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Monday, 12 March 2012

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What the special article has achieved:

The 'Special Article' was a feature new to journalism in Ceylon when the 'Daily News' entered the field a quarter of a century ago. There were writers of causeries, skits and feuilletons but the daily special article on the leader page was an innovation. The Daily News has published well over ten thousand articles by various contributors, persuasive and protestant, local and foreign, on subjects topical of 'sub specie aeternitatis.'


J. R. Weinman


E. J. Samerawickrame

The two-column message in the first issue by Sir P. Arunachalam began a fine tradition. There was hardly any public man who wielded a facile pen whose articles did not enliven the columns of the paper during the period under review.

In those early days J. R. Weinman was respresented either in the editorial columns or in the special articles week by week. Weinman had a long career at the Bar and held high judicial office but his metier was writing. He was never at a loss for a subject and his fund of entertaining anecdotes was inexhaustible. He could produce a two-column article of very readable matter in half an hour but his handwriting was the despair of editors and compositors.

Another fine writer who contributed to the early issues was the late J. T. Blaze, brother of L. E. Blaze. J. T. Blaze had contributed articles to the Encyclopaedia Britanica after he left Lincoln College, Oxford. He never fulfilled the promise of his early career but he was of the tradition of C. A. Lorenz, and papers like the ‘Examiner’ and the ‘Standard’ owed much to his incisive and polished pen.

Lionel de Fonseka who had made a reputation with his essay on ‘The Truth About Decorative Art’, wrote many elegant pieces for the Daily News.

One of the first notable series of articles to be published by the Daily News was contributed by Leonard Woolf, author of 'Village in the Jungle’.

The Law Library was the chief reservoir of literary talent in those early days. If Sir Thomas de Sampayo did not write articles, he contributed a whole set of the 'Examiner' files. He was one of the proprietors of the 'Examiner'.

E. W. Perera wrote a notable series, of great historical value on his famous mission to England in connection with the Riots, K. Balasinham wrote on economic and industrial questions. E. T. de Silva contributed many special articles and editorials usually on political subjects. B. F. de Silva wrote articles with the flavour of salted almonds using the nom-de-plume 'Viator'.

At critical moments in the political development of the island E. J. Samerawickrame contributed articles or letters with a formidable gentleness that was usually decisive.

Among the seniors of the legal profession of today whose articles were published in the Daily News were W. H. Perera, A. B. Cooray, A. L. J. Croos Da Brera and N. E. Weerasooriya K C - the last named being the author of some delightful skits.

E. R. Tambimuttu wrote on subjects grave and gay and the late H. A. P. Sandarasagara on subjects mostly gay, one of his best being a series entitled 'Travellers' Tales' during a visit to Europe.

S. J. K. Crowther, whose writings in the ‘Ceylon Independent’ over the pen-name ‘Pagoda’ were attracting attention, transferred to the Daily News for which he wrote skits and burlesques over the nom-de-plume ‘Jacques’. He was soon to play a major part in the destinies of the new paper.

C. E. Corea, whose prose was greatly admired by discriminating critics like the late Warden Stone wrote on land problems anticipating by many years a notable series by D. S. Senanayake entitled 'Agriculture and Patriotism.'

The Ceylon Press has always been helped with contributions by the clergy of many Christian denominations. In the early years of the Daily News the Revd. Fr. E. Verstraaten S. J, the Revd. W. E. Boteju and Revd. J. Simon de Silva were frequent contributors. Revd. G. B. Ekanayake has been an occasional contributor and in more recent years Revd. C. Thorpe wrote a series using the pen-name ‘Sardonicus’. Contributions have also been published by well-known heads of schools including the Revd. A. G. Fraser, the Revd. R. W. Stopford and L. H. W. Sampson of the Royal College.

Among the journalists who had already gained a reputation for their work on other papers, and who contributed to the Daily News, were the late F. F. Martinus and Edmund de Livera (‘Adstans’ of the ‘Ceylon Independent’).

The level of scholarship was sustained by innumerable contributions from Revd Fr S. G. Perera, S. J. Dr Andreas Nell and E. Reimers, C. Brooke Elliot K C wrote a regular London News-Letter after his retirement and St Nihal Singh, an Indian journalist with a European reputation, wrote on varied subjects. One of the most authoritative articles ever published in the Daily News was Sir Sivaswamy Aiyer's analysis and criticism of the Donoughmore constitution.

He was specially invited to write the article owing to his high reputation as a constitutional lawyer and he treated the subject with great knowledge and consummate skill.

The 'Daily News' has always taken a keen interest in town-planning and the famous expert on the subject. H. V. Lanchester, wrote a series of articles on the planning of Colombo.

T. W. Hockly, now spending a quiet holiday in Kashmir, has been a frequent writer to the columns of the 'Daily News' over a period of many years. The late Count de Mauny wrote some of his best work for the paper.

W. A. de Silva wrote many articles for the 'Daily News' on cultural subjects or in reminiscent vein. The late C. Drieberg, equally at home in prose or verse, was an occasional contributor. Dr R. L. Spittel has written on many themes, including archaeology, jungle-lore and hospital reoganisation. S Mahadeva, now Assistant Director of Public Works, is another who has written for the 'Daily News' over a long period of years. Other public servants whose work has been published in the 'Daily News' are R. H. Bassett, T. W. Roberts and J. C. W. Rock. Rock was always a tennis enthusiast and wrote with authority and distinction on the Nuwara Eliya tournaments.

This list of names is far from being exhaustive. The names of younger writers and more recent contributors are omitted because it would be invidious to make a selection, and there is no space to mention them all.

The 'Daily News' has also, by arrangement with London newspapers, published the work of well-known writers such as H. J. Laski, A. G. Gardiner (a series of his famous pen-portraits) and Dr.W. R. Inge, the former Dean of St Paul's. It had the privilege of publishing an article by Lord Hewart, when he was Lord Chief Justice.

This was done by arrangement with a famous London newspaper. It published the recent series on strategy by General Wavell by arrangement with the 'London Times'. For many years the ‘Daily News’ has held the copyright for special articles published by the ‘London Times’. Other notable series published exclusively by the 'Daily News' were the Memoirs of Lord Oxford (Asquith), the Autobiography of H. G. Wells, Mrs Dugdale's Life of Lord Balfour, and Lord Birkenhead's Life of his father, the famous Lord Chancellor.

The war has rather cramped the style of the editorial page. Space has to be found for news and advertisements in a smaller-sized paper and articles from London, which used to come in a week by air-mail, now take two months to do the same journey. In spite of this pressure from two sides the special article survives. If it has to be jettisoned, the war will have claimed another notable casualty.

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