By Radu Bogdan
It was like yesterday, and yet 30 years have passed since then. October 10, 1991 marked the start of a beautiful and challenging adventure: NINE O’CLOCK, the first and only English-language daily in the history of Romania published its first issue under the slogan “ the newspaper that comes with your coffee morning to give you the power of knowledge” –as it was written on the front page of the first print edition.
30+ years on , we have succeeded to become an interface between Romania and the exterior. Or, as a distinguished reader stated in a message he chose to send to us on our anniversary a few years ago, ‘NINE O’CLOCK is a sui generis ambassador for Romania worldwide’.
And indeed, this “mission statement” that we have undertaken – to be a first point of contact for foreign residents ( diplomats, business persons, bankers etc.) – with the Romanian realities is indeed a major obligation as far as we are concerned.
A major part of the information, reports and comments published in the pages of our newspaper reach the chancelleries of world capital cities or the desks of the officials of various international bodies or financial institutions, giving them a correct picture of the political, economic and social affairs in Romania. It is for this reason that we have known since the very beginning that we cannot afford any mistake whatsoever, especially in respect of the truthfulness of the information we publish. First of all, it would have hurt our credibility as a publication in front of an elite segment of readers. Secondly, we could have caused major distress and a lot of harm to the image of country by publishing untrue information or distorted facts.
And, not least, that obliged us to always be one step ahead of the rest of the publications in the Romanian mass-media regarding the most important piece of news, for which reason we have always sought the most pertinent sources of information in order to publish balanced and fair stories and articles. A huge challenging, we must admit, especially in these last years when the border between fake-news or manipulation and real facts is so fragile.
Naturally, the road covered up to this important moment in our existence has not been easy. Actually it has been dotted with ups and downs all inherent to the period of transition in which both the press and the entire Romanian society has and still lives in.
Things have not been easy also because of the special responsibility we took back in 1991 – to make a DIFFERENT kind of newspaper in the so crowded landscape of Romanian press all this time, an objective, reliable and respected newspaper, presenting an accurate cross-section of top local and foreign events and news.
It hasn’t been easy also because we embarked on this genuine adventure as an independent, self-sustained publication, in a period of transition that seems quite endless. It would have perhaps been easier if we supported the interests of certain groups, which would have made things easier for us by financing us in return for our services. Things would have also been easier for us if we were in favour of a press that, by less moral ways – such as blackmail and criticism of personalities or companies – manages to obtain high amounts for publishing or for NOT publishing certain things.
But we preferred to keep our upright position and morality, to stay clear of any kind of games of political or economic interests. We preferred to be ourselves, respect professional deontology, report on facts as they are and not as seen by a certain group to the detriment of others. We preferred to be vertical and always write what we want, meaning to reflect reality and not what the ‘law of the money’ dictates or imposes.
Today, when we count 30+ years since our first issue was launched, it’s a moment to celebrate how far we’ve come, but also an opportunity to reflect on how far we have yet to go.
We have to admit that the very existence on the market during these three decades, and especially now, in a context where the entire world print media is going through a not at all easy period, is a performance we would have hardly dared aspire to when we set out into our ‘adventure’: namely to publish an English language daily newspaper with the declared aim of offering foreign residents in Romania, all English-speaking audience and not only, a reliable source of information on local realities. It is undoubtedly a performance that honours us, but at the same time one that obliges us a lot to you, our readers.
An article like this, meant also to X-ray the history of the over 7200 issues we have published so far, would be unfairly limited strictly to the presentation of these reconsiderations without recognizing one major reality: NINE O’CLOCK would have not existed, would have not been able to come this far if it hadn’t been you, our readers, your interest, the suggestions and criticism you have made over the time, the support of numerous Romanian and foreign companies and banks who, understanding the important role we assumed, have always been by our side. We feel an obligation of fair-play towards you, our readers and partners, to express our gratitude, because, when we chose English as the language of our newspaper, we also looked to assume and secure the English fair-play.
Of course, same as the rest of the world print press, we too do feel the effects of the present financial crisis that made-as it is known-many “victims” in the ranks of many newspapers.
These troubled and challenging times caused by dramatic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world economy have also severely impacted us and determined us to take last March the painful decision to cease the print. It was the end of an adventurous era, but also a new beginning, to issue a digital edition, an enterprise which is not all easy to sustain from an economic point of view.
The more so as our newspaper has never received governmental support or gained amounts from electoral campaigns. We continue to self-finance ourselves through subscriptions and through selling editorial space, despite a dramatic decrease of our revenues in the last years, which makes our survival not at all simple.
It is for these reasons why we don’t have enough words to express our gratitude to those who continue to buy subscriptions and advertising space from us, helping us to survive.
Despite these complicated times and all hardships, we haven’t lost, not will we lose our optimism, as we keep counting on your support and cooperation. This gives us hope to look to the future.
In conclusion, our thanks go to you, our dear readers and partners and we look forward to meeting you again on future anniversaries.