Happy 50th, Jamaica!

Published: Monday | August 6, 2012 Comments 0
Christopher Barnes, managing director of The Gleaner Company Limited.
Christopher Barnes, managing director of The Gleaner Company Limited.

For more than 170 years The Gleaner has stood with, by and for Jamaica - celebrating its triumphs, recording its agonies, and highlighting its aspirations. We are best known for encouraging and facilitating national conversations, challenging powerful interests, and shining spotlights on inadequacies in governance and of government. We have helped the society to hold its servants responsible and accountable.

For the last half-century we have proudly pursued this unwritten compact with Jamaica in its status as an independent country, the preparation for which The Gleaner not only mirrored, but in some respects, was intimately associated. For decades before the event, we reported on the personalities and issues that precipitated independence and our then editor, the late Theodore Sealy, chaired the committee that planned the national celebrations for Independence on August 6, 1962.

Fifty years later, the consensus on Jamaica's performance is decidedly mixed. On the social front there have been many gains, as many barriers to advancement have been removed. In economics, however, our performance is patchy to poor with growth trailing all global benchmarks and a heavy debt burden.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of post-independence Jamaica is that, despite the stresses and strains on its institutions, we have managed to keep our democracy intact.

Our ability to deliver, and expand, on our compact with Jamaica, is predicated on the maintenance, and widening, of the legal framework that accommodates a free press, which, ultimately, rests on the right of people to hold and exchange ideas, share information and to vigorously question their government and public officials, without undue legal fetters, including chilling effects of existing defamation legislation. Change to our libel laws is necessary and very important to all Jamaicans.

In the last 50 years you have seen much innovation in The Gleaner's offerings, often ahead of the curve, to yield our current portfolio which undoubtedly reflects a true multimedia offering. We have come a far way. In print, we gave you expansion with the addition of our Sunday Gleaner for weekend leisure, The Star for entertainment and afternoon reading, our overseas weekly Gleaner and Star publications, the Children's Own and Youthlink for youth development and education. In radio we gave you Power 106 and Music 99FM. In digital, we gave Jamaicans locally and in the diaspora our Gleaner and Star websites, our Blackberry mobile applications, and most recently our epaper, a digital replica of your favourite newspaper.

To cap off a great 50 years, we have last week given Jamaica the gift of diGjamaica.com. We could think of no better way to celebrate Jamaica 50th year than to provide a web-based product which greatly improves one's access to facts and figures about everything Jamaica, and enriches the user's experience by presenting history in a way only The Gleaner's archives can provide.

Looking forward, we face the global challenge of commercial conversion of digital services, but remain confident that by leveraging advances in technology to serve the public better, we will see financial reward.

To our loyal readers, advertisers and investors who have supported The Gleaner through many a difficult stage in the past 50 years (including near financial collapse), you may rest assured that through your continued support of The Gleaner and its products, you are ensuring the preservation of an important pillar of a thriving democracy as Jamaica moves head on into the challenges of the next 50 years. This is our commitment to you.

Of course, none of our developments over the last 50 years would have been possible without the dedication and commitment of our great staff, past and present. They have much to be proud of, having contributed to nation-building and The Gleaner owes them all a debt of gratitude.

Happy 50th Jamaica!

- Christopher Barnes

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