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The Guardian turns 95
Sunday, September 2, 2012
In 1917, an adventurous group of pioneers took the bold step of setting up the Trinidad Publishing Company. It was a bold step for several reasons—at that time putting one’s money in the newspaper business was a terribly risky thing as there had been several failed newspapers during the three previous decades and it was probably the worst of times to be starting a business highly dependent on imported paper, at the height of World War I (1914-1918), with the possibility that newsprint supplies might be inconsistent. It was in this scenario that a fearless group of entrepreneurs took the plunge and set up the Trinidad Publishing Company to publish the Trinidad Guardian. The company was incorporated on June 28, 1917, with a paid-up capital of $23,000, operating from rented premises at 22 St Vincent Street in downtown Port-of-Spain. The first directors were George F Huggins, AH Wight, Albert H Cipriani, Edward H Pitts, T Geddes Grant and LAP O’Reilly. The first edition of the Guardian hit the streets exactly 95 years ago today, on Sunday, September 2, 1917.
The edition was all of eight pages and it signalled the birth of the “War Baby” newspaper which was sold at penny (two cents). The format of the publication was strange compared to today’s design standards since all the ads were laid out on Page one. In all, 1,500 copies of that first edition were printed on a second-hand Bremmer press acquired from the then defunct Mirror newspaper. The aim and objective of the early Guardian pioneers were “to encourage always the development of Trinidad, her people and resources.” Personal financial inputs and sacrifice by directors and administrative staff were the hallmarks of the early beginnings. The premises at 22 St Vincent Street were a one-door two-storey building rented at $60 monthly under a five-year lease. For the first decade of its existence the company’s directors made no charge on the company for their services and accepted the token sum of $5 for each meeting attended. Through these many selfless efforts, the Guardian grew from strength to strength. By 1929, the company took its first giant step. No 22 St Vincent Street was rebuilt and a new Cossar press was installed with a capacity to print 4,000 copies of the Guardian an hour.
Throughout its existence the Guardian has been a bold pioneer and during the 30s the newspaper emerged as a truly concerned corporate citizen which spearheaded several community projects:
• Establishment of the still on-going Guardian Neediest Cases Fund in 1934.
• Setting up of the Chest Hospital Fund in 1935, soliciting public donations and collecting some $53,000 by 1938 which was handed over to the Government to construct the Caura Sanatorium.
• Launched the Fighter Fund as a contribution to boost the British effort following the outbreak of World War II.
The Guardian was also at the forefront in its support for local culture and was instrumental in starting Carnival shows in the Savannah beginning with the King and Queen competition. It was a Guardian employee, Eustace Ward, who came up with the idea of “The Band of the Year” and it was the Guardian which gave substance to the Calypso King competition. The Guardian also opened its columns to promote support for the steelband movement. The selflessness and courage of the pioneers laid the solid groundwork upon which the outstanding success of the Guardian over the 95 years of operation has been based. It is this commitment to developing Trinidad that enabled the Guardian to firmly establish itself as a national and regional institution. The newspaper has seen its fair share of trials having faced two world wars, the 1970s, the fire in 1980 which destroyed the building and the 1990 insurrection.
Despite these challenges, the company has made several advances over the news. What began as Trinidad Publishing Company, with the Trinidad Guardian as its sole product, has evolved into Guardian Media Limited which now also operates five radio broadcasting stations—Inspirational Radio 730 AM, The Best Mix 95.1 FM, the Vibe CT105 FM, Sangeet 106.1 FM, and Aakash Vani 106.5 FM— as well as a television station, Cable News Channel Three. The newspaper, which began as a broadsheet, changed to tabloid format, known as the “G-size Guardian,” in November 2002. In June 2008, the paper changed to a smaller tabloid. In 2008 the Guardian modernised its production facilities, investing in state-of-the-art equipment, which allows the company to bolster its production process, facilitate the highest quality standards of production output and deliver a variety of niche products to our readers and advertisers in a rapidly changing market.