Well here we are ladies and gentlemen.
Today is a very special day in the life of the Samoa Observer News Group. As you would have seen from the front page of the edition you are reading, your newspaper has turned 40 years old. It calls for a time of celebration.
So tonight at Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel on Beach Road, we are looking forward to welcoming the Head of State, His Highness Tuimaleali’ifano Va’aletoa Sualauvi II, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi and all our distinguished guests for an evening of thanksgiving. It will also be a time of quiet reflection.
To tell you the truth, we are mighty grateful to be here. You see, forty years is a long time during which some pretty testing challenges and countless obstacles we’ve had to overcome along the way could have easily weakened one’s resolve.
The history of the Samoa Observer is littered by those challenges. Some of them were quite frightening. But today is not the day to talk about those problems.
By the grace of God and one man’s relentless pursuit for truth and justice against tremendous odds, we have persevered and we are here.
The story of the Samoa Observer has been well told. The crux of it is really the journey of one man, Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa, whose vision is the rock solid foundation upon which this institution remains steadfast and strong.
For the uninitiated though, I feel it would be better for me to allow Gatoaitele to tell you briefly, in his own words, how the Samoa Observer came about.
In an editorial titled “Samoa’s will, is also God’s will” published on 29 August 2003, during the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Samoa Observer, this is what Gatoaitele wrote:
“Twenty five years ago on 28 August 1978, two restless young men saw their dream come a reality. They saw the first edition of the newspaper they’d been planning for months published. Their paper was called “The Observer.” It was put together in a cookhouse of a family at Vaimoso.
But that dream would have remained still a dream if it hadn’t been for an English man called Jeff Marfleet. New to the country, Mr Marfleet’s Commercial Printing Co Ltd agreed to publish the weekly on credit for four weeks.
After which, the “dreamers” would start paying up what they’d owe, plus present printing costs. Later when repayments were slow-since everything was very slow in 1978 - someone pushed Jeff to take court action. In response, Jeff –or was it his lawyer at the time, Misa Telefoni Retzlaff? –retorted: “How can you take Sano to court? He’s got only one typewriter.”
And so court action was averted, and Jeff eventually got paid in full. But that was how Samoans and one English man that is - did business in Apia in those days….”
In case you are wondering who the other man is, he is Dr. Ieti Lima. And the rest as they say is history.
From those humble beginnings in 1978, the Samoa Observer has grown from strength to strength so that today, the paper has become part of the fabric of 21st Century Samoa. Over the years, the paper expanded so that in the Pacific today, it remains one of only three daily newspapers – excluding Australia and New Zealand. The other two being the Fiji Times and the Fiji Sun.
Which is quite an achievement. Believe me, producing a daily newspaper on an island isolated in the middle of the biggest ocean in the world is not the sort of business for the faint hearted. The challenges are enormous, the cost ridiculous and the price one pays is often more than just money.
But it’s doable. The Samoa Observer has proved this for 40 years. And it can only be possible when there is a true commitment to quality journalism and democratic principles, which are underpinned by integrity, honesty, hard work and the uncompromising pursuit of the truth.
Today as we celebrate our 40th birthday, we’d like to think that’s what the Samoa Observer is all about. Are we perfect? Do we always get it right?
You see, like everyone else, we make mistakes, lots of them too. Some of them inadvertent while others are the result of carelessness and fatigue. It happens.
But where we falter, we are quick to admit wrong and we try to make it right.
As for me, well in a few months time, I’ll be celebrating a little milestone of my own too. It will be my 20th year with this newspaper, 12 of them as the Editor. It has been an enthralling journey, fascinating and one that continues to excite me every day.
By the way, never in my wildest dreams growing up did I ever imagine I would end up doing what I’m doing today. I thought I had my future plans all worked out. In those plans, there was nothing remotely related to media or a newspaper, let alone returning to Samoa.
But God knows best and he strategically orders our steps. What seemed like a tragedy in the family back in 1998, which forced me back on the plane to Samoa to help my parents, has become one of the best decisions I’ve made. It doesn’t feel like it was that many years ago. In fact it feels like it was just yesterday.
Since then, I’ve learnt from the best, especially the man I am privileged to call my Editor-in-Chief. I have been and seen the world and worked with the best of the best. I consider myself blessed.
But let me tell you a little secret, Gatoaitele might have been the man with the vision and boldness, but the true rock behind the growth and success of the Samoa Observer is the Publisher, Muliaga Jean Ash Malifa. She provides the finesse, the critical money-management skills that have allowed this company to flourish. Without her, I doubt this company would be where it is today.
Today is her day; it is her moment. She, Gatoaitele and their family have come a long, long way, overcome so much more than many people dare to think, and they are still at it.
This is why this day is a very special moment for the Samoa Observer.
But this is just the beginning. We’d like to think that since we are 40 years old, the beginning of the next 40 years starts now. There is much work to do.
Looking at Samoa and the world today, the role of an independent newspaper that is run responsibly and fearlessly, has become so much more important now than ever.
With the innovative insights of our Online Manager, Jarrett Malifa, the assistance of our Co-Editor, Alex Rheeney, sales and marketing skills of Helen Papali’i, dedication of our Production Manager, Shane Ash, and all our team at the Samoa Observer News Group, we look forward to continuing to serve you into the future.
In the meantime, from the bottom of our hearts here at Vaitele where all the magic happens, thank you for your support Samoa. Have a fabulous Friday, God bless!