Journalist Guy Ellis is marking his 60th. year in the profession, a milestone that is sure to take some beating.
The former VOICE OF ST. LUCIA and ST. LUCIA MIRROR Managing Editor is the longest serving St. Lucian journalist and is still active, editing and producing books for local writers.
Ellis began his career at THE VOICE newspaper on Wednesday May 2, 1962. He recalled his first assignment that very day: a football match between St. Vincent and Dominica at the then Victoria Park in the Windward Islands Inter Secondary Schools tournament adding: “Dominica won 3-1 and I landed my first newspaper story which appeared in the Saturday May 5 issue, a 100-word report on the back page.”
Ellis said that the timing of his entry into journalism was “just perfect”, with change and modernization sweeping the entire world. The VOICE ushered in this era of change by switching ownership from the Gordon family to the British-based Overseas Newspapers which also had an association with the Barbados Advocate. This resulted in the recruitment of new plant and staff and Wilfred St Clair-Daniel, being appointed Editor.
“In fact”, Ellis went on, “I became the first reporter to be employed at the VOICE in that new era, and was soon joined by the late McNeil Jn. Marie (photographer) and Rupert Branford (reporter), and the following year by Cuthbert Phillips (photographer). Later still, we had our first female reporter, Cora Marcellin.
After seven years, Ellis became Sub Editor and was assigned to play a bigger role in the production of the newspaper. Around this time, the opportunity to work for the foreign press presented itself when St Clair-Daniel gave up his position as Reuters correspondent in 1969. Ellis also left THE VOICE that year to return for a few months three years later. He also did some free lancing as well as short stints at the Government Information Service and Radio St Lucia.
Working for the foreign press sent his enthusiasm soaring, Ellis said, as he became exposed to writing styles that catered to international audiences. He said: “I trained myself by studying the work of some of the best international journalists of the day. Soon my services were in such demand that at one point I was working for three agencies at the same time which was unheard of in those days given the competitive nature of the business”
When Reuters exited the region, Ellis became a founding correspondent of the Caribbean News Agency (CANA) which assumed its functions in 1976. Requests to represent first United Press International (UPI) and later The Associ-ated Press (AP) and the Venezuelan News Agency, VENPRESS, followed. Ellis was St Lucia correspondent for the AP for 30 years until 2015, the agency’s longest serving stringer in this region.
Work for other publications like the London-based West India Chronicle and its sister publication INSIGHT came as well. The U.S. led invasion of Grenada in 1983 created new interest in the region and Ellis worked for a while with Time-Life and later the New York Times, contributing to its Travel Section.
He said: “Once I had a taste of writing for the foreign press, I decided that this was what I wanted to do. My years with CANA did a lot for me professional-ly, and enabled me to become one of its most prolific news feature writers. My articles went all over the world and seeing my by-line in a major overseas newspaper was, to me at that time, something special.”
In July 1975, Ellis returned to The VOICE as Editor and became Managing Editor in 1981before resigning in 1994. His 19 years as VOICE editor is a record at the 135-year old newspaper. Later the same year, he cofounded the St Lucia MIRROR and was there for 17 years before his retirement in November 2011.
In 2015 he was back at The VOICE for a three year stint as Editorial Consultant.
Becoming an author was another offshoot of Ellis’career. The first break came in 1981 when he was commissioned by a French company to help produce a tourism guide book on St Lucia. Four years later a similar request came from Macmillan Publications of the U.K. which published three editions of his “ST. LUCIA–Helen of the West”. His last book was “A history of St Lucia” which he co-authored with Jolien Harmsen and the late Robert Devaux. Published in 2012, “A History of St Lucia” is considered the most comprehensive account of the island ever produced and is also the bestselling book on St Lucia ever.
Ellis also wrote the script for a comic book on the life of Nobel Laureate Sir Arthur Lewis published in 1981 by Inprint, a subsidiary of the Trinidad Express newspaper. This was part of a National Heritage Series of Caribbean Heroes and was intended as an important first step towards developing respect and admiration for outstanding Caribbean personalities in the region’s schools. Other personalities covered in the series included former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Eric Williams, the Mighty Sparrow and cricketer Garfield Sobers.
During his career, Ellis also helped train many local aspiring journalists. From1987 to 1996, he served as tutor for Print Journalism students doing the St Lucia Media Workers Association/University of the West Indies Mass Communications course locally.
In retirement, he has assisted a number of Saint Lucian writers, young and old, in getting their works in print, offering advice and assistance in the production of books and other reading material.
The holder of a diploma from the International Institute for Journalism in Ber-lin, Germany, Ellis was also the first winner of the Minvielle and Chastanet Fine Arts Award for Journalism in 1979 and the first St Lucian to be nationally recognized for his contribution to the profession when he was made a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 2003.