First there was a dearth, then three books by Jamaican journalists
MR Milton Walker, the president of the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ), could not be more on point for suggesting that journalists should write more books, their vaunted position affording them front-row seats to historical developments.
It’s in line with what American Mr Philip L Graham, the late president and publisher of the Washington Post newspaper, argued in a 1963 speech in London when he said, “Journalism is the first rough draft of history.”
Mr Walker used the occasion of the launch of colleague journalist Desmond Allen’s first book, Desmond Allen’s Greatest Hits: Wondrous Tales of Extraordinary Jamaicans, to laud the publishing of three books by veteran Jamaican journalists in just under a year, after a dearth of such publications.
Vantage Point Jamaica – a reporter’s chronicle, authored by Mr Earl Moxam of the RJRGLEANER Group, and I Dare You penned by Ms Phyllis Thomas, formerly of The Gleaner, were the two other books referenced by the PAJ president.
Mr Allen, the Jamaica Observer‘s founding editor, published his book to mark his 50th anniversary as a journalist on October 1, 2023, dedicating it to the Observer‘s late founder and Chairman Mr Gordon “Butch” Stewart.
Addressing the launch on Tuesday at AC Kingston Hotel, Mr Walker noted that the occasion was not just a launch but “the culmination of a remarkable journey — a journey that underscores the enduring importance of journalism and the power of the written word”.
Lamenting the fact that few journalists write books based on their work, Mr Walker said, “Desmond’s book stands as a testament to my profound belief that journalists need to write. It’s a belief grounded in the recognition that journalists, with their front-row seats to history, are uniquely poised to provide independent records of important national events. In doing so they become the guardians of truth in an ever-evolving world.”
Moreover, he suggested that the act of journalists turning to the world of literature is not just a personal endeavour, but a significant contribution to our democratic ethos, pointing to Europe and America where countless journalists seamlessly transition into novelists, crafting narratives that delve deep into key events, special periods, conflicts, and issues.
Mr Walker is right. The experience has been that Jamaican journalists rarely write books, seeming to fall prey to the belief that people are no longer interested in reading, and even that among those who read, a large percentage do not buy books.
The PAJ leader doesn’t appear to share that view, arguing that books by journalists offer a fresh perspective, “often unveiling untold stories that challenge our preconceptions and broaden our understanding of the world”.
Mr Allen’s remarkable accomplishment serves as a testament to the profound impact journalism can have on literature and history. “As we come together to celebrate the launch of Desmond Allen’s book, let us also celebrate the enduring spirit of journalism, the power of the written word, and the unyielding dedication of those who choose to wield their pens as instruments of change,” Mr Walker said.
We at the Observer are proud of Mr Allen’s work and join Mr Walker in his call for more journalists to write books based on their own witness to history.