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Former MIRROR Editor Laments State of Journalism

60 Years in the Profession

3 May 2022

Guy Ellis with journalism contemporary and friend Rick Wayne

Former MIRROR Managing Editor Guy Ellis reached a milestone in the local media this week : 60 years working as a journalist.

Ellis, who will be 78 in June, became a reporter on May 2, 1962, a day after leaving St Mary’s College when he was employed by The VOICE.

After seven years, Ellis became Sub Editor and was assigned to play a bigger role in the production of the newspaper. Around this time, the opportunity to work for the foreign press presented itself when his editor Wilfred St Clair-Daniel gave up his position as Reuter correspondent in 1969.

Ellis also left THE VOICE that year to return for a few months three years later. He also did some free lancing as well as short stints at the Government Information Service and Radio St Lucia.

When Reuters exited the region, Ellis became a founding correspondent of the Caribbean News Agency (CANA) which assumed its functions in 1976. Requests to represent first United Press International (UPI) and later The Associated Press (AP) and the Venezuelan News Agency, VENPRESS, followed. He worked with the AP for 30 years as its St Lucia correspondent.

Work for other publications like the West India Chronicle in the UK and INSIGHT came as well. The U.S. led invasion of Grenada in 1983 created new interest in the region and Ellis worked for a while with Time-Life and later the New York Times.

In July 1975, Ellis was back at The VOICE as Editor and became Managing Editor in 1981 before resigning in 1994. Later the same year, he co-founded the St Lucia MIRROR with Guy Mayers and was there for 17 years before his retirement in November 2011. He later had a three year stint at the VOICE as editorial consultant.

Becoming an author was another offshoot of Ellis’career. The first break came in 1981 when he wrote a tourism guide book on St Lucia. Four years later a similar request came from Macmillan of the U.K. to write “ST. LUCIA--Helen of the West”. His latest was “A history of St Lucia” which he co-authored with Jolien Harmsen and Robert Devaux. It was published in 2012.

Ellis lamented the state of journalism in St Lucia today, saying that a lot of the basics were being ignored by practitioners. The situation, he added, was being compounded by the absence of capable editors at most media houses. Editors were unable to give guidance to young reporters because they themselves were not equipped to teach anyone.

“So anything gets onto the airwaves or in print and sadly most people reading or listening either do not know when they are being short-changed, or don’t care”, he said.

In the last year alone, he said, there had been examples of a reporter withholding information on a matter of public interest that would have balanced a report on statements made by a minister of government. “We also had a case of one media outlet publishing news of an apology made by someone that that person denied was ever made. We have had one news reporter threatening a life and others engaged in well publicized criminal activity giving the profession a bad name.”

“It’s shocking some of the things I see in the press and hear on radio and television,” Ellis went on. “You cannot claim to be a journalist, far less an editor, if you do not understand the laws of defamation, and are unfamiliar with the ethics and standards of the profession.

“A good journalist must know that it isn’t everyone who has made a contribution in a particular field who can be referred to as an ‘icon’. He must know proper word usage and understand the difference in words that sound alike. He must know that not everyone has a point of view that is worthy of publication or airing. He must understand the difference between fact and opinion and not pass off one for the other. He cannot come into the profession that has been around for several centuries and want to set his own agenda as to how things should be done. That’s arrogance.”

Ellis believed young journalists should do a lot more reading of good newspapers to get a sense of how things are done and those who are fortunate to have received formal training should practice what they have been taught. He suggested that there should be a good editor at every newspaper, radio and television station where there were regular newscasts. Writing and compiling newscasts, he said, was the function of journalists, not of radio or TV announcers.

From 1987 to 1996, Ellis served as tutor for Print Journalism students doing the St Lucia Media Workers Association/University of the West Indies Mass Communications course locally.

In retirement, he has been assisting a number of Saint Lucian writers, young and old, in getting their works in print, offering advice and assistance in the production of books and other reading material.

The holder of a diploma from the International Institute for Journalism in Berlin, Germany, Ellis was also the first winner of the Minvielle and Chastanet Fine Arts Award for Journalism in 1979 and the first St Lucian to be nationally recognized for his contribution to the profession when he was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 2003.

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