30th anniversary of Stabroek News

Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of the birth of Stabroek News, when 2,000 complimentary copies of the inaugural edition of this newspaper were distributed to individuals and organisations.  Two weeks later, on December 5, 1986, the first edition to be sold was made available to the public at a cost of $1 per copy. It had a print run of 20,000, which sold out in a matter of two hours. The appearance of Stabroek News signalled the end of an era when the free press had been subject to repression and heralded the gradual opening up of the society.

The paper had its origins in an overture by Managing Director of the Trinidad Express Ken Gordon to then President Desmond Hoyte. Following that, local lawyer David de Caires asked Hoyte about starting a newspaper, and the latter raised no objection, but said no foreign exchange would be granted. Stabroek News for the first months of its life, therefore, was printed at the Trinidad Express courtesy of a grant from the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The paper was a weekly, and the pre-press work was done at a house in Queenstown, following which the flats were then carried on commercial flights by de Caires’ wife Doreen. The newspapers were flown in on a private Neal and Massy Beechcraft in time to go on sale on Fridays.

Once the NED money ran out, de Caires recognized that the whole operation would have to become locally based if it was to survive, and a second-hand press was acquired which was installed in the current premises in Robb Street, to which the other departments moved too in September 1987. As a more regular newspaper Stabroek News went twice weekly on January 6, 1988; thrice weekly on July 3, 1990; and six days a week on July 2 1991. On July 5, 1993, it finally became a true daily, publishing on Mondays as well, which it had not done hitherto.

The final major expansion involved the acquisition of a new press, which was sited in a new press room built in George Street, and which started functioning at the beginning of 1995.

For many years Stabroek News struggled to survive, first because of the foreign exchange challenges in the early Hoyte years, and then because of the very burdensome repayments attached to the loan for the new press. The newspaper also continued to appear despite the seventeen months’ ban on state advertisements which was instituted against it by the last government.  The Founder and first Editor-in-Chief of the paper died in November 2008, but he created an institution which still endures.

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