Editorial: The Gleaner’s bright future
We would have been naive not to have anticipated the unease, apprehension even, among some readers of this newspaper over the announcement of its planned acquisition by RJR Limited as part of that company's broader takeover of the media assets of The Gleaner Company Limited.
After all, for 180 years, the Gleaner newspaper has been the standard-bearer of Jamaica's journalism - a champion of the country's democracy and a defender of individual rights and freedoms whenever these fall under threat from whatever quarter. We have worked hard for, and gained, the people's trust. Moreover, The Gleaner is an iconic brand that resonates as much with Jamaicans in the diaspora as with those at home.
While the uncertainties are, in the circumstances, understandable, there is little real cause for fear. Rather, what is unfolding ought to be heralded with excitement and optimism. For in it lies the best opportunity for the survival of a strong, independent Jamaican media that subscribe to the values by which The Gleaner has abided for 18 decades.
First, in its 65 years as a broadcaster, Radio Jamaica has, like The Gleaner, earned a reputation for honest, fearless and accurate reporting. Like us, it has been committed to truth and service to the Jamaican people.
We, however, have maintained the integrity of our journalism because we have, for the most part, been successful and profitable. That is increasingly difficult to do in Jamaica's harsh economic environment and in a media market that has grown fragmented, has had little expansion, and in which large, foreign-owned technology companies have joined the fray. And therein lies the greatest threat to small, weak and unprofitable media companies.
Survival, in the circumstances, demands creative thinking, the embrace of new technologies, and a willingness to take risks, even as we maintain our core values. This starts with ensuring that we operate viable businesses that earn the profit to invest in the technology and the people who can deliver the quality products demanded by our audiences.
And that, ultimately, is what this decision to merge the RJR and Gleaner Company media assets is about: the creation of a company that is stronger, broadly owned - RJR is public listed and has a 10 per cent on ownership of its shares - viable and competitive, which is the best guarantor of this newspaper and the free media, more generally. Further, this agreement should be good for the shareholders of both RJR and The Gleaner Company, who we expect to benefit from the ability of the combined company to leverage its size and extract efficiencies from the merged operations.
Further, we pledge The Gleaner's continued commitment to accuracy, fairness, fearlessness, truth and the promotion of democracy, individual freedoms and the principles of free enterprise, which, for us, is a lived shibboleth.