George Davis | Ed Barnes - a voice we trust
In the wake of the retirement of one of my heroes, Alan Magnus, I have reflected on how little we say in tribute about those who've inspired us while they are still active. We seem to open our hearts and consciences only after receiving news that someone has been diagnosed with a virulent form of cancer, is infirm, or is on their way to the boneyard.
We profess appreciation for those who helped guide us in our daily lives and careers but, truthfully, we are often only effusive when those deserving of our praise are not in a fit state to enjoy the glow of being told thanks publicly. I want to change that.
So my thanks will be public to the handful of people who've assisted me in my career as a journalist and public commentator.
Edward Norman Barnes is a man I used to hear on the radio as I ate breakfast before walking the mile and a half from the Church Pen Housing Scheme to Marlie Mount Primary School. At first, I thought his name was 'Egg' Barnes, as to my immature ears, that's what I heard him say. I grew to respect this person purely because of his commanding voice and manner that suggested control, sincerity, integrity and authority.
They say the best radio and television presenters are the ones who get their audience to trust them. And it is a special skill to get someone who has never met you, who knows nothing about your personal life and what you are like off air, to simply hear your voice and determine that you are someone they can trust. Ed Barnes had that voice when I was a lad and has retained it over the years.
Imagine my pride when I walked into the newsroom at Nationwide News Network in 2005, three weeks after finishing at the University of Technology, to find the legend, Ed Barnes, as the man leading the tiny sports department. Mind you, he wasn't the only legend at the station. The real world boss, Cliff Hughes, who has already got his due in copious amounts, along with the ultra-smooth and professional Erica Allen, made up for the fact that I had no formal training in media before taking the job. Working directly with Ed was a crucial part of my development, as I learnt skills that have served me well to date and that I'm using to build the next phase of my career.
Ed Barnes is a difficult taskmaster. He has this ability to make you feel as if every mistake you made was the worst mistake in the history of the world. No matter how trivial the issue may seem, you dare not tell him it was a simple error. He drummed into my head that above all else, people in radio land are depending on you for accuracy. In Ed Barnes' world, if you couldn't write or present accurate scripts, he may as well ask the watchman or the security guard or the man working in the kitchen to sit at your desk and do your job.
Ed Barnes had this way of speaking where you didn't know whether he was going to commend or criticise you. He was a man who was withering in his criticism, but who also commended heartily. He was never one to lavish praise on anybody, believing that a shower of accolades only led an individual down the destructive path of haughtiness.
He has his quirks. He's the kind of man who will work side by side with you for an entire day on Tuesday then walk by you on Wednesday as if he's never seen you before in his life! He doesn't do it to be offensive and rude; it's just how he is.
Year after year, cycle after cycle, I see some of the most talentless and undeserving people collecting national honours on Heroes Day at King's House, all of whom are incidental to the success registered in their field of endeavour. A man like Ed Barnes has no gong to his name. But he can take pride reading, watching and listening to his legacy at work all over the Caribbean and North America.