The Virgin Islands Daily News turned 90 years old when this page rolled off the press this morning.
That is a remarkable achievement that few print newspapers can claim these days. The Daily News has kept up with progress, of course, by providing a digital edition, but our bedrock is still the printed page. Reading the newspaper on paper, not on a screen, offers something special that electronics cannot match: the smell of the ink, the feel of the paper, the heft of the news within.
The Daily News started when the nation was in the grip of the Depression. That was just the first of many obstacles the newspaper has had to overcome. We have survived wars, economic and political upheavals, hurricanes and disasters. We are still printing, still going strong in the face of a unique new challenge: the pandemic that is threatening lives and livelihoods throughout the territory, the nation and the world.
The first editions of The Daily News set the cornerstone for what this newspaper does today and every day. They exposed political corruption and government waste, secretiveness and mismanagement.
Daily News founders Ariel Melchior Sr. and J. Antonio Jarvis pulled no punches: “Sometime or other it will be necessary for the islands to seek new crops, new methods, new habits,” they wrote.
Melchior and Jarvis’ words seem as fresh today as they were 90 years ago. Our islands still have not broken the shackles of poverty, corruption and entrenched government bloat and dysfunction. Here in 2020, just as in 1930, the Virgin Islands is struggling under those same burdens.
Where are the new crops, new methods, new habits Melchior and Jarvis called for?
Where are the new, long-sought, marijuana crops that are supposed to deliver enough revenue to save GERS?
Where are the benefits for the Virgin Islands from the Economic Development Authority’s billions of dollars given away as tax breaks for favored businesses?
Where are the new industries that can exist outside the tourism orbit?
Where are the new spending habits that would eliminate the needless purchases of government vehicles, the big salaries and stipends, the pointless projects?
Where is the strong leadership that’s necessary to overcome the institutionalized mismanagement and short-sighted thinking in government?
Positive change is easy to promise but hard to deliver, as a legion of V.I. politicians past and present can attest.
New crops, methods and habits would require an end to doing things the way they’ve always been done. The community first must demand that change, then the government must respond by putting the people’s interests first and foremost.
Is change hard? Yes. Is it possible? Yes — but only if the community demands it.
The Daily News is here, as it has been for nine decades, to give voice to that demand by informing, by providing clarity and by stimulating public discussion.
We champion transparency and accountability. We expose wrongdoing. We praise the good and denounce the bad. We’ve been doing it for 90 years and we expect to do it for another 90 — and more.
But we cannot do it alone.
When you open the pages of The Virgin Islands Daily News, you see the product of our talented, highly skilled and dedicated staff, who work round the clock in good weather and bad, in dark of night and heat of day to keep the information flowing, the press running and the wheels turning. Many members of The Daily News staff have devoted decades of their working life to this newspaper. At almost any hour of the day, you can find nearly 1,000 years of newspaper experience inside our walls.
Yet without the Virgin Islands community of readers, advertisers, activists, volunteers, thinkers and writers, we could not exist, could not advocate for Virgin Islanders’ success and could not serve as the vigilant watchdog of the people’s best interests.
You are the reason we can do what we do.