prolific CAREER: Veteran journalist Therese Mills at the National Awards ceremony in 2012.


Therese Mills dies at 85

By Carla Bridglal

Therese Mills, veteran journalist and editor-in-chief of the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, has died. She was 85 years old.
Mills, who up until just before Christmas was still working and very much a presence at the office, suddenly fell ill and passed away shortly after lunchtime on New Year’s Day.
Born on December 14, 1928, Mills began her prolific six-decade-long career as a junior reporter at the Port of Spain Gazette in 1945.
In 1956 she joined the Trinidad Guardian as a feature writer. From there, she ascended the ranks, and crashed through the glass ceiling for what was until then undoubtedly a man’s world, when in 1989, she was appointed editor-in-chief at the Trinidad Guardian—the first time a woman had been named at that position at a National Newspaper.
She remained at that post until her retirement in 1993, when she joined the Newsday as its founding editor-in-chief, until her death. She was also executive chairman and a director of Newsday’s publishers Daily News Ltd.
Mills, a mother of three, had published several books for children and young readers.
Mills was a foundation member of the Commonwealth Journalists Association and served as executive representative for the Caribbean.
She was also a foundation member of the Journalists Association of Trinidad and Tobago, and served as vice-chairman of the National Commission on the Status of Women appointed by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in 1975 during the UN International Women’s Year. She also conducted a number of courses for journalists, including one in Guyana in July 1993.
Mills was also the recipient of two national awards in recognition of her services to journalism: the Hummingbird Medal (Silver) in 1987, and the nation’s second highest honour, the Chaconia Medal (Gold) in 2012. She was awarded an honorary doctor of letters degree from the University of the West Indies in 2012, also in recognition of her contribution to journalism in Trinidad and Tobago.
In a news release yesterday, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who is still in New York having flown there last weekend to be at the bedside of her ailing sister Sally, offered condolences to Mills’ family and colleagues, whom she called “a truly remarkable woman”.
“It is with deep sadness I learnt of the passing of a real stalwart in the field of journalism. She was a woman of substance; a woman of power, who earned the respect of
everyone: in Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean, and the world,” Persad-Bissessar said. Mills changed the way journalists functioned, Persad-Bissessar said, as those journalists who passed through her hands over the past 68 years, can attest to today.
“Mills was a guiding light to many young people who wanted a career in journalism. She demonstrated that there was room for a third daily newspaper in Trinidad and Tobago, despite influential people saying otherwise,” she said.
Ken Gordon, Integrity Commission chairman and former chairman of the Caribbean Communications Network—parent company of the Trinidad Express, said yesterday he was saddened to learn of Mills’ passing, expressing sincerest sympathy to her family. “I have known (Mills) for more than 40 years... Though, we have operated largely as media competitors I developed great respect for her skills as a journalist for she was always committed to a no-nonsense type approach to the job.
Long before it had become popular to argue for the advancement of women in senior positions she had earned that right by the quality of her work. It was therefore no surprise to me that she made an outstanding success of her position first as editor- in-chief and later as publisher at Newsday. That paper owes a tremendous debt of appreciation for a tremendous contribution she has made to its success. Again I express my deepest sympathy to her family,” Gordon said yesterday in a telephone interview.
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 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
Express editor-in-chief Omatie Lyder also said she was saddened by news of Mills’s death. Lyder said she had met Mills only once at a media luncheon hosted by former president George Maxwell Richards in 2012. Lyder said Mills shared her media experience with other journalists who appeared in awe.
Though she had never worked with Mills, Lyder said her reputation of a no-nonsense editor preceded her. That she was the editor-in-chief of two daily newspapers in her career was a phenomenal accomplishment, Lyder noted. Lyder extended condolences to the Mills family and to the Newsday staff on behalf of the Express. See Page 16.
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