Thursday, April 18, 2024

Harold made me a journalist


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by CHARMAINE McCARTHY SOMEONE ASKED ME THIS WEEK if Harold Hoyte had ever done anything for me personally. I was taken aback.

In my time at the NATION, it was a given that Harold in some form or fashion had had a hand in what path your career took. He was that hands-on. So I thought the answer to that question was obvious and not just for me, but for a generation of journalists. But it is not that obvious.

Were it not for Harold (after many years of persisting in calling him Mr Hoyte, this finally ended when he stopped answering), I might have been a secretary and not a journalist. How so?

Well, I started out as a hard-working proofreader who worked extremely long hours like the rest around me. I was still a teenager but I was already tired of the long hours as I often got home around 2 or 3 a.m. That was when a vacancy for a secretary opened up in the company (you know, those who left work by 5 p.m.), so I applied.

A few days later, Mr Hoyte passed me in the newsroom and told me with some annoyance: “I tear up your letter.” I was confused. Somehow I didn’t think he would be concerned with the hiring of the secretaries. “You are a journalist, not a secretary.” And walked off.

My first reaction was that I was not going to get those early nights (how right I was, as I never did). Then a light went on in my head for the compliment of his calling me a journalist.

Vision for journalism

A few months later, he passed me in a corridor and declared: “There is a journalism course the NATION is sponsoring and you are on it. I en asking.”

What Harold saw in me at 19 years old I don’t know. I was shy, soft-spoken and could hardly mash an ant. But he saw beyond that. And not just with me; that is the real point of this tribute. He had a vision for journalism that was light years ahead of its time while being decidedly timely. Many of my colleagues of that day could tell stories of how his daily meetings, insightful questioning, earnest discussions and open-door policy led them to strive to excel in the newsroom and in careers outside of journalism.

His passion was infectious. It saw this hands-on CEO/Editor-in-Chief excitedly writing stories and planning pages like a sub-editor, particularly during General Elections, and led to staff, though dog-tired, giving their all.

He has left a body of work in the pages of the NATION newspapers and other publications, including his books, and fortunately some speeches are on YouTube. A must for any would-be journalist.

I have some treasured memos he wrote me while I was editor of the WEEKEND NATION, SUN ON SATURDAY and DAILY NATION publications. I see them as affirmation from a giant of a journalist who had the vision to set about to improve the standard of journalism in Barbados and the Caribbean. And he did. He did not do it alone but he led the charge.

I will be forever grateful that I was able to share part of that journey with him. I shall miss him. May he rest in peace.


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