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By Lisa Hamilton
Newly-elected President of the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM), Nazima Raghubir has set out to improve the ability of media workers in the region to do their jobs well, even as she hopes to inspire others to develop a drive for the profession that leads them to go above and beyond.
On May 2, 2021, she was elected to the post and will serve as President from 2021 to 2023.
While Raghubir is not the first Guyanese to hold the post — as Guyanese, Clive Bacchus, operating out of St Kitts and Nevis had served in the capacity in the past — she is, however, the first Guyanese resident and the first female Guyanese to serve as ACM President.
In an interview with the Village Voice News, she went into detail about her plans for the ACM even as she took a stroll down memory lane to the events that led her to join the media and how these helped fashion her motivations today.
Before Raghubir joined the media in 2002, she completed five years at Tutorial High School followed by her ‘A’ levels at The Bishops High School. She was always passionate about reading but never specifically had the profession of a journalist in mind. All she knew was that she wanted a job that wouldn’t confine her to an office space.
As fate would have it, at the age of 17, she was encouraged by a family friend to send her application to then Editor-in-Chief of Prime News, Adam Harris and she did just that. There was no formal interview process but, on her first day on the job, she remembers accompanying Harris to a post-Cabinet press conference being held by then Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon.
“I sat in the press conference, I had to make notes and when I left the press conference he said ‘what are some of the issues that he spoke about that stood out?’,” Raghubir recounted. Harris was pleased enough with her report to send her out on additional assignments on her own.
She remembers the morning musters during which reporters were expected to share three original news story ideas that they intended to pursue. Reporters would source these from issues they noticed in their communities or what was told to them by citizens.
Back then, Raghubir and others also had the challenge of recording with VHS tapes having to ensure that their cover shots for a particular story were set and ready prior to recording.
One of the very first stories she did, for which she remains proud of, dealt with the question of which agency had responsibility for the fire hydrants — an issue, unfortunately, still affecting the fighting of fires today.
When she entered the media, it was also at the dark period of the “phantom squad” and the “death squad”. It exposed her and other reporters to a lot of gruesome experiences that led her to understand the importance of mental health in the media. She is thankful then and now for the presence of Dr. Frank Neville Beckles who incorporated Prime News Inc.
“We had a very early exposure to the type of trauma that came with that crime spree,” she said.
“Looking back now and thinking about it, it was probably a bonus for us to have Dr. Beckles to sort of help us sometimes when we needed that assistance with trauma…we don’t take into consideration that many times media workers are often the first responders to many of these incidents and we, unknowingly, face these types of traumatic experiences without realising it.”
MORE THAN SURFACE LEVEL
Now, many years later, Raghubir has long become a household name and holds the post — along with others — as President of the Guyana Press Association (GPA). She has made it her vocation to ensure that media workers understand that it takes dedication and a resilient work ethic to get the job done and to do it well. She said: “I really want to be able to mentor a lot of the people coming into the profession or some of us who are already here to be able to do the reporting that can really showcase that we really do have people who can write and add value to journalism.”
She wants journalists to know that the news is more than press releases or taking for granted an interview or comment without investigation. Raghubir said that news, when reported, should give the public food for thought and guidance. “Somebody told me that it’s not my job [to guide media workers] and I shouldn’t be doing this but I think, for me, it gives me personal satisfaction if I see the media covering stories in a type of way or media houses going above and beyond to get information to the public, it gives me that satisfaction because I know its a valuable product that will benefit not only the news house but the readers,” she said.
GEARED UP AND READY TO GO
Now elected as ACM President, Raghubir said that she looks forward to the challenge and believes that her almost 20 years in media, her service to the GPA and her service to other institutions, have qualified and prepared her for such a role. Previously, Raghubir has also served as an Executive Member of the ACM and as the First Vice President in the last ACM Executive. Raghubir looks forward to working with the new Executive team of journalists who she described as efficient and dedicated to the field. “I’m very proud of this Executive as we head into this two-year term because I feel that we have a lot to give,” she said.
“The theme that we have been working under — for as long as I have been associated with the ACM — is to really move journalism towards the sort of respect that we give to other professions.”
One of the key objectives that journalists in the Caribbean can look forward to is training. Raghubir underscored that training is important to ensure that the capacity of media workers is consistently being built up so that they are best equipped to do their jobs well.
For example, in Guyana, there has been training efforts to remove the enigma to understanding Parliament and how bills are passed; training on the coverage of children in the media; training on the importance of climate change and more. These are the types of training she plans to ensure continues on the wider scale for journalists across the Caribbean. There will also be emphasis on the importance of self-regulation which would emphasize to media entities the importance of doing their part to report in such a manner that does not provoke state sanctions or laws that can be detrimental to the job.
Raghubir said that when she was elected to the post, her initial thoughts were not that she would be the first female Guyanese to hold it but that she was simply ready to serve. However, following numerous phone calls and messages of congratulations from others, she came to realise the importance that many women in the Caribbean and Guyanese in general place on her presidency
She told the newspaper: “I’m encouraged by that. I feel sometimes there needs to be a familiar face looking back at you. A lot of women see that and they are encouraged or motivated to do whatever they can, wherever they are to aim higher.” When Raghubir was elected President of the GPA, she was the secondly only female president of the Association in its years of existence. The other person is Julia Johnson. With a new path on her journey now up ahead, Raghubir said that she is prepared for the challenge and ready to set into motion the improvements that will benefit the profession of media workers in the Caribbean.