Starting a media organization in communities that are vastly rural and unaccustomed to media coverage can be quite a daunting task.
“It has been a bitter sweet journey,” said Horace Mills, journalist and founder of The Jamaica Beacon. “The good thing is that many have given tremendous support and, in the end, good is prevailing. The importance of credible media outlets in communities cannot be over-started.”
The Beacon, on Sunday, July 17, collected its latest award when it was honoured for its “outstanding service to the Lluidas Vale community” in St Catherine.
The award was presented by the Kiwanis Club Royale Lluidas Vale whose president is Ana-Kay Clarke and directors are Latonya Stanley, Moneque Brown, Vernica McKay and Natalie Morgan.
“This award is really for our advertisers and sources who have been standing with The Beacon through thick and thin. They are the heroes of the moment. Even a scoop for a news story was a contribution good enough,” Mills said while expressing gratitude for the award.
The Beacon previously was awarded by two other community-based organizations – the Linstead Community Development Committee and the Ewarton Community Development Committee.
The media outlet, founded late 2017 on the premise of community-based journalism and life-changing stories, started out operating mainly in Linstead, Ewarton and Lluidas Vale districts in St Catherine, as well as Kellits in Clarendon. It has been expanding and gaining tremendous traction island-wide and across the Jamaican diaspora.
President of the Lluidas Vale Citizens Association, Andy Smith, said he became a fan of The Beacon long before he knew it originated in the area.
He was drawn to it by the high quality of the work it produces, he said during the awards ceremony at Lluidas Vale Primary School.
“The stories and reports are on key; they are very informative… We need that in our country,” Smith told the gathering.
He also highlighted the fact that The Beacon, through its coverage, enabled a number of people to get much-needed assistance in Lluidas Vale and other communities.
“[The Beacon] highlighted a lot of people in need in the community and it helped to assist those persons in need. Few of those people came to me and told me about what The Beacon did for them. So I want to thank The Beacon for being informative and for their hard work,” Smith added.
In the meantime, Mills, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Media and Communication from the University of the West Indies, is a graduate of Juan-de Bolas Primary School and Charlemont High School where he served as Head Boy (2004) while in upper sixth form.
Two years earlier, Charlemont High awarded him for being its top performer in CSEC exams, administered by the Caribbean Examination Council.
Mills, whose dream was always to become a journalist, started writing for media while in grade nine at Charlemont High. At that time, he worked for the now defunct Teen Herald newspaper, which was distributed in high schools across the island and was associated with X-News newspaper.
Mills later became a full-time journalist at North Coast Times newspaper and at IRIE FM where he presented major newscasts and covered some of the most far-reaching happenings on the island.
Mills went on to work for years as news editor in the British Virgin Islands. During that period, he helped to recruit Jamaican journalists to work in that country.
Upon his return to Jamaica, he ventured into business and started The Beacon. He also writes for the Jamaica Observer newspaper.
“Though it has been a long road, it also is just the beginning of great things. The Beacon will only get stronger,” said Mills, a recipient of the Fairplay Award and the 2009 Prime Minister’s National Youth Award For Excellence in Journalism.
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