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10 years later

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It was on April 7, 1995 that the Searchlight was turned on. Today it is ten years and a day old. In a country and region where entities have a short life span, ten years of being is significant. It is a time for celebration but even more a time for reflection and evaluation. The paper set itself a tall order, the vision, the brainchild of those who believed in it. The question that has to be posed is one that seeks to know the extent to which it still embraces that vision and how tall that order really is. On the front page of the first issue, under the caption ‘A NEW ERA’, it proclaimed to its readers that it has embarked on a path that would produce a standard of journalism that would make Vincentians proud. It stated then, “This task will require work and a commitment to truth in presenting to the nation a balanced view of events affecting the country.” Its editorial expanded on this theme-”We will not indulge in partisan political posturing.” The management proclaimed loudly, “We do not expect to please all the people all the time. {{more}}There are times when we would touch the corns of some but it will never be through the throwing of cheap shots. Our stands, our positions, will be principled.”

It is now ten years later. Much has happened. St.Vincent is to some extent, a different place. The paper has expanded its readership. It has overcome the technical snags that had frustrated its early venture. It has capitalized on technological developments and now makes itself available to readers world wide via the internet. It is now possible for me, as an occasional traveler, to send my columns straight on to the editor’s desk. But our exploration needs to go further. What of the standard of journalism that was to have made Vincentians proud? In its inaugural issue it had asked about the need for Searchlight and informed its readers that they would be able to answer that question for themselves in a few weeks. What is their answer?

High ideals have to be matched against realities. This will always be so, but the ideals, the vision should serve to guide the paper along even when the objectives are not met. But are we still along this road striving to reach the promised land of journalism or was something lost in that vision? Any venture, any enterprise, has to understand the circumstances of the day and society and to decide its positioning. In this day when there is so much talk about governance what is the role of a newspaper? What is the role of Searchlight given the goals it had initially set? It is my view that the vision and objectives are as relevant, or perhaps, even more relevant than they were ten years ago. I believe that we have faltered along the way and lost sight of whom we are and where we intend to go. In today’s SVG one has to be careful not to be caught in the political quagmire. One of the criticisms being voiced about Searchlight is that it is so entangled. The management of the paper has to ask why that perception exists; bearing in mind that perception represents reality.

I have over the years voiced some criticisms of the path being traversed, not to be malicious or for any other reason than to be sure that we get back on track. In a society that is as divided as ours is today, there is need for the voice of reason. There is need for some instrument that can carry out the dialogue in a manner in which one can be respected even when the views are at odds with the opinion leaders and ‘powerful’ interests. There are critical issues facing the society and a need exists for feedback. Is there a fear of displeasing the political directorate by voicing opinions on those critical issues? The country continues to cry out for a medium, a voice that transcends partisan politics and strives for objectivity to the extent that this is possible. There will always be those who are angered by the views expressed but who will ultimately respect you once there is no political posturing, once those behind the paper are honest with themselves and go back to the ideals that gave it birth. In our society today there is too much nit-picking, too much embracing of inconsequential things. Someone, some body has to break the cycle and send us on a different path. The politicians will do what they have to do, we do not have to follow but to focus our attention on a different agenda and provide a forum for others to join the dialogue. These are difficult times and it might be that our people need a vehicle for expressing this. We cannot leave this to political direction and manipulation.

Searchlight is a physically attractive newspaper but a newspaper is much more than this. After 10 years when mistakes were undoubtedly made and were expected to be made, it is now time to look ahead. Dark clouds hang overhead and there are forces that have to be challenged. Let us also assume the continuation of the global agenda. We cannot simply be objects of this whole exercise. Our voices have to be heard and the media has to give expression to those voices that reflect the hopes and aspirations of our people. The political directorate will not necessarily be on the same wave length and might have interests to defend, interests that do not necessarily work for the good of the country. If it is only about making a profit then anything will do but we will be captives of all those forces and interests. The media has a critical role to play in our movement forward toward nation building. We have to decide where we stand. Let our stand, however, be principled. Let us not be afraid to touch corns in the process.

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