Tears and tributes have been flowing for iconic doyen of journalism and Editor Emeritus of the Nation Newspapers, Harold Hoyte, whose final chapter in a storied life that mirrored the rise of a youthful independent nation ended on Sunday at age 77.
Hoyte’s death Sunday morning, after a profound illness linked to a brain aneurysm a year earlier, catapulted the media fraternity at home and abroad into grief over the loss of a “colossus” in Barbadian and Caribbean journalism, society and democracy.
Journalists and prominent individuals rush to memorialise the man many have described as a first-class journalist who made a significant contribution to the growth and development of journalism in Barbados and the region.
Former Nation Executive Editor, Roxanne Brancker, told Barbados TODAY: “It still seems surreal. A world without Harold Hoyte. Years ago, such a notion was unthinkable! Although we both left the Nation some years ago, the memories of those “good old” days continue to be fresh.
“I keep hearing his voice, his laughter and his footsteps running up the corridor, that was when he had a bright idea or heard something juicy that would give us a scoop.”
As she recounted precious memories of the many years she worked with Hoyte, Brancker described him as impulsive, fearless, creative, full of energy, fair and witty, with “generosity” as his middle name.
Whatever Hoyte touched “turned into gold” because of his vision, bright ideas, vivid imagination and passion for whatever he was working on, especially at election time, she said.
She added that Nation staff both present and past will remember him as the boss who insisted that they call him “Harold”.
Brancker told Barbados TODAY: “He was not one for “airs and graces”. He was as down to earth as they come – and they will remember him as the boss who cared for them, professionally and personally. Have a personal problem? Talk to Harold. He will advise. Have a financial problem? Talk to Harold. He will help!
“I need not go into his qualities as a newspaperman they have been flowing since the news of his death – but integrity, fairness, balance, professionalism and good judgement come easily to mind.”
Brancker, who managed the Nation’s editorial department for many of the 31 years she spent there, thanked Hoyte for the opportunities he gave to her, the lessons he taught, and his support over the years.
Quoting Irene Sandiford Garner and other past Nation staffers who have paid tribute to him online, Brancker said he was the “best boss we ever had”.
Brancker said: “The Harold Hoyte era is over, but the memories will live on – the good ones and the bad. On behalf of my family – husband Rawle, my son, Sundiata (Harold’s Godson) and my daughter, Zina, I offer condolences to the entire Hoyte Family, especially his wife Noreen, who kept us abreast at all times. The curtain has come down for Harold, but his soul will rise in glory.”
Hoyte, who has a long distinguished career in journalism, started his profession as a copywriter at the Barbados Advocate in 1959. He later moved to Canada where he worked for the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Telegram and editor of the Contrast. On his return to Barbados, Hoyte along with several other colleagues founded the Nation Newspaper in 1973 where he served as Editor-in-Chief for three decades.
Chairman of Capital Media HD 99.3, Vic Fernandes, described Hoyte as a special media practitioner, manager and visionary who made the brave step to challenge existing media houses to start The Nation, particularly when evidence showed that pervious attempts had failed.
Fernandes said it took a lot of courage and determination to be able to build an organisation that would ultimately become the biggest media organisation in Barbados, and then subsequently merge with the biggest in Trinidad to create the Caribbean’s largest media organisation.
Fernandes said: “I remember working with Harold not directly, but indirectly and sitting on the board of Nation Corporation with him. He was always very helpful to me when I was over at River Road. He helped me to come up with the name for the first FM Station that I created over there, and that became YESS FM.
“He was the one who said to me you want something positive. Subsequently, I remember sitting on the Board of Nation Corporation when we were merging with CCM, and it was Harold Hoyte who came up with the name OCM [One Caribbean Media] and everybody in the room went like, yeah, that’s it.”
Fernandes also indicated that Hoyte wrote “beautifully”, and around election time, it was mandatory reading to follow his articles as he moved around the political scene.
He told Barbados TODAY: “I had the privilege of chairing the election night broadcast over Starcom Network and he would be part of the panel. And when you had the panel that consisted of him and Peter Wickham, you really didn’t need anybody else. He was fearless, that is one of the things I admired about him as a journalist.
“In a small community, people say a lot of things that they expect to media people. But to be fearless in a media environment where a society is small is really a challenging thing. Harold Hoyte did not fear anyone.
“No Prime Minister, no minister could intimidate him, he was absolutely fearless. He was also absolutely fair and unbiased. But he was also a wonderful person to be around, because his sense of humour was amazing. I could hear his laughter now peeling through a room.
“I never thought when I saw him… just before Christmas two years ago, when he was preparing for that fateful trip, that that would be the last time that I would see him. Harold Hoyte was truly an outstanding Caribbean man. He had a vision not for Barbados, but for our region. He will be sorely missed and his place is one that can never be replaced.”
Chief Executive Officer of The Nation Group, Anthony Shaw described Hoyte as the emotional and intellectual vision of the Nation Newspaper.
Shaw said: “As the ultimate journalist Harold was unbiased and always committed to holding all accountable. Even though retired, Harold willingly offered his guidance to all across the Nation Group. Rest in Peace, Harold. You will be remembered as a builder of the country and to the Nation Group.”
In recognition of his outstanding career, the Government rewarded Hoyte with the Gold Crown of Merit in 2003 and in 2005 he was conferred with an Honorary Doctorate by the University of the West Indies.
On May 2, the building which houses the Nation Publishing Company Limited was renamed the Harold Hotye and Fred Gollop Media Complex.
A statement from the RJRGLEANER Communications Group described Hoyte as a first class journalist, an excellent media manager, a patriotic Barbadian, who was also a true regionalist.
The statement also noted that Hoyte demonstrated his support for democracy through his commitment to a free press and his support to journalism development through training and uplifting media workers.
The statement said: “His friendship with the Jamaica Gleaner Newspaper and Radio Jamaica was strong through relationship with the Hon. Olliver Clarke and the late J. A. Lester Spaulding of those two respective media organisations.
“His support for the establishment of the Caribbean School of Media and Communication (CARIMAC), at the University of the West Indies, Mona has been hailed for many years.
“We are all-better off for Harold, and will honour him with unbridled support for the things he stood for in our industry. We share our loyal support to his family at this time of personal loss.”
Hoyte is survived by widow Noreen, son Robert and daughter Tracy. [email protected]