Seven journalists may have received national awards in recognition of their outstanding work in the media but according to at least one awardee, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Clevon Raphael, John Babb, Lennox Grant, Phoolo Danny-Maharaj and Sharmain Baboolal received the Humming Bird Medal (Gold). Shamoon Mohammed received the Humming Bird Medal (Silver) and Therese Mills, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of the Newsday newspapers, was awarded the Chaconia Medal (Gold). Raphael, who spoke with the T&T Guardian in a telephone interview yesterday, said even though he was both humbled and honoured to receive the award, he felt that the nation’s media needed to raise its standards. “I have problems with the standard of journalism practised in the country. Unfortunately, even though there has been an expansion of media houses, the standard has not kept up with the pace of the media’s development...Too many simple errors are being made and who can I blame for that?,” he said. Raphael said there was a need for more training programmes for young journalists who, he believed, are committed to their craft. The broadcast media, he said, provided some clear examples of this. “The greatest offenders in this regard can be found on the radio. Too often many of these so-called talk show hosts go on the air without properly researching what they are talking about. They sound very much misinformed or just plain ignorant of how important their role is to the country’s overall development,” he said.
Raphael thanked the Government for recognising the role of the media and said it meant that the media were finally getting acknowledgement for contributing to the overall development of the country. He recalled when he got his start in the media in 1963 as an office boy and admitted that he never thought he would be honoured in such a way. Another recipient of the Humming Bird Medal (Gold) Phoolo Danny-Maharaj said in an e-mail to the T&T Guardian she felt jubilant at having been chosen for the award. “I am ecstatic at having been selected for the Humming Bird Medal,” she said. “I have always done my duty as I did my worship, full of devotion, and left the reward to God. Today, I am thrilled to be sharing this reward with other great journalists. I am thankful to those who have followed my career and selected me for this honour.” Danny-Maharaj, who is a breast cancer survivor, said being chosen for the medal showed that the nation was recognising the contribution of journalists. “The mere fact that several journalists have been chosen for honour this year places journalism on the national forefront, with journalists being looked upon as nation-builders as well,” she said. “I still believe in the importance of truth, justice and compassion in the profession. I believe that one’s conscience should be one’s guide.”
Danny-Maharaj, one of the country’s first female photo journalists, began her career in the media in 1982. The Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago congratulated Danny-Maharaj, Raphael and all other journalists who were honoured in yesterday’s national awards. In an e-mail from vice-president Judy Raymond, the association specifically congratulated Grant. “The Media Association is especially delighted to see that Lennox Grant has been honoured today,” Raymond said. “Lennox has been a member and friend of the association from its inception. During his long career at two of the country’s daily newspapers—the T&T Guardian and the Express—he has championed the quest for excellence. “As well as being a distinguished columnist and brilliant editor, he has also worked in training journalists, not only in this country but also around the region. “He has tirelessly sought to bring about a better understanding of the media profession and of the needs of journalists, both among the general public and in the boardrooms of media houses. “We hope this award signifies that those efforts have finally been fruitful.”
Raymond said she hoped the awards would mark a new understanding of the importance of the role of the media. She said journalists have helped to protect the democracy of the country and that it was fitting that these awards were being given on the 50th anniversary of Independence. "Respect for the media and for the accomplishments, dedication and skills of individual journalists have been sadly lacking in Trinidad and Tobago,” she said. “It is particularly appropriate that these awards are being made during the celebrations of T&T’s 50th anniversary of Independence. “This country has always enjoyed free, vocal and varied media which have made a sterling contribution to the establishment and survival of today’s flourishing democracy. “As the country marks its 50th anniversary, this is an appropriate moment to reflect on the changes in the media environment as well as in T&T over the years. “In the Information Age, with changing standards and expectations, modern technology and the proliferation of new media, the need for trained, qualified, independent and intelligent journalists is more critical than ever. “The association urges media houses and their managers to make a commitment to invest in the resources required to provide the kind and quality of journalism that T&T needs and deserves as the country embarks on its next 50 years.” Mills is out of the country. Newsday editor Camille Moreno said that no one would be able to comment on Mills’ behalf until she returned.