Farewell to an icon of journalism
By Rickey Singh
March 19, 2007
THE death of George John at the Mount Hope Medical Complex on Wednesday morning marked the end to a most distinguished career of an outstanding icon of West Indian journalism.
Today, therefore, while the region remains enthusiastically focused, as expected, on Cricket World Cup 2000, and Barbadians blend their interest in the historic tournament with Prime Minister Owen Arthur's pre-election budget, I pay tribute to an admirable colleague who had faithfully laboured to elevate journalistic standards and win respect for our profession.
The passing of George at 86, after a tough battle with cancer, was preceded two days earlier by another Caribbean national who I also fondly remember from our encounters for his commitment to what's best for the Caribbean -- the outspoken Methodist minister, Rev Leonard Rock (who had also served in Trinidad and Tobago). He died at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on Sunday from suspected cardiac failure at 68.
For almost 68 years, the lifetime of Rev. Rock, George was to devote his talents in the service of journalism, largely in his native Trinidad and Tobago, but also making valuable contributions, in various capacities, in a number of CARICOM states as reporter, editor, manager, lecturer, skills trainer and, yes, team player.
He would be remembered differently by those whose good fortune it was to have known him as a professional colleague -- either for his frequent complaints about media performances; in support of ethical practices; commitment to research, or for the positions on varying issues of national/regional significance.
He would also be remembered for his love for music and cricket, and breadth of knowledge of West Indian colonial and post-independence governance politics. It would be difficult to forget his refreshing sense of humour and amiable spirit.
For sure, he had his share of running battles with his employers, of the print and electronic media; in addition to politicians, captains of industry, culture and sports personalities as well as media colleagues.
Nevertheless, he was not one to be easily distracted from his passion for the essentials of the profession in which he had so distinguished himself long before finally managing to have his experiences published, after agonising moments, in December 2001.
In a profession not without its own quota of pettiness, arrogance, jealousies, and insularity, George John was eventually to succeed in having his "Beyond The Front Page" (Memoirs of a Caribbean Journalist) published with the cooperation of the University of the West Indies School of Continuing Studies. Two years later, in 2003, he was awarded by the UWI with an Honorary Doctorate for his contributions to journalism and development.
Though given little notice by the regional media, his "Beyond The Front Page", dedicated to his wife Jean, for "sharing unselfishly half a century of her lifetime" with him, reveals an easy, reader-friendly account of the life and times of a remarkable Caribbean journalist.
It was my privilege to have served with George on various panels of judges for media awards, and to share presentations at regional media conferences and workshops over the past 25 years.
About seven years ago he wrote "that with the dawn of this millennium, I have been winding down my journeys through the news rooms, the class rooms, the conference halls. I have not stopped writing, but I don't think the by-line will be seen adorning any newspaper in the future. It is time to stop, and without regrets..."
Now, George has finally stopped, to the regret of more than professional colleagues. (From the Barbados Nation)