I often say I have two children. My son, born in December 2006. And Groundviews, launched in November of the same year. The first post on the site went up on the 28th of November 2006, and was about the situation in Vakarai at the time. Reading it today is surreal. So much has changed. And yet, the long shadows of war remain.
As Groundviews turns ten, it is incredible – in the fullest sense of the word – to acknowledge what it has witnessed, hosted and highlighted over the years.
The site now has tens of thousands of comments, spread over nearly four thousand posts. And that’s just the text on the site itself – Groundviews has also featured compelling content using photography, video, mixed-media, audio and podcasts over other micro-sites and over social media platforms. Groundviews was the first on Facebook. It was the first on Twitter. We pioneered long-form journalism in Sri Lanka. We were the first to use rich media content publishing platforms like Microsoft Sway and Adobe Spark to highlight stories that have gone viral. Content from the site has gone into the publication of a path-breaking book. The site is also a platform for art exhibitions, original theatrical productions and documentary premieres – all of which have pushed boundaries and resulted critically acclaimed local and international collaborations. We have a far more comprehensive archive of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) submissions, and mainstream media content on the process at the time, than the Government of Sri Lanka. Groundviews was the first to use WhatsApp as a means of disseminating news and information, the first to feature satire as a form of critique during the war, the first to launch a completely responsive website and prior to that, the first to launch a native iOS app in South Asia. Since its inception, the site’s technical innovation around storytelling, including over mobiles, is without parallel in the country.
The extensive guidelines for the site, the first ever drawn up to frame all moderation, interactions and content, continues to be unique in Sri Lanka’s the media landscape.
A former President, after years of silence, chose Groundviews as the platform she first spoke out on. From victims of violence, to witnesses of war, from activists to artists, from children to septuagenarians, from the diaspora to voices from across the country, Groundviews has over the years cultivated, celebrated and curated content no other site has even remotely featured. In sum, the site is quite frankly more than I ever imagined it would ever become. And well beyond a group of individuals as curators, commentators or contributors, Groundviews is a template for the kind of journalism I wish there was more of in Sri Lanka, but almost entirely eludes us even post-war.
To commemorate the anniversary of Groundviews, a wide range of authors were invited to look at the years between 2006 to 2016, and by looking at the past, to also draw the contours of what are likely to be key challenges facing Sri Lanka in the next ten years. Authors were asked to submit content that was less a paean for Groundviews and more about their take on the defining moments of the past ten years, and how they will shape our future. This content will be published over the course of the next few weeks, under the Groundviews at 10 category.
Even as, post-war, other sites that try to appeal to a younger, web savvy demographic blossom, Groundviews remains unique in Sri Lanka’s media landscape. Beyond all the awards and accolades, what makes the site special for me is that, in a small way, it has managed to capture what I think journalism at its best frames and inspires.
Together with my co-editor Raisa Wickrematunge, I hope you enjoy and engage with this content as much as you have shared, debated, hotly contested and deeply agreed with content in the past. It has not been easy, but after ten years, I can honestly say, it was truly worth it.