Sunday Observer anniversary tomorrow:
Eighty-five and still going strong
It is with dignity and pride that the Sunday Observer celebrates its
85th anniversary tomorrow. Since it was founded way back on February 4,
1928, the Sunday Observer has come a long way, facing many challenges
Despite all those challenges and the subsequent entry of electronic
media and websites, the Sunday Observer has continued to enjoy its own
market share as the undisputed market leader. Although the newspaper
industry the world over is challenged by the electronic media, the
Sunday Observer has continued to remain Sri Lanka’s English newspaper
with the largest circulation, apart from millions of visitors who visit
our website from every corner of the globe.
The day the late D.R. Wijewardene, the founder of Lake House, chose
to release the first issue of the Sunday Observer - February 4 -
ultimately turned out to be a day that changed the destiny of a nation.
It was exactly after 20 years since the launch of the Sunday Observer
that Sri Lanka gained independence from the British. When the founder of
the nation, the then Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake proudly hoisted the
Lion flag in an independent Sri Lanka, the Sunday Observer was
celebrating its 20th anniversary.
Flagship English newspaper
During its eight-and-a-half decade proven track record as Sri Lanka’s
flagship English newspaper, the Sunday Observer has been equally popular
among people from all walks of life. It has maintained its position as
the family newspaper which has been close to people of different
segments in society.
The Sunday Observer has maintained its own identity as a responsible
newspaper which reads the pulse of the masses. Though many English
newspapers emerged subsequently and adopted various strategies to win
the confidence of readers, they could never pose a challenge to the
popularity of the Sunday Observer.
The key to the Sunday Observer’s success and immense popularity is
its ability to understand the needs of each and every family member.
From humble beginnings 85 years ago, the Sunday Observer is now enriched
with different segments to meet the different reading needs, from
kindergarten children to senior citizens.
We at the Sunday Observer feel that we did our duty by the nation
during the country’s relentless battle against terrorism. When the odds
were against military action, it was the Sunday Observer and our sister
papers published by the Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd. (ANCL)
which led an ambitious campaign to support the Security Forces.
Our editorial policy to back the Security Forces and protect them as
much as our lives paid rich dividends. Especially as the flagship
English newspaper of Sri Lanka, we opened the eyes of the international
community and presented our side of the story to them.
Support for Security Forces
Although only a couple of newspapers including the Sunday Observer
backed the Security Forces, the number increased sharply as the true
sons of our soil maintained their victorious forward march. By the time
terrorism was completely eradicated, in May 2009, all newspapers and
electronic media were following our initiative.
We see it as our duty that our success as a newspaper will always be
clean. That there will never be marks of degradation upon our pages and
that the words we write may never cause harm. Though we have our own
criticism of certain Opposition politicians, we only confronted them
with their ideas or wrongdoings and refrained from embarking on
mud-slinging and character-assassination campaigns.
What is more important is the fact that the Sunday Observer has gone
well beyond a customary newspaper and has established its position as a
truly corporate citizen, partnering in many corporate social
responsibility projects. The Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year
has turned out to be an established brand, not only among the
sports-loving public, but also among all Sri Lankans.
This contest was inaugurated by the Sunday Observer in 1978/79 at a
time there wasn’t a single school cricket awards ceremony to recognise
the raw talents of schoolboy cricketers.
Thanks to the premier role played by the Sunday Observer in the
country’s sports promotions, the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the
Year has produced many world-class cricketers during the past 35 years.
Sri Lanka’s World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranatunga, the most
valuable player in Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup triumph Sanath Jayasuriya,
spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan and the Chief ICC Match Referee are
among the galaxy of world cricket stars who first entered the big league
after their graduation at the Observer Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year
The Sunday Observer has been associated with many charity projects,
beauty contests, business and academic awards. Moreover, the Sunday
Observer has provided an ideal platform for the country’s budding
inventors, entrepreneurs, fashion designers, artistes and even amateur
politicians to make their mark.
Vanquishing the widespread assumption that Opposition politicians do
not get an opportunity in the State media, the Sunday Observer has
always offered a fair deal to Opposition politicians to take their
ideology to the masses.
When our editorial staff discussed how we should celebrate our 85th
anniversary, the majority view was that we should embark on a charity
project, just as we did five years ago on the 80th anniversary, for
which the staff made a lavish contribution to the Children’s Ward at the
Maharagama Cancer Hospital.
We will soon make a similar visit to look into the urgent needs of
those unfortunate children who are fighting hard for their lives.
This was what the then Features Editor of the Sunday Observer, Aditha
Dissanayake wrote in the 80th anniversary edition: “When the discussion
whether we should celebrate our 80th anniversary or let it slip, came
up, everyone agreed since the next milestone will be the 90th, we should
do something this year - who knows, by 2018, we might not be here. Say
that again? Well the staff yes., some may leave, some may retire.. But
the Sunday Observer? She will be here, definitely ...till eternity.”
“In what shape? In what colour? What will the paper which you are
holding now in your hands look like in ten years?
“Will newspapers or huge white pages with words printed on them
survive till then? Will technology transform the physical presence of
the Sunday Observer in some way as yet unforeseen? Who will know? But,
come what may, she will be here - one way or another - with the same
eight words of the slogan printed on the cover page.”
Though Aditha herself has left the Sunday Observer, her thoughts are
still valid for today as we confidently march towards the centenary
celebrations in 2028. Some of us would be confined to our graves then,
but we are confident that the Sunday Observer would still continue these
rich traditions to celebrate its centenary in style.