|File: PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar in a media scrum|
In today’s world, in many places, journalists are not free to operate. In Trinidad and Tobago, journalists have a right to operate freely. At the same time, they must also be balanced and present both sides of the story.
As the world recognises International Journalists’ Remembrance Day, I take this opportunity to honour a few of Trinidad and Tobago’s distinguished journalists who have made significant contributions to the field.
Each has dedicated himself to preserving and uplifting local culture and history, while simultaneously cultivating a healthy media environment for our burgeoning democracy.
As we celebrate the lives and contributions of outstanding journalists, I would like to highlight the remarkable work of Mr. Keith Smith. After more than four decades of zealous service, Smith passed away in February of 2011. His column in the Trinidad Express Newspaper, ‘The Keith Smith Column’, resulted in Smith being catapulted into a household name.
Smith also served as Editor-at-Large at the Express. So remarkable was the work of this local son, his colleagues compared him to the exemplary British/American journalist Alistair Cooke. Smith was a lifetime resident of Success Village, Laventille and spoke immensely on behalf of the residents, a voice which could not be ignored.
His genuine warmth and wit linger in the hearts and minds of all who were fortunate to have read or heard his words.
Another influential figure was that of Clyde “Jimmy” Maynard. Astonishingly, the veteran newsman served in local and regional media for fifty years before he was laid to rest last year.
Among his many successes was the popular current-affairs programme ‘The News Makers’ which ran for numerous years on Radio Guardian, currently known as Inspirational Radio 730. Not only was he the news producer at Radio Guardian, he also worked as director at Radio Antilles in Montserrat. Maynard was also a culture enthusiast who was particularly excited but calypso and steelpan.
He never hesitated to share his knowledge, skills or words of advice with those around him. Most importantly however, his children, Colin and Gillian, remember Maynard as a loving father.
“Cultural Colossus” Louis B. Homer also left an indelible mark in the journalism world. This year, he was recommended for the Hummingbird Medal Gold. Sadly, he passed away days before he could be honoured at the Independence Day National Awards function in August. In many ways, it is impossible to apply one label to Homer.
He was a journalist and historian, a cultural activist and advocate. He played a major role in the struggle to preserve, restore and retain the Naparima Bowl as a heritage site and a home for the arts in southern Trinidad.
He was also involved in the establishment of the San Fernando Museum. He was a prominent member of San Fernando society and, most importantly, a dedicated and affectionate family man.
Today, we also remember the dedicated service of Anthony Milne. Described as one of the best “wordsmiths in local newspaper” by his colleagues, Milne’s passion in writing led him away from the family tradition of studying law and into literature.
He began writing for the Daily Express and was adored for his sense of humor by those who worked with him despite his reserved personality. He is also remembered for his deep appreciation of literature and local arts which is evident in his short stories.
Most recently, the media fraternity said a heartfelt goodbye to Kenny Rudd, a former photographer for the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian. Rudd began working with the newspaper in 1964 before migrating to the United States in 1985.
As a member of the St. James community, Rudd was deeply involved in cultural celebrations and community development and his passion easily found its way into his photojournalism. Even after migrating, Rudd remained dedicated to Trinidad and Tobago’s culture.
He was instrumental in the development of Miami and Fort Lauderdale Carnivals. Rudd was hailed as innovative and never one to be afraid of challenging the status quo.
These distinguished public figures surpassed the basic journalistic mandate of information dissemination. As such, they are more than deserving of heartfelt recognition from both the Government and people of Trinidad and Tobago.
I would like to acknowledge their exceptional contribution to the development of this country as a democracy and l look forward to the works of our future budding journalists as they follow in the footsteps of these media giants.