THE NATION newspaper, the nation (of Barbados) and its institutions of mass communication, and people of all walks of life across the Caribbean are in mourning.
They are mourning the loss of one of the region’s greatest gems, Harold Hoyte, co-founder of the NATION newspaper who died yesterday after a prolonged illness.
His death, at the age of 77, was confirmed by his wife Noreen, who was by his side when the curtain came down on a remarkable career and a productive life characterised by excellence, fairness, professionalism and concern for people, regardless of their station in life.
Nothing pleased Harold more than writing, rewriting or editing a story about someone who had overcome the pangs of hunger to be a successful cultural guru, sports genius or business entrepreneur.
As the tributes flow in from across Barbados and the region, in almost every case the superlatives range from iconic figure, advocate for humanity and advocate for truth to titan of the mass media experience. In the almost 60 years of hands-on adventure in newsrooms in Barbados, Canada, Jamaica and elsewhere, Harold Hoyte became a household name, known for his energy, vision and a steady hand with the editor’s pen.
Harold, with Fred Gollop at his side, guided the fortunes of the Nation Group’s publications – the DAILY NATION, MIDWEEK NATION, WEEKEND NATION, the SUNDAY SUN, a tourist magazine and a host of other publications that covered neighbourhood, national, regional and international news, and made the corporation one of the most successful media houses in the Caribbean.
In the process, Harold became the doyen of the region’s media, known for his work ethic, sense of humour and penchant for accuracy, detail and clarity.
If ever there was a person who was born to be a journalist, media manager and editor, it was Harold. While still a schoolboy at Harrison College, he began his sojourn contributing to the Harrisonian, the school’s publication.
And when he left the school at 18 years old, it didn’t come as a surprise when he sought employment as a copy boy at the Advocate, then located on Broad Street, Bridgetown. It didn’t surprise many when he was hired, only to lose his job when he stood up for principle and led a three-day strike.
After receiving formal communications and business training, and editing a radical black paper in Canada, he briefly contemplated joining his father’s travel agency back home.
But passion for journalism prevailed.
His chance came after two years as editor of Caribbean Contact, navigating the line between religion and politics, when he joined the new NATION.
This presumptuous young paper called the NATION began as a weekly, with a mere $60 000 in capital, a typesetting machine, a camera and five employees.
Harold became President and Editor-in-Chief of the Nation Publishing Co. Limited in 1975. With typical Hoytian double entendre, he created a titillating motto, Once A Week Is Not Enough, and he was soon publishing twice a week and finally every day.
Harold served on numerous national, Caribbean and international councils and boards, including the Commonwealth Press Union and as a director of the International Centre for Journalists in Washington, DC.
He received numerous awards, including the Maria Moors Cabot Citation from Columbia University for his contribution to Caribbean journalism, appointment as an Honorary Fellow of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill campus, and the Gold Crown Of Merit in the National Independence Awards of 2003 and the Doctor of Letters from UWI.
But Harold was always happiest when he was writing, and his writing betrayed his happiness. His heart was in journalism and in the NATION.
He was never happier than when he brought the power and influence of the Fourth Estate to bear for the benefit of Barbados, especially for young people – whether it was through the Healthy Lifestyle Extravaganza, or the Substance Abuse Foundation, or whether it was simply good reportage – on cricket, crime or culture, cou-cou, calypso or Crop Over.
The NATION newspaper, now a giant multimedia establishment, and Barbados will miss this giant of a man, this Caribbean media icon, this vibrant, creative man who perhaps didn’t get his full due.
The NATION family grieves today, but we thank the Lord for the time He gave Harold to us and we thank him for enriching our lives. Our condolences go out to his wife, children, siblings, other family members and close friends.