– Freddie Kissoon reflects on the death of a journalist/colleague
Last Saturday marked one year since Dale Andrews died. I chose the caption above and I think it needs explaining. What do I mean by “journalism’s last stand?” I entered official journalism in 1988 when I penned my first column for the Stabroek News. Simultaneously, I wrote columns for the Catholic Standard under the indomitable Jesuit priest, Father Andrew Morrison. At the Catholic Standard I doubled up as both columnist and journalist.
From 1988 to the present, I have seen enough in the journalistic profession that makes me pessimistic about its attainment of higher horizons. From 1988, I have rubbed shoulders with some competent and professional media operatives some of whom I have made into personal friends. Some of these people are still working their profession but I have to single out Dale Andrews as the journalist that I believe more than others truly loved journalism and wanted to be involved in its practice every minute of the day.
What I mean by “journalism’s last stand” is that he constituted the last superb journalist that wanted to put journalism where it should belong – a profession to love and embrace. I am not sure how many such types we still have around. I am not sure the energy and passion he put into journalistic investigation can easily be found in today’s Guyana. When he died, I think I must have written three eulogies in these columns and I left out an important incident that perhaps now that he is dead, I can describe. It is relevant in understanding the phrase, “journalism’s last stand.”
During the crime syndrome in Buxton 2002-2005, there was a Muslim group that was running a soup kitchen in Buxton. Dale did an interview with the lady that sustained the project; the wife of the leader of the political party, Organization for the Victory of the People, Gerald Pereira, who contested the 2015 general elections. Dale ran the piece by me and I thought it was excellent journalism in the context of what Guyana was going through. One of our past editors rejected it. On the day that Adam Harris was editing, Dale submitted the piece and it was published. He was suspended for that and I was extremely annoyed.
I took a disappointed Dale for dinner at what was then Celine Atlantic Resort and asked him what his plan was. He said he had no regrets at doing the interview and journalism was all he wanted to do. Glenn Lall was out of the country and on his return, I invited him to see the land in Turkeyen where I was to build my home. I chose the venue outside of the Kaieteur News environment so I could get Lall’s undivided attention. I told Lall, Kaieteur News had lost one of the few journalists in Guyana that loved their profession. Lall agreed for his return. Dale returned and made a name for himself as perhaps the best crime reporter this country has produced.
If I was to write my memoirs, I would mention Dale because there were great journalistic moments we shared, but in a memoir one has to be candid and pay one’s obligation to history. I think Dale had severe shortcomings in his life and it affected his journalistic output and his health. I never agreed with the closeness he developed with senior police officers because it compromised his journalistic integrity. He could not report on their corruptibility. I once told him of a roadblock operation that allowed free passage to an East Coast businessman who dealt in drugs and arms. He refused to pursue the matter because he knew closely, the officer in charge that night. I had to rope in Mark Benschop to assist me with the investigation.
I guess we all have our shortcomings and Dale did have his fair share. As a journalist though I think he was simply excellent. Once you love journalism you are going to achieve greater heights in your endeavours. He did bring a niche to Kaieteur News which will take time to replace. With his death, Guyana lost one of its last remaining bastions of dedicated journalists
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