Editorial

Jamaica a better place, thanks to Mr Ken Chaplin

Monday, August 05, 2019

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It's not by accident that Mr Ken Chaplin, who died last week at age 89, served as press secretary to four prime ministers across Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and People's National Party (PNP) administrations, spanning three decades.

A mild-mannered man with an infectious laugh, Mr Chaplin always seemed to find the middle ground, made friends easily and had very few enemies.

Beyond that, as a hard-working professional journalist and civil servant, he knew the public information business inside out.

That knowledge accumulated over many years, as well as his sense of fair play, dedication to duty, and willingness to work hard, made him a man to be trusted.

Hence, the comment from former Prime Minister Mr P J Patterson: “Ken Chaplin's life embodied the very essence of service of the highest standards in one's chosen profession, which, for him, was journalism and media relations. He was the consummate professional who was true to his calling and dutiful in carrying out his responsibilities. Ken is remembered as someone who was competent, fair, firm and respectful in executing his tasks and personable in his everyday demeanour.”

And his long-serving secretary, Ms Calpurnia Campbell, remembers that “anytime of the day or night you called Mr Chaplin, he was available”.

He left his mark at the Jamaica Information Service ( JIS), playing a lead role as that agency which is the information arm of Government gradually gained respect down the decades after Jamaica's political independence from Britain.

Mr Chaplin ran the show in the formation of the State-run news agency Jampress as a limited liability company in 1984, helping to make the dissemination of public sector information more timely and efficient.

His selfless efforts in making sure information services stayed afloat during and in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Gilbert, even though the roof of his own home had been destroyed by the dreadful storm, inspired those around him.

His staff always knew that anything Mr Chaplin asked of them he would willingly do himself.

Years later, Jampress was reintegrated into the JIS structure, but by then, under Mr Chaplin's leadership, a refreshing newsroom culture had become embedded.

A man of many parts, Mr Chaplin loved sport. He was a football referee for close to four decades for many of those years he was on the Fifa list, officiating in matches across the Caribbean, central and North American region commanding great respect.

He was also a central figure in the executive of the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ), serving most notably as secretary of that organisation. His tendency towards moderation and the middle ground served the PAJ well in the 1970s and 80s as he helped to defuse ideologically based tensions, which at times threatened to rip the organisation apart.

Long before that, in the 1960s, as secretary to then PAJ President Mr Theodore Sealy, Mr Chaplin's mediation skills would often come to the fore to quell disagreements among the colourful, powerful media personalities of that time.

We think it fair to say that Jamaica is a better place thanks to the contribution of Mr Ken Chaplin.


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