I first got to know the Times of Malta as a child, as it was the newspaper that my father, then our family, used to refer to on a daily basis, especially on Sundays.
The Times of Malta was the printed version of the news, and it also was an important source of information when it was very difficult to get to an objective and accurate narrative of events.
I was 20 years old when the Times building was burned down in 1979, and I remember that day as one of the saddest days of my youth. But I also remember with a sense of pride, the fact that the following day the Times of Malta was able to be back in print against all odds. It was a sad day for freedom of the press, but the Times won by sheer determination!
Another memory that comes to mind as I pay tribute to the Times of Malta, is the way in which it has always covered local news with the contribution of a number of different perspectives. You could engage in an interesting purview of different points of view on any subject by following the discussions in the Times, and it is a true tribute to this newspaper that people of different persuasion refer to it to sound their ideas.
I was privileged to be invited on two occasions to be a guest editor of the Times of Malta. I remember on my first visit when Steve Mallia, who was the editor-in-chief, brought me to his computer and said, “Now, Fr Charles, you need to write the editorial and it has to be strictly under 580 words.” It was a tough job because whatever I wrote was more than that. I realised that there was discipline in the art of producing a newspaper that was also an urgency to bring a message to promote the common good.
The second time I was guest editor was under the editorship of Herman Grech. Herman also brought me to his computer and was very keen to understand the logic of what I was saying. On both occasions I realised that we need to safeguard our heritage, the beauty of our landscape, but also the beauty of our being together.
I would like to thank the Times for dedicating space for beauty in so many of its editions. I always look forward to the photo on the back page which is usually a take on the beauty of our islands, of our traditions, of our people.
The Times of Malta taught me from a young age to be fair and objective in whatever subject I approach, but it has also taught me the importance of satire.
I would like to pay tribute to Maurice Tanti Burlò (also Nalizperla) who, every Sunday, would regale us with the most extraordinary caricatures of our leaders. I am privileged to have been the object of Tanti Burlò’s acute sense of irony and satire on a few occasions. I am also one of the many fans of Steve Bonello’s Sunday caricatures.
The Times of Malta brought to our people a true love for the English language and for the international context which surrounds us. The contacts with exceptional news agencies such as Reuters and now AFP, were an extraordinary service to the local reader in the pre-internet age.
Even though I am growing to be grateful and fond of the digital version of the newspaper, I hope that the Times of Malta survives in its printed format.
Whatever the future holds, I hope that all Times journalists not only have a future but also continue to bring to us a sense of the propriety of doing news in a professional way.
Charles Scicluna is Archbishop of Malta.
This article first appeared in a commemorative supplement marking 85 years of Times of Malta. Contributions will be published online every day between August 11 and August 20. Read other contributions.
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