Saluting Therese Mills

 Therese Mills holds the rare distinction of being a journalist who rose to the highest management position in the daily media of Trinidad and Tobago. 

She also has the unique distinction of being the only female journalist to have done so. As executive chairman and editor-in-chief of Daily News Limited, publisher of Newsday, she held the combined responsibility for charting its fortunes in business and in journalism. 

For sheer length of contribution to daily newspaper journalism, she is unrivalled. According to her colleagues, she was in the newsroom up until Christmas, capping a career that had begun 68 years ago when she joined the Port of Spain Gazette as a 17-year-old librarian/reporter.

Apart from eight years in England, her entire adult life was spent working in newsrooms in Trinidad and Tobago. Twenty-nine of her 60 years in the profession were spent at the Trinidad Guardian where she worked her way up from senior feature writer to editor of the Sunday Guardian and, ultimately, editor-in-chief of that newspaper.

During a management transition at the Guardian, Mrs Mills opted for retirement. At age 65, it would have seemed an eminently reasonable decision for one who had worked in the high-stress, deadline-defined environment of a daily newspaper. What came next, however, could only be described as the re-incarnation of Therese Mills as she re-emerged, sleeves rolled up, to tackle the job of launching a third daily newspaper, Newsday. After a disastrous start pitching for a market for “good news” journalism, she switched gear to a tabloid journalism far removed from the conservatism of the then broadsheet Trinidad Guardian.

Supported by an attractive printing contract with the TNT Mirror Publishing Co., one of whose key shareholders was an investor in Newsday, the paper took on its rivals in a price war, keeping its cover price at one dollar to their $1.50.  With crime reporting as its mainstay, the dollar-paper quickly opened a way to the top of the market before settling into second place behind the Express, where it has remained for the past ten years.

As had been the case when the Trinidad Express debuted as the country’s first nationally-owned newspaper in 1967, not many were willing to give Therese Mills the benefit of the doubt when she threw her resources into a third daily paper. 

Twenty years later, the newspaper she launched stands as vindication of her hard work, her imagination, her leadership of people and her understanding of the news culture of Trinidad and Tobago.

Over the past two decades, she has created jobs for persons pursuing a career in journalism, expanded the printing industry with the acquisition of Newsday’s own press and brought a range of new voices into the national dialogue with her stable of columnists.

The sheer power of her endurance, longevity and initiative define Therese Mills as a transcendental figure in the media of Trinidad and Tobago. We salute her contribution and extend our condolences to her family and to the staff of Newsday.

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