Birth of the Jamaica Observer: It was the best of times; it was the worst of times

Thursday, March 07, 2013

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THE Jamaican newspaper landscape is a virtual cemetery in which are interred the failed dreams of many idealistic men and women who wished to plant the seeds of ideas and lofty visions in our nation.

Our record shows that only two of the four daily newspapers ever published in Jamaica made it beyond 10 years. Today, as we celebrate 20 years of publication, we claim the proud achievement of being one of these two newspapers and for the fact that we have helped to get Jamaica reading again.

The Jamaica Observer has become far more than a newspaper. It is the fulfilment of the vision of two men — Messrs Gordon 'Butch' Stewart and Delroy Lindsay — who believed that, like capital formation, intellectual formation is critical to the development of a nation.

They saw far beyond the newspaper monopoly that existed at the time in 1993, that Jamaica could rise above mediocrity of thought and the constraints of class dominance, to embrace the exciting prospects of the emerging Information Age powered by the Internet and relentless information technology.

The deepening of our still fledgling democracy was the first task of the Jamaica Observer, a task to be achieved through freedom of expression and the quality of alternative thought.

Twenty years in the vastness of the universe may not be a great span of time, but the real significance of the Observer is in the timing of its birth, during arguably one of the most creative periods in modern Jamaica.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

A political seismic shift saw the end of the Manley era and the breaking of the two-term government cycle that dated back to Universal Adult Suffrage in 1944, with the first four-term regime led by Mr P J Patterson. On the economic front, the early 1990s ushered in the liberalisation of the Jamaican economy but sowed the seed for the worst financial crisis in Jamaican history, giving rise to the controversial creation of the Financial Sector Adjustment Company (Finsac).

Yet the period would be remembered for the opening up of the Jamaican media, which has bequeathed to us over 25 radio stations; three national free-to-air television stations; a new daily newspaper and the all-embracing cable.

The unfolding story of the Jamaica Observer is also about the enthusiastic support it has received from readers and advertisers who embraced the choice it offered and the excitement of new thought.

We are understandably pleased with this support, as evidenced in our 20th anniversary supplement which was oversubscribed in the narrow window during which it was opened for advertisement.

The supplement represents a departure from the typical anniversary publication, by looking away from our own parochial history to provide a keepsake of some of the most momentous developments in the life of Jamaica, over the past 20 years. We thank Jamaica for affording us a front seat as history was being created and allowing us to record it for posterity.

Look with us now over the horizon to the next 20 years and beyond.




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