Ombré Ga’chong: PDN’s newspaper death makes watchdog journalism ever-more needed

Lee Webber

Ever since my childhood, April 1 or April Fool’s Day, was a day that people traditionally played jokes on each other and we all got a laugh out of creative efforts of some of the pranksters. Even if we were the butt of their pranks.

However, this April 1st contained a cruel joke for this old newspaper publisher when the Pacific Daily News decided to cease the print publication of their newspaper.

The Pacific Daily News had long been an institution on Guam and actually throughout Micronesia. At one time having news bureaus in Saipan and Manila.

If something was printed in the Daily News it was the truth and very many people viewed it much as they did their Bible from a news and truth standpoint. Historically, there was a clear line maintained between news, opinion and entertainment.

As the regional “fourth estate” it held government, elected officials and employees accountable and provided citizens with a platform to voice their concerns as well as being a platform on which they could depend for truth, fairness.

Having worked at the Daily News from June of 1970 beginning as a printer in the commercial print shop, then to Circulation Manager, followed by Circulation Director then Director of Community Relations then Marketing Director and finally in September of 1983 to Publisher and January 1984 as President and Publisher all the way through the early Fall of 2008 – a span of 24 years – for me, there was no joke that this past April 1st – was a very sad day.

From a historical perspective what follows is a history of newspapers on Guam and I believe a bit of proof that small community newspapers have a place in our lives and in fact are sought out for truth and general information.

The idea of a printed newspaper on Guam began around 1908 with the birth of the “Guam Newsletter”, the first news publication on Guam. It was a monthly publication with the military governor of the time as editor and sold for 10 cents.

The publication was stopped by the government in 1921 due to regulations against private business in a government establishment. The paper then went to a mimeograph sheet and sold for 5 cents but ceased publication in 1922.

There were no newspapers on Guam from 1922 through early 1924.

During March of 1924 the Guam Recorder was born with Commander P.J. Searles as the first editor. It was a monthly publication and carried news derived locally along with news derived from radio and cable news from around the world and had a maximum of 12 pages per issue.

From February 7th through May 8, 1932 the Guam Weekly Bulletin was established but was short lived and the editor and manager was Mr. Ramon M. Sablan.

Beginning in 1933 the U.S. Navy purchased the publication from Mr. R.W. Rowley. The Navy changed the paper to a magazine format. Publication of this news organ ceased in 1941 due to WWII.

On July 25, 1945 The Navy News began publication as a tabloid size newspaper under government control. The newspaper carried local, national and international news.

On January 5, 1947 the Umatuna Si Yuus began publication as the first catholic newspaper on the island, published by the Diocese of Agana for the Catholic community. Distribution was free before and after mass.

In June of 1950 the Navy News was purchased by Joseph Flores and renamed the Guam Daily News. Mr. Martin Moon was the first editor of the newspaper. Later Mr. Alex Flores replaced Moon and he was followed by Mr. Frank Lapierre who was then replaced by Mr. Joe Murphy.

The Guam Daily News remain a tabloid newspaper and sold for 10 cents. At one point in time the paper tried to publish as a broadsheet newspaper but it was not well accepted by readers and they went back to their original tabloid format.

From December 1951 thru late 1964 the Territorial Sun began as the Sunday publication of the Guam Daily News with the same ownership. It was also a tabloid format and also sold for 10 cents per copy. This weekly publication continued until late 1964.

From 1952 thru 1953 the Guam Examiner was published as a weekly magazine and sold for 25 cents per copy. Its editor was Alex Flores and it covered only local news and events.

In 1954 the Air Force began publication of the Tropic Topics and then Pacific edge and was a free Air Force publication with all military coverage (Air Force news) coupled with local base events.

Beginning in 1958 The Navy began publication of the Pacific Crossroads and much like the Air Force paper it covered Navy news and local Navy activities.

Both the Air Force and Navy publications were eventually joined into the joint Region Edge and it was also free.

From July to September of 1961 the Guam Villager was published and sold for 10 cents and its editor was Curt Kaufman.

Also, in July 1961 the Guam Daily Mirror was published and sold for 10 cents. Its editor was G.M O’Keefe but it was very short lived.

On February 15, 1964 The Guam Times Weekly was launched by then editor Manual Jose. It was published on Saturdays and sold for 15 cents. It ceased publication on June 10, 1966. Between 1966 and 1970 there were about six other publications that were launched and sold for 35 cents but none succeeded beyond 1970.

In 1970 Joseph Flores sold the Guam Daily News to Capital Investment Co. of Honolulu.

In 1971 the Guam Recorder was once again revived by MARC at the University of Guam as a monthly magazine about Guam and her people. The magazine ceased publication in 1979.

On February 2, 1972 Capital investment sold the Guam Daily News to Gannett Company, Inc. and the name of the paper changed to the Pacific Daily News.

During the years that followed the Pacific Dateline was launched as an afternoon paper but it did not succeed as sales were small for an afternoon newspaper as opposed to a morning newspaper.

In 1979 prominent local business man Mark Pangilinan began the publication of a local newspaper called The Guam Tribune as a competitor to the Pacific Daily News. The Tribune continued for approximately ten years before becoming the Guam Shoppers Guide. His publications were suspended in 1997.

During 1998 Saipan publisher Abed Younis started distribution of his Saipan newspaper, the Marianas Variety on Guam. During the year 2000 he changed the name of the Guam edition to the Guam Variety and it was distributed in a limited fashion.

In 2015 local businessman Ho S. Eun, owner of Core Tech, purchased the newspaper from Younis and renamed it The Guam Daily Post. The Post continues as the “only” local tabloid format daily newspaper to this day

With the death of the Pacific Daily News print edition, we are once again a community with only one daily newspaper of general circulation.

Even more importantly, we are dealing with a fourth estate that has lost track of its original and much needed purpose in a democratic republic.

That of being the watchdog on government, community informant and a beacon of freedom for its readership.



Lee P. Webber is a businessman and civic advocate, the former publisher of the Pacific Daily News, a former president and publisher of the Honolulu Advertiser, and a former director of operations for USA Today International/Asia

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