The board of Daily News Ltd, publishers of daily newspaper Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, will meet “as soon as possible” to determine interim appointments and procedures after the sudden death of the paper’s editor-in-chief Therese Mills on New Year’s Day.
Mills was the paper’s founding editor-in-chief, its longtime chairman and chief executive officer, as well as being a director of Daily News Ltd.
In a brief telephone interview yesterday, Daily News director Dawn Ford, who was appointed to the board last month, said the board will be meeting soon to make these decisions.
Ford is the chairman of Choko Holdings Ltd, which owns a 40 per cent stake in Daily News Ltd. Ford also dispelled rumours that she will replace Mills as editor in-chief.
Since her passing, tributes to Mills, the first female editor-in-chief at a daily newspaper in Trinidad and Tobago, have continued to come from her colleagues, protégés, politicians and even the major union representing media workers, the Banking, Insurance and General Workers’ Union (BIGWU).
“I have known Mrs Mills for all of my professional life both in and out of active journalism. Our relationship has spanned more than four decades, during which time she was a friend, colleague, mentor, stakeholder and even competitor,” Jones P Madeira, manager of the Information and Protocol Division of the Judiciary of Trinidad and Tobago.
Madeira replaced Mills as editor-in-chief at the Trinidad Guardian when she retired in 1993 and subsequently joined the Newsday.
“(It was) an office which, for me, was made much easier because of her years of distinguished leadership, the respect she generated for it and by extension for journalism, and the many people both of her generation and more recent vintage that she wielded into a powerful and committed team. She was a gentle soul most times, always graceful and generous with her time and counsel, but just as much the iron lady of the profession, not given to suffering fools gladly and eschewing attempts at press intimidation,” he said.
Madeira said he was saddened by her passing, but will celebrate her life as an outstanding professional, a woman of substance, class and stature, and an exemplar more than worthy of emulation.
“My condolences to her family, including her children and grandchildren, and her sister with whom I attend church most week-ends in Arima. May she rest in peace,” he said.
Her colleague at the Newsday, veteran journalist and Newsday associate editor John Babb, lamented the “sudden loss of an icon”. Babb had worked with Mills since the 1940s, as her colleague at the Port of Spain Gazette, and joined her at the Newsday.
“We had a very good relationship: first class. I will miss her very much,” Babb said.
Newsday senior features reporter Joan Rampersad said, “I had the highest regard for Mrs Mills. She was what every journalist aspired to be. One could always learn something, however little or big it was, with every conversation held with her. She is almost irreplaceable. She will be truly missed. She was a true champion of journalism.” BIGWU, in a release yesterday, said while the relationship between the union and Mills was “sometimes adversarial”, it recognised her pioneering drive in opening the way for many young journalists especially to have more than just a dream of reaching the high ranks of the media fraternity.
“BIGWU extends its heartfelt condolences to the family of (Mills) at this time of mourning, but also as they celebrate her many achievements. Her contribution to the development of journalism, the free press and the country must always be remembered,” the union said.
Chairman of the Police Service Commission and Newsday columnist, Prof Ramesh Deosaran said in a release yesterday that journalism in this country had lost an extraordinary leader.
“Mills blazed a journalistic trail that provided a lasting inspiration to all within her chosen profession. She has been outstanding in satisfying the imperatives of integrity, fairness, balance and courage which the profession of journalism requires. By her leadership and determination, she created many opportunities for others. She showed great respect to her staff, reporters, but never reluctant to exert her authority to preserve the integrity and balance in her newspaper,” he said.
Deosaran said he and Mills shared a mutual respect of the highest order for over 20 years, he as a Sunday columnist and she as editor in two daily newspapers, the Trinidad Guardian and Newsday.
“Her rise from junior reporter and feature writer to be editor, editor-in-chief and executive chairman of Newsday’s publishing company will remain a concrete example of what hard work and professional dedication for most of 85 years can achieve in a very competitive industry. She used these qualities much more than words to accomplish equality of professional opportunity. She served well, she led well and for all that, the profession has lost someone whom I cherished as a friend and respected as an editor. May her professional life remain an inspiring guide to all those who view journalism as a pillar of our democratic way of life,” Deosaran said.
—See Page 12 OPINION