Times, 149 years on

Fiji Times staff. Picture: JOVESA NAISUA

One of the most trusted, oldest operational and highly popular premium daily English-language newspaper “The Fiji Times” turned 149 years old on September 4.

The journey started from Levuka on September 4, 1869, by Englishman George Littleton Griffiths.

Today, the company is owned by the renowned Motibhai Group of Companies, having purchased it from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp in 2010.

It is chaired by Kirit Patel.

Because of its transparent, objective and authentic news it has earned respect among the masses as a quality newspaper.

On this historic milestone, Kirit Patel stated the newspaper stands strong after a humble inception and the “newspaper has built in terms of its credibility, reliability and accuracy which has enabled us to weather the storm of challenges”.

In regard to contributions in the Op-ed section, the chairman said The Fiji Times has been providing columns to the populace as a platform for the discussion of many topics to help readers to think out and follow the way of true progress for the good of all Fijians.

On this historic juncture, this article highlights the history of The Fiji Times; relevance of Op-ed section of this newspaper; and concerns related to writing opinion pieces.

History of The Fiji Times

L.G. Usher’s work brief of The Fiji Times (1962) gave an outline of the history of The Fiji Times, by explaining the discourse of The Fiji Times from commencing of The Fiji Times stamps to the period of Griffiths, Baker and Robson; and also its early communication ways, inclusion of illustrations, contributing towards printing trade and change in printing methods.

In contemporary days, The Fiji Times’ mission was to “provide outstanding service to our readers by delivering up-to-date, accurate, fair and balanced news coverage; by entertaining them with bright, interesting features and informing them of news and events as they happen both locally and abroad in print and online”.

Further stating it has Fiji’s highest circulation with wide readership, spanning across all ethnicities, religions, broad range in Fiji and the Pacific; and the newspaper takes pride in its many extensive features focusing on topics of national interest .

In academic circles, John Connell’s work “The Fiji Times and the Good Citizen: Constructing Modernity and Nationhood in Fiji”, explained how The Fiji Times, constructed emerging notions of what citizenship and nationhood might entail; as “The Fiji Times has the largest circulation and is usually regarded as the most authoritative … with audited circulation … now risen to over 40,000” and in similar vein, Shailendra Singh’s work “Investigative journalism: Challenges, perils, rewards in seven Pacific Island countries” explained Fiji and other six Pacific Island countries’ practice of investigative journalism and its related topics i.e. anti-whistleblower’ legislation and “backfiring effect”.

Issues of relevance highlighted through the Op-ed section

As per a New York Times article “an opinion article, sometimes referred to as an op-ed article, is a commentary written by someone who is independent of the newspaper”.

“The editors and reporters of the news department are not allowed to inject opinion into their work, nor to write for the views pages.”

Contributions in the op-ed section of The Fiji Times, gives a mental satisfaction to raise issues of concern and attract the attention of the nation to themes of relevance.

Fiji is defined as a paradise in the Pacific, where Fijians read newspapers diligently and give constructive feedback.

Although the life of a newspaper is short but the memory of Fijians is commendable in terms of learning and inculcating the knowledge given by newspapers for the progress and constructive values of the nation.

I believe The Fiji Times op-ed section permits writers the freedom of expression to table their views and themes of value through discussion, debate, opinion and expression.

Writing op-ed articles for The Fiji Times is a challenge, as it requires substantial amount of time, thorough research before writing a coherent and objective op-ed piece because every single word will be tested under the microscope by readers.

One can receive appreciation, criticism and feedback because it is the personal opinion of the author/s. But author/s with determination do not get deterred by critics from expressing their views.

I believe this section of the FT reflects the diversity of voices and opinions on a wide range of themes. The opinion of the authors can be different from monotonous thinkers that draw a diverse image on canvas.

Preparing and writing an opinion piece

Every opinion writer may not be a professional journalist but usually the authors may have specialist knowledge of a particular theme, whose opinion is of enormous value.

Every writer has a different style of writing, usual or unusual prolific styles of attracting a reader’s attention.

I believe out of the box thoughts are read with interest by readers.

This is not to be understood as a sensationalizing section, but it is a piece of substance for a larger audience.

The op-ed writing style can be funny, sad, sarcastic, informative, reactionary to news of the world, problems, discussion, literature review, jargon or conventional style, elaborative or focussed writing.

It is better to be clear, natural and concise.

The op-ed becomes hard core documental resource for quality learning and enhancing knowledge to not just the specialized audience but for mass readers.

Conclusion

I believe The Fiji Times has been serving authentic news for almost one and half century, which is a historic achievement that needs to be celebrated in the field of journalism in Fiji.

It is necessary to restate Mr Patel’s words “those who are abroad have always counted on The Fiji Times online to alleviate their homesickness by keeping them informed of the latest happenings.

“This makes the people abroad feel nostalgic. The Fiji Times is serving the community at large with various campaigns and initiatives to help make their lives better.”

The Fiji Times has shown commitment to serve the people with its balanced and factual reporting which has developed goodwill, and an authentic reputation of a reliable and trustworthy news provider.

I shall conclude with Connell’s words that “The Fiji Times continually fosters a national consciousness”.

* Dr Sakul Kundra is assistant Professor in History, College of Humanities & Education, FNU. For comments or suggestions, email. dr.sakulkundra@gmail.com. The views expressed are his own and not of this newspaper.

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