Twenty-five years in the life of any organisation is a cause for celebration.
But for Grant Taylor, managing director of the Newsday Group, the company’s silver jubilee is doubly significant.
He said this is because the company, which launched TT’s third daily newspaper in September 1993, was never expected to attain the success it currently enjoys.
“It is a significant event for any organisation to reach this milestone but for an ‘upstart’ that was given no chance of success in an industry, that had two well-established players, it is perhaps more significant,” he said.
“It is testimony to the shareholders and Mrs Therese Mills (Newsday’s first editor in chief and CEO), in particular, but also to the staff that made it happen.”
As managing director, Taylor’s hope, in the very near future, is to focus on strategy.
“That is certainly the board’s desire.”
A newcomer to the media landscape, Taylor said his stint at the Newsday Group thus far has been a learning experience.
“It has been challenging and exciting, but I am acutely aware that it has only just begun. There is a long road ahead, with many more great challenges and opportunities.”
In the interim, however, he intends simply to steer the Newsday ship by promoting a wholesome environment in which employees can feel empowered to play their part in advancing the company.
Taylor is aware he has taken the reins at a particularly challenging time in the media landscape, not just locally but globally.
The challenges, he observed, have been compounded by TT’s economic downturn.
“Globally, delivery platforms are changing and revenue sources are also changing. Locally, we are no exception.”
He said despite these perceived setbacks, the Newsday Group intends to remain at the forefront of the industry, driving change.
“This is an exciting challenge.”
In light of his observation that the company was “sitting on a precipice,” Taylor said staying relevant in the industry required buy-in from all stakeholders.
“This is not a one-person job, and either we are all in or we face extinction.”
Specifically, Taylor’s job encompasses resource management, a role which, he said, can be more frustrating than challenging, as it involves encouraging, guiding and mentoring others to play their part. He pointed out that change, whilst being the one constant, is not always easily embraced
“In terms of this specific position, it would be attaining these objectives in a culture entrenched in the opposite and so changing the culture to allow for the growth and transition.”
On the company’s movement toward a digital brand, Taylor said the board was very much behind the initiative and has, to a great extent, been its driver.
Saying the Newsday Group has been the fastest mover on the digital side, Taylor added: “We do dedicate a disproportionate amount of time to new delivery channels, given the revenue it currently generates. I don’t think we are anywhere near calling it a transition, as there is such a long way to go, but the start has been very good and augurs well.”
He believes work attitudes need to change in order for the company to attain its full potential.
He said: “In general, there is an apathy that we need to work on, which had no consequences financially in the heyday (less than five years ago), and may have been born of it, but has been a hindrance during the steady decline since then.”
Towards this end, he urged managers to lead by example.
“Generally, people want to work and enjoy doing same, but they need guidance and leadership.”
Taylor also noted that communication at all levels needs significant improvement.
He said stakeholders generally need to embrace the new era of journalism in not only surviving the change but driving it.
“We need to innovate in all areas, from delivery channels to revenue generation.”
Taylor said Newsday continues to play a “crucial” role in the media landscape.
“We carry no baggage and are beholden to no one. Newsday carries an integrity in reporting and a mantra of fairness and accuracy… albeit with the occasional typo.”
He said the newspaper also has lived up to its slogan of being the “People’s Paper.”
“Newsday has evolved alongside the people and I think that is how it should be.”
However, Taylor said the concept of “people” can be open to interpretation.
“I do worry at the image one is conjuring up when they say ‘the people.’ We have a very diverse readership but what they have in common is, they are intelligent and want good, honest reporting – people from all walks of life with varied and interesting tales of their own. That’s who Newsday represents.”
Even so, Taylor said he is glad to have got the dialogue going, “whilst recognising we have a long way to go.”
He said in terms of tangibles, the move of the Port of Spain office (previously at 23 Chacon Street), to Pembroke Street, was a step in the right direction.
Asked his vision for the group over the next 25 years, Taylor said:
“Twenty-five years is too long a horizon for this business.
“Most immediately would be making sure we survive to make the transition.
“We have to ensure we drive the transition and shape journalism, in whatever form it takes, in the future and deliver what our clients want by giving them value for money.”