He has become known as the authentic voice of Caribbean radio, and has had something to say about literally every major development in his native Barbados and the rest of the region over the past five decades, from this island’s achievement of political independence in 1966 to the ouster of Haitian president Jean Bertrand Aristide in 1991, which came a year after the bloody insurrection in Trinidad and Tobago and was followed by the deadly eruption of the Montserrat Soufriere Hills volcano in 1995.
Over the course of the past 54 years, prominent regional broadcaster Julian Rogers has also successfully dabbled in every media job there is, from radio announcer to television presenter to media manager.
Just last month, the former general manager of Observer Radio, who is currently the CEO of Media Rogers consultancy, was fittingly honoured by the University of West Indies (UWI) for his tireless contribution to the development of the region’s media industry.
A proud Rogers, in accepting the inaugural UWI tv award from Vice Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles, called on the Caribbean to recognize its true worth and to take its rightful place on the world stage.
In fact, he was adamant that it should not play second fiddle to anyone.
“I say that I am as good as anyone at CNN, BBC or whatever the case may be, and in reality I am better because this region has nurtured me, given me an opportunity to grow and develop and accepted me, country by country,” a confident Rogers said to loud applause, while encouraging the region as a whole to acknowledge that “we have quality here, [but] we just have to work on it”.
Rogers, whose powerful voice, professional savviness and youthful, trim appearance belies his 70 years of age, has received numerous accolades over the past five decades for his exemplary contribution to the region.
Given the might of his broadcast delivery, he has also suffered several professional pitfalls, including revocation of his work permit in more than one Caribbean state.
However, that has in no way made him bitter or diminished his love for a region he desperately wants to see come into its own.
“This is my region, this is our region . . . . We have a state, a Caribbean state, it is our responsibility,” said Rogers whose voice has also become synonymous with the persistent efforts to forge Caribbean integration.
Ironically, his entry into broadcasting was totally by accident.
At the tender age of 16, he was tasked with securing advertising for a school project which hew did only to be offered a job on the spot by the then sales manager John Oxley at Barbados Rediffusion Service Limited (the forerunner to Starcom Network) on account of the way in which he presented himself.
“At the end of the transaction, he [Oxley] said, ‘by the way young man are you interested in radio’ and I said, ‘yes, but I would like to go to university first’”.
However, as fate would have it Rogers would return a few days later and pass his audition with flying colours.
“In short order I got a call saying, ‘you did a wonderful audition Mr Rogers. Will you come and see us’,” he said while recalling his serendipitous entry into the media industry.
“It was by accident,” affirmed Rogers, while pointing out that he had actually left school on Friday and went to work the following Monday, back in December 1964.
This unexpected pattern of movement would continue throughout his career.
In fact, ten years later while he was stationed at Radio Antilles in Montserrat, Rogers, who by then was considered a household name in media with a decade of practical experiences under his belt, would however be reminded of the fact that he didn’t have “a single piece of paper” behind his name.
Determined to do something about this, he went to his general manager at the time seeking support for him to enroll in the newly introduced Mass Communications programme at CARIMAC in Jamaica.
However, instead of encouragement, he got a serious let down.
“I said, ‘look, I would like to go to university . . . and he said, ‘well, if you want to go you will have to resign.”
Not to be deterred however, a persistent young Rogers would dispatch a personal letter to the university, asking to be admitted into the journalism programme.
To his surprise, “a telex arrived and it said, ‘Congratulations Julian Rogers, you have been granted a UNESCO scholarship to attend CARIMAC.
“I took the telex to the general manager’s office and I said, ‘I’m leaving in two weeks for Jamaica.
“[However], I didn’t tell him where he could take the job, because I never burnt my bridges,” he added.
As they say in the movies, the rest of Rogers’ career is now history.
As he stood behind the podium at the UWI Cave Hill, with his distinctive and booming voice as crystal clear as ever, Rogers threw the spotlight back on the university as he praised its one-year-old UWItv initiative.
“The emergence of UWItv really fits into what is clearly a longstanding tradition of the University to be innovative. This University has always sought to expand its reach across this entire region to let people learn about this region, so I am not surprised at the success of UWItv,” he said.
In addition to the tribute to Rogers, an inaugural UWItv Student Ambassador award was presented to postgraduate student Rhyesa Joseph who conducted a record number of interviews for UWItv during its first year of operation. The most inspirational video award was presented to Miranda Blackman, founder and President of The University of the West Indies Cave Hill Association for Persons with Disabilities (UWICAPD). A number of Viewers’ Choice awards were also given for programme segments with the highest viewership (by campus) covering topics such as cancer control, advocacy for the differently-abled, reparations and others.
A Founder’s Award was presented to Janet Caroo and Don Rojas, while special awards were given to Patricia Atherley for her work in the early development of UWItv and Maxi Baldeo for his provision of technical services. UWItv Editors, Rita Gaye and Jamani Dunn were also recognized for their service of excellence.