Editorial | Tribute to the newspaperman
The Gleaner was Ken Allen’s home for nearly 70 years. His death on the weekend, at age 87, has stirred a flood of memories of a man who served the media with distinction.
The Montego Bay native and Cornwall College alumnus began his career at The Gleaner in 1952 as a subeditor and ascended to the position of editor-in-chief in 1992.
Mr Allen journeyed with the paper from its original Harbour Street location to its new multistoried North Street facility, where he came to have a profound impact on generations of this nation’s journalists who were schooled at the “university of North Street”, as the paper is fondly identified by former employees.
In his many decades at The Gleaner, Mr Allen’s roles included subeditor, reporter, opinion page editor, associate editor, executive editor, and editor-in-chief. However, the designation we believe he preferred most was simply to be called a newspaperman.
Young reporters who came under Mr Allen’s supervision won’t easily forget that booming voice from the back of the newsroom summoning them to his desk, and them approaching with trepidation, knowing that it was a time of reckoning.
BRING OUT THE BEST
A Columbia University-trained journalist, Mr Allen was known for his ruthless editing style, which betrayed his softer side as he would go over every line, revising and amplifying the copy.
Reporters would be reeled in if they were too verbose. He would nudge those whose writing was weak and urged them to find their authentic voice. He was intolerant of poor grammar and simply hated clichés.
When he was done, he would have helped that reporter to turn out his best work. This is what great editors do. Reporters also found out that his bark was grander than his bite. This hard shell was a façade for someone who was very helpful and interested in bringing out the best in his charges.
The editorials he wrote over the years were a master class in clear thinking and elegance. These editorials charted many of the critical issues that confronted a young nation that was experiencing growing pains. The turbulent ‘70s marked a period of ideological struggle in the country when the newspaper was required to speak from its soul. And so it did.
Those who found themselves in Mr Allen’s editorial cross hairs may grudgingly agree that he embodied the notion that it was possible to disagree without being disagreeable or abusive.
A newspaperman to the end, Ken Allen’s timing is impeccable, for he has departed this life during a week when members of the local media fraternity are gathered to celebrate Journalism Week. The annual calendar event was postponed last November due to COVID-19.
As a lasting tribute to this newspaperman who was a teacher and unofficial mentor to so many young journalists, members of the profession could spare some time this week to commit to evaluating their work with the intention of becoming more meticulous and conscious of the great responsibility they bear to be accurate and grammatically correct in the information that is being disseminated.
Ken Allen loved journalism. He loved writing. He loved truth. He loved when journalism was done right. Those who are left behind need now to grab the baton and get the job done. Farewell Ken Allen, Commander of the Order of Distinction.