Nine O’Clock at its 26th anniversary

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NINE O’CLOCK is marking 26 years since its launch. This event makes us think not so much about the past but about the future, giving us courage to continue the “adventure” started on 10 October 1991, namely the publishing, for the first time in Romania, of an English-language daily. We must admit that its presence on the market for 26 years, especially against the backdrop in which the entire global print press is going through a period that is not easy at all, represents a performance we would hardly have dared hope for when we set out on this “adventure”: publishing an English-language daily with the declared goal of providing foreign residents in Romania, all English-language connoisseurs and not only them, with an accessible source of information on the realities here. It is undoubtedly a performance that honours us but at the same time indebts us to you, our readers. Because this mission we committed ourselves to, that of being the foreign residents’ – diplomats, businessmen, bankers etc. – first contact with Romanian realities, indeed obliges us very much.

We are happy that in its existence that spans a quarter of a century, NINE O’CLOCK has become an interface between Romania and the outside, or that is how our distinguished readers often describe us in the congratulatory messages they send us, namely that “NINE O’CLOCK is Romania’s sui generis ambassador in the world.”

A great part of the information, articles, comments published in the newspaper end up in the chancelleries of world capitals or on the working desks of officials of international bodies or of financial institutions, giving them a correct picture of the Romanian political, economic and social life. For this reason, we knew from the start that we cannot allow ourselves to err, especially in what concerns the veracity of the information published. Firstly, we would have discredited ourselves as a publication before an elite segment of readers. Secondly, we would have caused great trouble for and harm to the country, by publishing non-truths or distorted facts. Last but not least, this always obliged us to always be one step ahead of the rest of Romanian mass media publications, in what concerns the most important information, this being the reason why we sought to permanently have sources of information as pertinent as possible. Of course, the road covered so far up to this important moment of our existence was not easy at all. It was filled with ups and downs inherent to the period of transition in which the press found and continues to find itself in, in fact just as Romanian society as a whole. It was not easy at all for us, also because of the special responsibility we took on 26 years ago: that of making a DIFFERENT kind of newspaper in the highly-crowded landscape of the Romanian press. An objective newspaper that would offer an exact picture of Romanian realities, pertinent comments on top domestic and foreign events, news from sports and culture.

Likewise, it was not easy because we set out on this veritable adventure as an independent newspaper that finances itself, during a period of transition that seems to no longer end. Maybe it would have been easier for us to back the interests of certain groups that would have made our life easier via the money they would have paid in exchange for our services. Likewise, maybe it would have been easier for us had we been the adherents of a press that manages, through less orthodox means – namely blackmail and criticism levelled against personalities or companies –, to obtain large sums of money as sponsorships or advertisement contracts, sums which regular Romanians hear about only in movies.

However, we preferred to be upright and moral, to stand aloof from any kind of political or economic games of interests. We preferred to be ourselves, to respect professional deontology, to present reality as it is, and not as a certain group sees it at the expense of others. We preferred to always write what we want, namely to reflect reality, and not what the “law of the money” dictates or imposes.

From the very start we were the supporters of an incremental policy, namely of developing slowly but surely. Thus, NINE O’CLOCK has become a newspaper with personality and distinct points of view. In time, we tried all kinds of formulas to present what happens in 24 hours’ time in Romania and in the world, until we reached the current formula.

Looking back at the history of our 26 years of existence, in which we were pioneers in the field of publishing foreign-language publications in Romania, it is worth mentioning the other experiences we had during these years. Thus, the NINE O’CLOCK family gradually grew in numbers: in 1996, our press group started publishing a French-language daily too – BUCAREST MATIN – which, after several years in which it functioned in that formula, became – for reasons independent of our will – a weekly publication meant to offer pertinent information on local realities to the French-speaking community in Romania. Unfortunately, after 17 years, BUCAREST HEBDO ceased its appearance due to a lack of financial resources. But it was an experience full of challenges, which brought us countless satisfactions.

Then, in 1999, it was time to start another editorial experience, likewise full of challenges: our press group started publishing an Italian-language weekly too – SETTE GIORNI –, which, since the start, enjoyed the wide appreciation and interest of an ever-growing Italian business community in Romania.

In this article, which was meant to be a brief review of the history of the almost 6,500 issues published in English during 26 years of existence, it would be unfair to limit ourselves solely to presenting these considerations without recognising a great reality: NINE O’CLOCK would not have existed, would not have been able to make this journey, without your interest, the interest of our readers, without the suggestions and criticism you came up with over the years, without the support of numerous and important Romanian and foreign companies and banks that – understanding the important role we took upon ourselves – have permanently stood by our side. We feel obliged to be fair-play toward you, our readers and partners, because, when we chose English as the newspaper’s language of presentation, we at the same time sought to borrow the British fair play too.

Of course, we must admit that, same as the rest of the world’s print press, we too are feeling the effects of the crisis and of the unequal war with digital media, a war that made in recent years – as known – many “victims” in the ranks of the Romanian daily press, many dailies ceasing their print editions. But, as the editor-in-chief of an English-language daily – with an impressive number of printed copies for this day and age, published in an important Asian country – was telling me, “quality will always prevail and make the difference” between print media and digital media, thus answering my question about the print media’s chances of survival in the digital era. “For successful print editions that would sell, the emphasis must be put on the quality of the editorial content, this is the key to success, in contrast to the digital, where there is also a lot of misinformation and manipulation, the digital being firstly rather primordially focused on timing, on the rush to post information as fast as possible for it to spread as fast as possible, rather than on careful verifications.”

Thus, we have not lost, nor will we lose our optimism, as we keep counting on your support and cooperation. This gives us hope to look to the future. In closing, we thank you, dear readers and partners, and we make an appointment with you at our 27th anniversary.