Thu | Dec 8, 2016

Gleaner 180 - Rise of the Gleaner (2)

Published:Saturday | September 13, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Jacob DeCordova

Martin Henry, Columnist

This is an analysis of the first issue of The Gleaner, comparing that day's content with what obtains today.

Published on Saturday afternoon, September 13, 1834, Volume 1 Number 1 of The Gleaner, and Weekly Compendium of News packed a lot into its eight brief pages.

The little paper carried news local and foreign, short stories and anecdotes, poetry, "enigmas", government notices, markets prices, interest rates, information on the arrival and departure of sailing ships, advertisements, a theatre review, and even a letter to the editor. Most items were snippets like today's 'News in Brief'. The weekday Gleaner today, 180 years later, can run over 70 pages.

Printed and published by Jacob deCordova out of Water Lane, as announced on its masthead, the new paper was quite clear about its mission. It would be published every Saturday evening and would be called The Kingston Gleaner, and Weekly Compendium of News, its announcement leading the front page said. The paper would "be found to contain every circumstance of importance that may occur during the week" and "much original matter with choice selections from European and American publications of merit: thus forming a paper, the want of which has been much felt in Jamaica; combining general information with Literary Selections at a very low price."

The publisher called for the support of the "Public of Jamaica" for "the attempt of native talent in establishing a Weekly Miscellany at a low price", and pledged himself "to use his utmost endeavours to make the paper worthy of their support." The Gleaner has lived up to this promise and has won and kept the support of the "Public of Jamaica" for 180 years.

Subscribers in Kingston would pay 10 shillings per quarter - in advance - and if sent by post, the charge would be 13 shillings and four pence.

The Gleaner, first published from Water Lane close to the Kingston Harbour waterfront, has remained downtown over its entire history through the declining fortunes of the heart of the city, and now resides at 7 North Street. However, the concept of 'downtown' would not have existed in 1834 since the city had not extended far beyond its original square grid laid out after the Port Royal earthquake of 1692, with North Street as its northern boundary.

"Faster, faster! Your horses creep like snails; drive for your life!" said the impatient Morley as the noble animal dashed along the road while the sparks flew from the iron shod hoofs like a flight of fireflies."

Giving Literary Selections, rather than news, pride of place, the first issue of The Gleaner devoted the rest of its front page and a turn to page 2 to the short story, 'The Reconciliation', a light love story. Ellen, running off with her lover Morley, has a change of heart and returns to be reconciled with her dying father who overcomes his dislike for Morley, forgives his daughter and blesses their love.

The second page of the paper was filled with a couple of poems and a dazzling 250-word description of Miss Arabella Scinderella Clishmaclava Georgietta Guilemina Amanda Fitzherbert, who "in the early bloom and gay promise of sweet sixteen ... was perfection itself".

In a page 3 editorial, the publisher further set out the purpose of the paper and how it would be run. "In commencing our Editorial Career", he wrote, "we consider it necessary to state distinctly the mode in which The Kingston Gleaner will be conducted. The paper would aim "to please - to amuse - and to inform."

No modern media organisation worth the name operates without a code of ethics, and today's Gleaner has its own. In the first issue back in 1834, the paper committed to the protection of the privacies of domestic life. "The privacies of domestic life shall ever be held sacred: it is therefore our determination to exclude every attack on private life, no matter how high in station, or humble in circumstance."