A Lifetime of Achievement
Guest Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
November 5, 2002

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YESTERDAY, we reprinted, courtesy of the 'Sunday Sun' of Barbados, a Guest Editorial on the "Well-deserved Honour" to three outstanding Caribbean personalities -- Barbadian author Austin 'Tomí Clarke, fellow Barbadian, Bishop Sir Wilfred Wood and Guyana-born regional journalist Rickey Singh.

Today, courtesy of the 'Sunday Guardian', we reprint as Guest Editorial "A Lifetime of Achievement" that focuses on the honorary doctorate of letters also conferred by the UWI on the outstanding Trinidad-born journalist, George John, married to his Guyana-born wife of some 40 years.

Also honoured with the honorary DLitt degree was the Trinidad and Tobago-born West Indian novelist Earl Lovelace and regional business entrepreneur Arthur Lok Jack, the latter receiving the honorary doctor of laws degree.


ANOTHER EVENT in a celebratory season for Caribbean journalism took place yesterday (Saturday) when the UWI conferred an honorary doctorate on George John.

Last week, Rickey Singh, Guyana-born and Barbados-based journalist, received the same honorary doctorate at Cave Hill.

Mr John and Mr Singh share a rare distinction that in turn signifies prestige-laden recognition of the profession and practice of journalism by the region's leading university.

George John, whose career extends beyond six decades, is the longer-serving veteran. Mr John began as a cub reporter in the Guardian in 1936, and it is again with this newspaper that he is affiliated in 2002.

His professional activities and attachments have described a trajectory as diversified and fascinating as the man himself.

To celebrate both the achievements and the personality, a notable gathering on Thursday attended the launch of Mr John's book, Beyond The Front Page. Testimonies of praise and appreciation came from speakers including Vice Chancellor Rex Nettleford, Professor Bridget Brereton, and Ms Kamla Tewarie, sister of Nobel Laureate VS Naipaul, and an old friend.

Mr John appeared to bask in the unaccustomed glow. But a reading of the book yields examples of the barbed wit and crusty wisdom of the inveterate journalist reserving judgment.

"Journalism is not regarded as a particularly honourable profession by the over-educated and self-professed elite," he writes.

In his time, Mr John must have seen many people acting on the belief that journalism is a practice from which to move on sooner rather than later. He has stayed the distance. In doing so, his life and work have provided a role model of dedication and self-improvement. He has risen to the leading ranks of his profession, earning the respectful regard of leading people in other fields.

Along the way he cultivated a love of books, art and music, and built up his own collections. The son of 1920s West Indies fast bowler, George John Sr, he gained expertise in cricket and other sports.

Reporter, correspondent, editorial writer, columnist, newspaper editor, newspaper consultant, media executive, media skills instructor, media critic, media awards adjudicator, public relations man, broadcaster, Mr John's career covers a wide range.

His own writing set the example of insistence on professional standards in the use of language and in elaboration of historical, social or cultural context by means of research.

Through wide reading, he developed what he called an "aptitude for putting words on paper for the enjoyment and perhaps edification of readers".

His book demonstrates his aptitude for networking. He has rubbed shoulders with celebrities, and he has made friends across far-flung parts of the world.

A widely travelled internationalist, Mr John has collaborated in the promotion of human rights, and media rights here and abroad.

Speakers last Thursday emphasised his standing as a truly Caribbean man, with references, recognition and professional relationships around the region.

The new book and the UWI honour proclaim George John's lifetime of achievements with which the Guardian is proud to be associated.