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Saturday, September 2, 2017

The T&T Guardian newspaper celebrates its centenary today, Saturday, September 2, 2017. It has become the longest serving daily in our country and we all must salute it for its continuity, consistency and for updating the national citizenry all social, cultural, economic, national, political and international happenings.

It played a pivotal role in reporting on the World Wars, Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, Mahatma Gandhi’s successful fight for India’s Independence, Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment, release and rise to presidency, among a network of world activities.

This is to the Guardian’s credit for maintaining this continuous news stream to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. In the early days it was a six-day publication, in that it was available from Tuesday to Sunday, but not on Mondays because of the Sunday holiday. It was sold at eight cents for the daily and ten cents for the Sunday. People used to rush for it on the streets of Port-of-Spain and San Fernando, while in rural areas like Caparo, it was distributed by the mail, until later years when Chinese shops began to sell it.

In my community of Caparo, residents used to run by Hinkee Johnson shop when the van dropped the paper for sale. Some used to pay for it monthly, whilst others used to buy it on a daily basis, especially if there was an article about the village or about any villager, like weddings or deaths.

Until the arrival of Dr Eric Williams and the PNM Government, he demanded that it be published on Mondays as well, and this was despite the fact that Dr Williams had called it, “the jamette of St Vincent Street,” and who later burnt a copy of it in Woodford Square in his early heyday.

The governments of Trinidad and Tobago, since Independence, did not have the courage as the Canadian Government did when it appointed a Senate Committee under Senator Keith Davey, to look at the role of the mass media in October 1969 and the report was handed in October 1970, one year later, note ONE YEAR LATER. The report was called, The Uncertain Media and one of the major highlights was that, “the press must prepare people for the shock of change”.

In their book, Four Theories of the Press, authors Fred Siebert, Theodore Peterson and Wilbur Schramm, described the world press in four sections. There is the Authoritarian coming out of the 16th and 17th centuries England; the Libertarian adopted by England and the United States after 1688; the Social Responsibility in the United States in the 20th century; Soviet- Totalitarian in the Soviet Union.

There may be different thoughts on the role of the press worldwide, and Trinidad and Tobago included, but we in T&T seem more adoptive to the Social Responsibility Theory which came out of the writing of WE Hocking’s Commission on Freedom of the Press. Its role was to inform, entertain. The media must assume obligation of social responsibility, and if they do not, someone must see that they do.

The recent Ferry Gate Fiasco is a case in point which the T&T Guardian and its competitors have been going at great lengths to ensure that the populace is given justice by the governors.

It is incumbent that the T&T Guardian continue on this pathway as it enters its second century amidst serious technological, industrial and innovative changes, all to which it must respond. In the not too distant future, to hold a newspaper in your hands would certainly be a thing of the past.

Letters to the editors and commentaries must be given ample space in the editorial page, and this must be done by publishing anyone’s submission, without editing at the desk, once it is not libellous or defamatory.

We must pay tribute to the T&T Guardian on its existence as a national daily aimed at providing serious, intellectual and relevant discussions. There must be a youth section, probably once a week, aimed at encouraging our secondary and tertiary, and even primary school students to see their views and opinions in print.

The use of information has become the way forward in a world troubled by poverty, discrimination, lack of basic facilities like roads, water, school places, unemployment, climate control, human rights and personal freedoms, and most importantly big government.

Generations of people only know the Guardian, and for short while, the Chronicle, both of which shared opposite sides of St Vincent Street.

Until its takeover by the McAL Group, it was foreign owned by the Thompson Group, and when the Mirror Newspaper suddenly closed its doors in 1965, it was the Guardian which maintained its stance as the voice of the people. Not to say the least, the Guardian newspaper, remains the Guardian of Democracy, despite criticisms over the period of time.

Congratulations to the management and staff of the Guardian of Democracy, and it is hoped that its philosophy would remain unscathed and untouched for generations to come, and this must continue with truth, social justice and integrity.


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