Twenty-four years ago I received a telephone call from Newsday’s editor in chief at the time, Therese Mills, who convinced me to join the country’s third daily newspaper in the position of senior crime reporter.
At the time I was assignments and producer of the AVM evening news. I enjoyed what I did at the television station, but after being told that I should take on a new challenge in the newspaper industry, I thought about it and then accepted the position – which altered my entire life.
The day I joined Newsday I was supposed to focus on crime stories, but managed to get the lead story the following day, a political story.
The headline was “Guess who Came to Dinner,” and it was a story about UNC leader Basdeo Panday having secret talks with former PNM Minister Ralph Maraj, who later joined the UNC.
The late Editor in Chief was pleased with the story, but I refocused on getting exclusive crime stories. Back then the paper did quite well because of our excellent coverage of human-interest stories, crime and also general reporting.
When I joined Newsday, we worked in an old building at Chacon Street with threadbare carpet and limited resources, and even a small salary, but what made it fun was the support of Mrs Mills, who took an interest in her staff, praising them when they did good work, reprimanding reporters and others when she needed to. But staff operated as a team and it was a team effort.
Among my fondest memories are when we emerged as the No 1 daily newspaper and when we submitted entries for the Royal Bank Media Awards and I was named winner of the news story of the year award in 1998. That year I was also one of the three finalists for the Journalist of the Year.
What was memorable about that story was that it centred on the country’s most wanted man, who chose to surrender and asked for my assistance in doing so.
A journalist from TTT, Gary Moreno, and I took the wanted man to the Port of Spain CID and handed him over to police there.
Another incident that remains etched in my mind is when Speaker Occah Seepaul was placed under house arrest at her official residence at Mary Street, St Clair. Chief photographer Rattan Jadoo and I stood in the pouring rain for close to two hours under a tree as we awaited the arrival of visitors and were able to get an exclusive story and photos.
There were many other moments where we were able to beat the competition – and there were rough times when we were scooped – but we moved on.
Twelve years ago I was promoted to crime editor, but that did not stop me from being a reporter and concentrating on breaking exclusive stories for the paper.
In the early years at Newsday we focused mainly on getting the paper out, and regrettably there were few training sessions for journalists, including myself. However, after the death of our Editor in Chief, a successor, Jones P Madeira, joined Newsday and the paper continued on its path to compete with the two other well established dailies. Things changed, as was expected, but everyone settled back in quickly.
Recently the company realised it had to change the way it did business because of the digital world and when our new EIC, Judy Raymond joined the company, the newspaper began to evolve into a new organisation, with the inclusion of online reporting and the tweeting of breaking news. This was a different approach to news reporting for me, but the reality was this was needed to get the paper moving to be on par with our competitors.
Ms Raymond has brought a lot of positives to this paper with her modern and different approach to the way we do things. This new brand of journalism seems to be reaping the desired results. The days when we focused on reporting for a newspaper alone had to change with the advent of digital reporting.
I have now found myself anxious to get my stories as quickly as possible, in an effort to beat the competition, and in some instances, we have been able to do that.
As we celebrate our 25th anniversary I know that Newsday will remain afloat because of the positive changes and I salute all those, from the inception to the present, who have been working tirelessly to ensure that the youngest daily newspaper continues to strive for excellence.