30 years ago, still a teenager, I walked into a building in Valletta, sat behind a desk, and started a full-time career in journalism.
To put you in context, it was October 1986, the month before the Tal-Barrani incidents shaped the course of history in Malta as did the murder of Raymond Caruana in Gudja in the first week of December that same year. It was in those tumultuous times that Eddie Fenech Adami had coined the phrase righteousness always wins.
It was a baptism of fire, one that threw me right in the middle of what was the most dangerous period in Malta’s political history since Independence. Looking back, I can say that my first seven months on the job were the most politically tense in my career.
Today, 30 years later, so many things have changed. The most obvious is that in 1986 we worked on type-writers and the process leading from the actual writing of a story to it appearing in print was a laborious, complicated exercise that took so much time compared to the minutes it takes today.
Other revolutions since then are the shift from fax to email, the invention of mobile phones, the birth of the social media and, of course, online news.
It doesn’t mean that obtaining information has become easier. We still find walls of obstruction when we try to do our work, walls built by people who speak of transparency but want to keep secrets; and we still get threats if someone thinks we have taken a step too far. There are some who even have the audacity and arrogance to think that we should inform them beforehand if we intend to write something about them.
As a country, today we are not experiencing the physical violence that characterised the early 1980s, but we have moved on to a different kind of hostility which, unfortunately, is equally dangerous. I’m referring to the verbal and written aggression that has become so common these days. It is so easy today to be belligerent via the many openings there are on the internet.
My reading of the situation is that since 1986, and in spite of new ways intended to bring people together, we have become less tolerant of each other and more distant from those with whom we do not see eye to eye. The division that existed in 1986 is wider today.
Facebook may have re-established links between people who had not seen each other since Fifth Form, but it has also created a split between others because of offensive remarks that are posted on the network. Useful as they are, mobile phones are also a direct invasion of our privacy. It is also ironic that people could be in communication with the rest of the world while being oblivious to the relative or friend sitting next to them.
What has not changed in these 30 years is my enthusiasm and dedication towards my job, which is now coupled with the experience and knowledge that these three decades have brought with them. In 6 ½ years at The Times and for the last 23 ½ years at The Malta Independent, I’ve given my all, learned so much and look forward to what’s next.
With the cynicism of someone who once believed that righteousness always wins, but who now knows that evil never loses.