The Reporter Newspaper was launched as the Belize Chamber of Commerce Newsletter in 1967. Its name was thereafter changed to The Chamber Reporter. The founding editor was Zelma (Zee) Edgell, now a novelist residing in the U.S. Zelma gained fame after publishing a feminist-themed novel Beka Lamb.
The newspaper features local news, business reports and other information on Belize. For most of the 1970s, its main competitor was the Amandala Newspaper that came on the market two years later. The Amandala (derived from the African word for power, Amadla) is perceived as a black power / anti-establishment newspaper. Harry Lawrence was involved in the formation of the Belize Liberal Party, which was later absorbed by the United Democratic Party in 1972. Mr. Lawrence ran for the Belize City municipal elections in 1974 and 1977 under the U.D.P. banner. He won, and the Reporter has been identified as a pro-UDP newspaper ever since. He has served as president of the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a member of the board of directors of the government bank, the Development Finance Corporation.
Mr. Lawrence and his family eventually acquired The Reporter newspaper after U.S. special interests and anti-communist pressure groups funding for the Belize Chamber of Commerce dried up. It has been published continuously as a weekly newspaper since then from its offices at the corner of West and Allenby streets in south side Belize City.
Harry Lawrence married a young Mexican lass, Rosa, at a lavish Radisson Hotel event during his time as a Belize City Councillor. They have three children.
The Reporter was the first Belize newspaper printed with offset press technology. It started off with a small A.B. Dick commercial press. Eventually it acquired a larger Multilith offset printing press and thereafter Belize’s first web offset Goss Community printing press. Being the voice of the business community it started off as a well-financed operation and today maintains close contacts with U.S. based right-wing groups. But in 2018 it is more seen as a rudderless newspaper hiring journalists cast away by other media such as Marion Ali (Channel 5 and LOVE-FM) Adele Ramos (Amandala) and Michael Rudon (Belize Times).
Early writers in the newspaper included Paul Rodriguez and Manuel Esquivel – both U.D.P. stalwarts. Mr. Rodriguez went on to become Mayor of Belize City and Mr. Esquivel served as prime Minister of Belize. Another U.D.P. stalwart Colville Young, at the time a music teacher, contributed to the newspaper’s weekly articles including its Belize themed crossword column. He is currently (2018) the Governor General of Belize.
The Reporter was one of the three newspapers successfully sued in 1982 by then Prime Minister George Price over a libelous Amandala article. The Reporter was fined for its actions in this regard along with the Amandala, but the third newspaper, The Beacon’s case (owned by wealthy attorney Dean Lindo) was never heard.
The newspaper has had a number of distinguished News Editors over the years including Paul Rodriguez, Maria Heusner Marshall, Meb Cutlack, Manolo Romero, Karla Heusner, and Anne Marie Williams. Despite being well funded by local and foreign business interests, The Reporter has never been able to successfully compete with the Amandala which during its heyday in the 80s and 90s was able to turn on a dime and play the kingmaker role in Belize’s electoral process.
The Reporter is perceived as representing big business and being too closely connected to the UDP and has never been able to shake off this image. Mr. Lawrence has been happy running The Reporter as the perennial second runner for decades. Unlike its arch rival the Amandala, it has never delved into broadcast journalism or event promotion.
Mr. Lawrence is 85 and semi-retired. The United Democratic Party in 2011 appointed him Ambassador to the Vatican.
Of historical significance is that Nestor “Net” Vasquez along with Manuel Esquivel, Harry Lawrence, Curl Thompson, and Paul Rodriguez founded the Liberal Party, that later formed the foundation of the United Democratic Party.
The Reporter’s website used to be at located at http://www.reporter.bz/ But that experiment appears to have failed.
It now redirects to: https://www.facebook.com/thereporterbz/