With the passing of Owen Baptiste, former editor-in-chief of the T&T Guardian, the Caribbean has lost an outstanding journalist whose vast body of work extended well beyond the newsrooms he led during his exemplary career.
It was at this newspaper in 1951 that Mr Baptiste embarked on his journey in journalism, setting high standards in reporting, page design and other key elements of the profession. He was a prolific writer with an eye for detail and design that earned him recognition in the industry.
He also worked at the Daily Mirror and after that publication folded, was the first editor of the Express, launched in 1967.
Under his leadership, journalists of the calibre of Keith Smith, Raoul Pantin, Andy Johnson, Suzanne Lopez, Deborah John and many others came to the fore.
But it was not only his leadership and influence over many in the profession that made him stand out. He was also a writer extraordinaire.
His columns, under the pseudonym Benedict Wight and another under the banner No Sacred Cows, had large followings of loyal readers over the years they were published.
Mr Baptiste left daily journalism for a while in the 1970s and founded publishing house Inprint Caribbean with his wife, fellow journalist Rhona Baptiste. Apart from a monthly magazine, People, Inprint produced many books on T&T and Caribbean history and current affairs, including some he wrote himself.
At one point he edited T&T’s oldest newspaper, the Catholic News. He was also executive chairman of the Barbados-based Caribbean News Agency (CANA), CEO/Editor-in-Chief of the Jamaica Observer and worked with COSTAATT to establish the Ken Gordon School of Journalism.
Then there was that transformative period in the 1990s, starting with a series of visits to China where he and his wife were guests of the China Association for Cultural Exchanges with Foreign Countries, followed by 12 years teaching and writing in Guangzhou, then in Beijing. Out of that experience came a book, The Seagulls Won’t Come Down, recounted in a series of letters to his two sons. A few years later, Mr Baptiste published In Search of America’s Soul based on a series of tours he undertook in the United States
For close to seven decades, journalism was an integral part of all that was Owen Baptiste.
He briefly stepped back into the familiar territory of reporting in 2013, when he interviewed disgraced CL Financial chairman Lawrence Duprey for a five-part series published exclusively in the T&T Guardian.
That series, The Lawrence Duprey Files, done following interviews he did with Mr Duprey in Florida, was a testament of his exceptional skills.
The body of work he has left behind includes books and articles chronicling T&T’s politics and history with the fearlessness and objectivity for which he was known and celebrated.
Mr Baptiste now joins that pantheon of elder statespersons of the profession no longer with us having set a high standard for the next generation of journalists.
T&T has lost another media icon.