The year 2009 witnesses The News newspaper achieving 20 years of existence, a tremendous feat indeed for the media in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
When The News first started it was stated in no uncertain terms that it was going to be a very different type of production and aimed at raising the bar in terms of the content and the quality of the final product.
The first location was upstairs the building that now houses Randy’s Supermarket on Bay Street, Kingstown. If one entered the building at the time one would have found a very frugal set up. Things looked somewhat dishevelled but effective and everyone involved was so committed to the institution that all pitched in on the Wednesday evenings, into the nights and the wee hours of Thursday mornings to ensure that everything was as it should be.
Some may recall the rush to get the document to the airport for the flight to Barbados. There were times when it seemed that the flight would be missed and on occasions the tension was excessive. Not all contributors provided the editorial and layout staff with their columns on time and this often proved a challenge but even this was part of the teething problems encountered.
There were few computers but they were always Apple, arguably the best for desktop publishing. No one could challenge Shelly Clarke on that. Interestingly the News newspaper seemed to grow with Apple. Successive generations of computers acquired by the News were consistent with developments at Apple itself. Those who were unfamiliar with Apple computers soon learnt how to at least use them for what was required at the News in time for the next publication.
The News began with a small grouping of individuals all anxious to make certain that the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines were able to get in their hands and homes a document that was attribute to journalism, integrity, objectivity and fearlessness while being fair to all.
The early days also saw a commitment to sports. Indeed it was thought that the sports pages would be such that it may have been something of a niche for the newspaper in St Vincent and the Grenadines. It was thought that there was so little sports coverage in the print media at the time that the organisation wanted to make a difference.
In those early days too the writers all gathered on Saturday mornings to review what had taken place in the preparation of the newspaper the previous week. Some were harshly critical while others were mild in their analysis. At the end of the session however it was confirmed that the discussions reflected the desire of all to do well and hold fast to the declared aims of the institution.
The News newspaper has grown over the years and has had to change location on several occasions until the organisation was able to acquire its own premises at Frenches, Kingstown.
Shelly Clarke, Colin Williams, Bernard Joseph, Renwick Rose, Oscar Allen, Adrian Fraser, Bassy Alexander, Jeff James, Margaret Williams, Duggie ‘Nose’ Joseph, William ‘Kojah’ Anthony, Dexter Rose, Cleveland Sam, Susan Lewis, Leroy Rocque, Maurice Rogers, Joslyn Foye, Petra Liverpool, Jacqui Tannis, Jaonne King, Jackie Kydd, Monique Arthur, Patricie Williams have all been significant personalities in the production of the News newspaper through the years. None was any less important to the development of the paper and the institution to what it now is. There was a time when everyone did almost everything, from typing to proof-reading, to ensure consistency and the completion of a good product.
With time some people moved on to other engagements leaving the News but never eschewing the experience gained and the lasting friendships forged.
Differences in editorial policy eventually led to a parting of ways for Adrian Fraser, Bassy Alexander and Renwick Rose with the News and the establishment of the Searchlight newspaper. This too remains part of the tremendously challenging experience that is the News newspaper.
The News newspaper has been the unquestioned and unchallenged leader in the print media and poses the greatest challenges to the electronic media in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
From the very beginning the News declared its commitment to sports. It started with four pages dedicated only to sports. While this has often been a challenge to maintain the News nonetheless has established itself as the leader in sport coverage in the print media as well.
Covering sports in St Vincent and the Grenadines is no easy task and the News newspaper tried, over the years, to extend its reach as far as possible, in the process, calling upon different resource persons to assist.
While the News may not have had the resources to send a journalist to cover many of the international sports events in which this country is involved efforts have always been made to receive information and where possible photos of the activities to have them carried in the paper.
In 1996, Duggie ‘Nose’ Joseph, received an Olympic Scholarship to join international journalists on a special project to cover the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Of course in the News’ inimitable and fearless style some measure of controversy resulted from some aspects of the coverage spurred by a headline, “Athletes Running Wild” a quotation from the head coach of the Vincentian team to the Games.
When it was thought significant enough it was not at all surprising to see Sport featured on the front age of the News newspaper instead of on the inside as is the norm.
When St Vincent and the Grenadines participated in its first FIFA World Cup Preliminaries we received a trouncing from Mexico in Mexico City and the News featured the 11- 0 defeat in detail. It was not a great story but it was merely part of the broader malaise that was the worst defeats experienced by this country in a single year. The 11-0 was only a brief part of it all. We ended the FIFA sojourn that year, 1992, without ever scoring a single goal. The News was critical of the return to national representative status of some of the older players who had long since gone past their best.
The News was also there when Pamenos Ballantyne and his brother Benedict, dominated road racing here and then did the same in the OECS sweeping several major road races before them. The News also provided coverage when Pamenos Ballantyne won his first Trinidad and Tobago marathon, again when he established a new record for the event.
The News covered the Ballantyne brothers’ participation in the London Marathon, two Olympics – Atlanta and Sydney, World Championships in Athletics in 1995, 2001 and 2005. Fearlessly the News was critical of Pamenos Ballantyne being involved in the heady political campaign of 2000/1 chanting, “Time for them to go!”
The News has followed the pursuits of this country’s cricketers on to the West Indies team – Ian Allen, Cameron Cuffy and Nixon MacLean.
The fortunes of young Corey Huggins and Kirk Da Silva in Tennis have been chronicled by the News.
The News newspaper was among the first to challenge the administration of Basil ‘Bung’ Cato when he initially agreed with Austin ‘Jack’ Warner, to host a Columbus Cup. It was the News newspaper that was most responsible for the change to the ‘Kamperveen Cup’ instead after mounting a very rigorous campaign against what was perceived as sheer backwardness.
Fearless in its approach the News ensured that in sport the truth was always revealed.
The News was there to commend the establishment of a National Stadium Committee and turned harshly critical when work on the project kept shifting to the point where no one knows if and when there would be such a facility for the nation’s youths.
The News it was that welcomed the development of Arnos Vale but chided the government on the expenses associated with it and the lack of foresight involved.
The News does not dictate what should be written. It has an editorial policy that is sufficiently flexible and stays within the law.
It has stood by its columnists when legal challenges come forward. There was one major challenge being raised following a Sports Column published in the latter part of 1992 but the plaintiff withdrew. The News was however up to the challenge and made it known.
There has never been a policy of withholding any article because it challenged the columnist. Indeed it was not uncommon in times past to see letters or articles that challenged the columnist on the same page as the column. There had also never been any responses to such challenges given the stance that everyone is entitled to his/her opinions.
People are free to submit their letters regardless of whether the target is a member of the News. The truth always seems paramount.
One thing is always certain and it is that the News is prepared to heap praises on sporting achievements where they seem appropriate and is fiercely critical of those who have engaged in activities deserving of such.
20 years of existence is a major achievement and the News ought to be congratulated for its consistency and fearless reportage over the years.
The many lovers of sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines have supported the News and have acclaimed it as the leading newspaper in the nation. Scores of students around the country remain committed to supporting the News.
Kudos are in order for the management and staff of the News for their steadfastness.
Vincentians can certainly continue to look forward with great pride to the News newspaper maintaining its leadership amongst the print media in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Happy 20th anniversary.