Observer founding editor, lifestyle editor get OD
Desmond Allen, the veteran newspaperman, founding editor of the Jamaica Observer and former president of the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ), as well as Observer senior associate editor, lifestyle Novia McDonald-Whyte are among recipients of the Order of Distinction (OD — Officer Class) in this year's National Honours and Awards.
Allen, who is currently the executive editor — special assignment at the Observer, is being recognised for distinguished service to journalism, while McDonald-Whyte is receiving the award for service to journalism and innovation in the creation of two Observer events — Take Style Out and the Food Awards.
McDonald-Whyte joined the Observer in 1997 and, over the years, has established herself as an authority on fashion, food and lifestyle issues.
Allen is in his 41st year as a journalist, having started his career as a trainee reporter at The Gleaner on October 1, 1973. He was educated at Cornwall College and the School of Journalism, University of Strasbourg, France on scholarship from the French Government.
He has worked as Kingston correspondent for the Rome-based Inter Press Service Third World News Agency (IPS) and the Madrid-based Spanish News Agency (EFE); chief reporter for the now defunct Jamaica Daily News; communications director for the International Reggae Music Awards in Chicago, United States; editor of the St Catherine Reporter and editor-in-chief of Jampress, the national news agency.
Allen left Jampress in 1992 to become founding editor of the nascent Observer, the island's fourth daily newspaper, leaving there after four years to rejoin the national news agency as executive director. When the agency was merged with the Jamaica Information Service ((JIS), he became director of news and information under CEO Carmen Tipling in 2000.
During his stint with the JIS he served as chief media liaison officer for major visits by heads of state and governments and was lauded by The Queen on her last visit in 2002.
He served as executive producer of the current affairs programme First Edition on KLAS-FM Radio, lecturer at the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication Summer School, University of the West Indies, and general secretary of the regional Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM).
Allen received many accolades for his work in print, including News Story of the Year in 1981 and 1983 in the PAJ Nationalism Journalism Awards and the Jamaica Broilers Fair play Award in 2005 for his personality profile series 'The Desmond Allen Interviews' published in the Sunday Observer; as well as for The Spike, a training and self-critical column for journalists, which was published simultaneously in The Gleaner and the Sunday Herald newspapers, and later as The Thirteenth File in the Jamaica Observer.
He is also the recipient of the Jamaica Pegasus News Chief Award and the award for special service to adult learning from the Jamaican Foundation For Lifelong Learning (JFLL).
In 2006, on the invitation of Jamaica Observer Chairman Gordon 'Butch' Stewart, Allen rejoined the newspaper as executive editor — operations. He was appointed executive editor — special assignment last year May.
In congratulating Allen on his OD, Stewart said: "No journalist in Jamaica could be more deserving of this honour. You have served your profession well and the Jamaica Observer is proud of you. On behalf of the entire family, I say well done, Desmond."