I have been invited to select the Personality of the Year Award for 2010. My choice was made simple by the lack of a competitive field.
Had the overwhelming winner been deleted from the shortlist, my task would have been made more difficult; far more burdensome than pulling a wisdom tooth.
However, there were hardly any superstars this year and this made my choice much easier.
The 2010 Personality of the Year Award, by unanimous choice of the press room, goes once again to Mr. Glenn Lall of the Kaieteur News.
He has made the greatest difference in our society this year and did so at great personal sacrifice.
In so doing, he has written himself into the history books, by becoming the first publisher to offer to the government free advertisements.
This has never before been done and marks Glenn out as making history in the journalistic profession.
His motivations were, however, not about the publicity or about helping the government out.
Rather, he recognized the grave dangers involved in the public not reading government ads, after many had been pulled from this newspaper and after the government decided that it would no longer place certain ads in the dailies but would instead place these ads, mainly relating to public procurement, on a designated government website.
Glenn saw the dangers in this move. He felt that it undermined public accountability, since most of the public did not have access to the Internet and therefore could not read these ads. Thus they would not be able to see what tenders the government was inviting and what land and properties were up for sale.
Advertising in the newspapers had always been seen as a means of informing the public as to how their taxes were being used and Glenn felt that this service would not be reduced to the public.
Also, he believed that it was possible for the system to be abused and for certain things to be hidden from the public. In addition, he saw the decision to no longer place these ads in the newspapers as having implications for press freedom, and therefore he took the decision that he would not engage in a long and draining fight with the authorities, but would instead offer to them free space for the ads so that the public would know what is going on.
The value of what he has done has begun to bear fruit.
Glenn Lall offered the free ads as a service to press freedom and because of that alone, he deserves the Man of the Year Award for 2010.
The second thing that he did was even more remarkable. There was in his estimation, a campaign to undermine his newspaper.
He had learnt from credible sources that there was a threat to deal with him and his newspaper. He made this threat known to the readers, alerting them to what was learnt.
Long before the vice could have been applied to him, however, Glenn slipped the noose and began to prepare his paper for when it would no longer receive ads.
His prediction was spot-on, because no sooner had he appealed to his readers to pay an extra twenty dollars for the newspaper, the State ads began to decline quickly.
He prepared his paper for hard times and believe it or not, the paper’s circulation did not fall off. This was business savvy at its best, and in my opinion, there is no better proponent of business in Guyana than Glenn Lall.
The final thing of note that he did this year was in keeping with his personality. There is perhaps no more generous person in the entire country than Glenn Lall.
When the Pakistani earthquake hit a few years ago, he raised millions which he handed over to an international relief organization. When the Asia tsunami struck devastatingly a few years after, Glenn made history when he raised the highest amount ever raised for a charity in Guyana.
He followed up a few years later by raising millions to take care of the relatives of the victims of the Lusignan and Bartica massacres.
The monies that he raised were again a record for such appeals.
On the morning in January of this year when news broke about the earthquake in Haiti, Glenn was watching CNN, and saw the devastation that was taking place.
He wanted to do something about the situation. But he knew that any sums that he raised would be but a small contribution considering the enormity of the disaster.
He also learnt that the government would be sending assistance and was not initially keen on duplicating their efforts.
However, persons weighed on him to do something since private donations were trickling in.
He took a decision with the staff to start a fund but before it could really pick up, his efforts were cut short by an official missive which stated that he required permission to raise the funds. He was smart enough to know where this was coming from.
For his fearlessness, his generosity and his contribution to press freedom, Glenn Lall is the unanimous choice for Man of the Year 2010.
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