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EDITORIAL - The Gleaner: 180 years and beyond

Published:Saturday | August 16, 2014 | 8:00 AM

For 180 years, the men and women of The Gleaner Company have zealously guarded the reputation and integrity of this newspaper to mould it into a true Jamaican icon.

Over these years, The Gleaner has become the newspaper of record, relied on to provide that memorable first draft of history, as it is being written, both here at home and elsewhere in the world.

The history of The Gleaner has paralleled the history of Jamaica's culture, if indeed culture is defined as everything that occurs in society, including the customs and practices handed down through generations.

And every day, the process begins afresh as The Gleaner continues to tell the unfolding story of this nation and its people, doing so each day of the year, except Good Friday and Christmas Day.

From that first issue in 1834, The Gleaner made its purpose clear in its editorial of the day: "... We feel assured from the proverbial kindness of the Jamaica Public, joined in our unremitting exertions to render our paper worthy of their support; that all difficulties will be surmounted, and a fair portion of patronage will crown our attempts to please, to amuse, and to inform."

It is true to say the early Gleaner, which declared itself a weekly family newspaper devoted to literature, morality, the arts, science and amusement, helped spawn in Jamaicans the new ideal of aware citizens eager to inform themselves about happenings in their country and around the world.

A 21st-century media house

While continuing to perform its public service to keep society informed, The Gleaner Company has made some key business decisions to expand its operations, influenced partly by the electronic technological revolution, but also in response to the demands of its readers. The 21st-century Gleaner Company is owned by Jamaicans, publishes two dailies, as well as several specialised publications, and offers 24-hour online news service, as well as radio news.

The Gleaner plays a crucial role in keeping its readers informed, and a well-informed citizenry has always been a vital ingredient of a democratic society. Thus, as a purveyor of news, The Gleaner seeks to clarify important issues, remove prejudices, influence opinion through its editorials, columns and letters, and move people to action.

The press performs an essential function as a watchdog by keeping citizens informed about government's activities and holding public and private institutions accountable for unethical practices.

Sometimes, those efforts require that the press vigorously resist attempts by government to restrain freedom of expression. The Gleaner has been at the forefront of some epic challenges over the years to preserve press freedom and freedom of expression. It is encouraging that, for the most part, free speech and freedom of expression have survived many of these challenges.

Citizens have more information today than they had 180 years ago. And even though some aspects of the newspaper which you buy today may look like yesterday's, be assured that the improvements, which began with the first publication 180 years ago, are still going on. All these improvements affect the newspaper's relationship to you, the reader, as well as its relevance, its readability, and even its appearance.

As we look to the years ahead, our promise to readers, advertisers and shareholders is that we will continue to be a socially responsible medium because we are an institution that holds dear the principle of public accountability.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.