Newsday’s Executive Editorial Consultant, Jones P Madeira, looks back on what led to the birth of TT’s third daily Newspaper.
When the Newsday pioneers embarked on their journey in the world of mass media some 25 years ago, many of them did not envisage the extent to which it would become also an adventure in public service.
But it is what you do when the backdrop of your mission is to inform, educate, entertain and persuade. The only prompt they had of what people wanted to hear and see of the media was the numbness of the population to the changing profile of the national landscape into one of deepening criminality and bacchanal of all sorts.
The nation’s founding father Eric Williams had died suddenly 15 years before, after warding off a national Black Power rebellion and an army uprising in 1970. The PNM’s indomitable hold on government was broken in 1986 after a quarter-century of power and its successor found itself having to preside over some of this country’s darkest hours, generated by the violent attempted overthrow of the government in 1990. Newsday was not even a thought during these occurrences, so obviously, these are not among the headlines the newspaper is displaying on the occasion of its 25th anniversary.
Once the players organised themselves for their mission to be the third national daily newspaper in TT, however, they sensed that the quite negative influences these events had on our society created a public yearning for the more uplifting. It led to the Newsday pioneers adopting the narrow objective of being the “good news” newspaper. Satisfying that demand is where they thought they would strike the difference
But news is news, good or bad, and so the economic and public interest considerations attending this forced them back to that reality. They joined the fray, letting their stories tell it as it is, but being innovative in their choices of headlines and angles, and in their design and layout – and at the same time connecting with disenfranchised, far-flung communities, providing them with a channel through which their voices on the issues of the day could attain national focus, and sticking with them through both the bad and the not so bad times.
Very soon Newsday became the market leader and earned the sobriquet “the people’s paper.”
Here is Newsday then, 25 years later, and how the landscape has changed!
Or has it?
Some of the headlines that accompanied them to this space on the market include the deaths of three former prime ministers, the in-and-out-and-in again of the PNM in government, the election of the first woman prime minister and appointment of a woman as President; the changed Port of Spain skyline, with high-rise towers on the capital’s waterfront. These are just some that are displayed in Newsday’s 25th anniversary publications and commemorations, including a travelling exhibition and this special newspaper supplement.
Well, the bad news is that the economic circumstances are more dire than ever, with dramatic impact on commercial and industrial activity and advertising, the lifeblood of the newspaper and media business generally; there’s been an inexorable increase in crime; and politics remains just as polarised, divisive and in so many instances, corrupt.
The good news is that the digital age is upon the media landscape, allowing the players greater immediacy in providing information, education and entertainment to the various publics on a variety of platforms.
How the newspapers exploit the opportunities made available by the tools of the new era – and Newsday has modernised to access the advantages – will determine whether they survive the quite gloomy outlook for the current media environment.
Newsday has been down that road before and remains confident that it will be successful in its journey by furthering what it has always committed itself to doing: telling it as it is, good or bad.