butch” Stewart, disclosed the raison d'etre for the newspaper: “Twenty-five years ago, the shared vision of the founders was that Jamaica, as a developing country with a big future ahead, could not advance as a one-newspaper society. It was therefore necessary to provide Jamaicans with a second view and more space for people to express their points of view.”

He doesn't say it, perhaps because of modesty, but the Observer has survived where only one other daily newspaper has, because of the steely determination, unwavering commitment and the continuing vision of its publisher and chairman.

That commitment of time and resources has allowed the paper the breathing space to develop as an institution driven by cutting-edge journalism, as a top class vehicle for modern advertising, and a paper devoted to national development and whose readers have embraced its vision.

The Observer has faced the challenge of social media — which is a virtual jungle of uncertain information — by its daily fare of relevant, credible, accurate, attractive, up-to-date news and features about local, regional and international events, ensuring its longevity, notwithstanding the relentless march of technology.

But the paper has another compelling guarantee from its indefatigable publisher: “On the occasion of the 25th anniversary, I renew my personal commitment to see that this wonderful national project remains strong and vibrant, as a beacon of hope and light, and a lasting monument to freedom of expression.”

On to the next 25 years!




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