Few companies in Jamaica today can trace their origins back to 1834. The Gleaner Company Limited is one of these. The Gleaner Company, founded by the brothers Jacob and Joshua deCordova, was established in 1834.
Its first publication was a four-page weekly newspaper, issued on Saturday, September 13, 1834 as an octavio-sized weekly paper. Today, it is a multi-sectioned broad sheet newspaper which is published daily.
The Gleaner was first located at 66 West Harbour Street, Downtown Kingston but soon moved to 156 Harbour Street where it expanded to include a semi-weekly country and fortnightly overseas edition.
In 1882, the Company suffered great loss when fire struck and destroyed its printing plant at 148 Harbour Street. After an interlude at the Government Printing Office, business was moved back to its former address, from which the paper was successfully printed up to 1902.
On June 10, 1897, the business model of the company changed significantly when it registered as a public company. Up to that point, the company had operated as private business of the deCordova's family. The first directors were: J.L. Ashenheim, Charles E. deMercado, Archibald Munro, F.L. Myers, Col. A. H. Pinnock and Dr. Arthur Saunders. Charles deMercado was elected Chairman.
Disaster struck again in 1907 when Kingston's most devastating earthquake destroyed the building. The then Chairman of the company, Charles deMercado, was also killed in the earthquake and fire which destroyed large sections of Kingston. The Gleaner was again the guest of the Government Printing Office until it was moved back to a temporary building on the old site. Permanent rebuilding started in 1909 and the premises grew until they covered the entire block of 148-156 Harbour Street.
Another significant milestone for the Gleaner, came in 1964, when the Company's shares were quoted on the Jamaica Stock Exchange at 12 shillings per five-shilling share.
To facilitate persons from the western region of the island, a branch was opened at 7 St. James Street in Montego Bay in April 1966, and served the Editorial, Circulation and Advertising Departments. That office is now located at 9 King Street, Montego Bay and is currently referred to as the Gleaner's Western Bureau.
The site at North and East Streets on which the Company currently sits, was purchased in 1969 and operation started there the same year. The location, which spans 2 ½ acres, houses the head office of the business, - a five-storey commercial building which encompasses the printing plant, warehouse and corporate offices of the company.
Today the Gleaner Company has evolved into the parent company of a group of media companies in Jamaica, North America and England, which include the following companies:
- Independent Radio Company Limited - operator of the radio stations Power 106 FM and Music 99FM;
- GV Media Media Group Limited - publisher of the Voice Newspaper and the Weekly Gleaner (UK) and;
- The Gleaner Company (Can) Inc. /The Gleaner Company (USA) Limited - publisher of the Weekly Gleaner and the Weekly Star
The Company, today, now also boasts 15 print publications and offers several online products and still commands a greater market share than any other newspaper company in Jamaica.
Under the stewardship of The Hon. Oliver Clarke, O.J., LL.D as Chairman (1976 - present) and Managing Director (1976 - January 2011) and after him, Mr. Christopher Barnes, Managing Director (February 2011 - present), the Company has seen many changes in technology, including the introduction of a more modern press (a Goss Urbanite) with greater capacity in printing volume and colours. Under their combined stewardships there has also been a significant expansion of the company's products and offerings, including radio and a formidable line up of digital products such as the Gleaner e-paper, video and photo galleries, mobile news applications, and various other sites catering to the diverse interests of the company's increasingly diverse readership.
The Gleaner Company, evolving over time, but still going strong, almost two centuries later!