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Baptiste launches The Essential Benedict Wight, laments state of media
In November 1968, this country was introduced to a very powerful albeit fictitious figure. Benedict Wight became a household name and provided commentary on many of the goings-on in the country. On October 10, Owen Baptiste the man behind the nom de guerre, launched The Essential Benedict Wight and other writings at the National Library’s audiovisual room. The veteran journalist, who spent more than 40 years in journalism, is a former Editor-in-Chief of both the T&T Guardian and Trinidad Express newspapers.
The book developed out of Baptiste’s 1960s character who sought to educate and inform citizens during the country’s formative years after Independence. On Amazon.com, where the paperback version of the book is being sold for US$34.95 the book description reads: “The Essential Benedict Wight and other writings by Owen Baptiste is a political history of T&T in the tumultuous years after its Independence on 31 August 1962.
A no-holds barred newspaper column, Benedict Wight grew out of the turbulence of black power politics and the efforts of governments to stop the tide of racial conflicts.” In that description, Baptiste says his plan for Benedict Wight was to create a newspaper personality that was “informed, wise and courageous” and “to assist in building a just and intelligent society.” At the launch, Baptiste lamented the lack of training for young and current journalists and the current state of social commentary.
“Training… Training…the media lacks training” Baptiste said. He asked why training was not being done for current journalists. He said while he was at the Express there were twoweek training courses available to the journalists at that time. The lack of training is evident, he said, across all media. The event was attended by many of Baptiste’s former media colleagues, friends and well wishers. Attorney Martin George was the evening’s guest speaker.
George said Baptiste’s writings are as relevant today as they were back in the 1960s. “I recognised the commonalities, the similarities are still there and the work he has put out is still as relevant today as it was when the very first one I see here, November 1968, was written,” George said. He compared Baptiste’s social commentary to the actions of international figures and said Wight intended to shake the citizens of T&T out of the malaise.
George said Baptiste was not a rebel without a cause; Baptiste’s cause, George said, was his love for T&T. Baptiste recalled former Prime Minister Patrick Manning constantly referring to him as Benedict Wight because the figure had become such a strong presence in T&T. Men like Vernon Charles, Sidney Knox, Neil Lau, Carlton Mack, Edward Habib, Thomas Gatcliffe, Tajmool Hosein, Elton Richardson, Hamilton Holder and David Law and later Ken Gordon were credited with Benedict Wight's development.
But Baptiste left one person for special mention. He said the late Dr Eric Williams was key to Benedict Wight’s development. He said Williams was always gentlemanly despite the harsh criticism and wondered if modern politicians would act the similarly if they were criticised as harshly.
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