Fri | Aug 17, 2018

Editorial | The miracle of Ian Boyne

Published:Tuesday | December 19, 2017 | 12:02 AM

A week ago, having emerged from an induced coma and appearing to be on the mend from a heart attack, Ian Boyne, a man of deep religious faith, declared himself to be a miracle. It was for the fact that he was alive and looking forward to return to his job as a journalist.

Mr Boyne, 60, died yesterday. Some people might claim that he spoke prematurely. But from the perspective of a secularist, he may, indeed, have been a miracle - in the sense of being a man of deep and varied intellectual interests, with a capacity for sustained and concentrated effort which, for more than 40 years, he shared with Jamaicans through his journalism.

There were two critical elements to Ian Boyne's journalism, especially in the columns he wrote for The Sunday Gleaner and the discussion programmes he hosted on television: he was laden with facts and, generally, was open to debate. He may have been intellectually vain, as some will no doubt argue, but his larger aim was to stimulate discourse, hoping it would redound to the benefit of Jamaica.

Ian Boyne was not partisan, but ideological, in the sense that he brought to his journalism a specific, and, in many respects, a distinct perspective. At one level, he is a product of the times in which he came of age: the ideological period of the 1970s, when the Left and the Right contended for primacy.

Of a fashion, he was of the Left. His pronouncements were empathetic to a state that intervened on behalf of its most vulnerable citizens, and against the notion that the market had all the best answers to the organisation of an economy. So, in recent years, he often inveighed against the Washington Consensus.

But his was an ideology that wasn't the outcome merely of rational, secular empiricism. Mr Boyne, too, was a Christian scholar and pastor who ran a church. His viewpoints were shaped as much by the Bible as by the writings of the philosophers, humanists, ethicists, foreign-policy analysts, and others he so readily imbibed and often quoted in his columns, which often elicited playful ribbing from follow columnist

Gordon Robinson, who conferred on his the sobriquet, 'Booklist Boyne'.

Ian Boyne began his journalism career in 1975 as a freelancer with the now-defunct Jamaica Daily News, then went to the Agency for Public Information, the government's information arm, that was later renamed the Jamaica Information Service. He interviewed officials, covered events and wrote speeches for government ministers across administrations, without, it seems, even being entangled by conflict.

 

PUBLIC INTELLECTUAL

 

At the same time, in his newspaper columns, he assumed the role of public intellectual. Though hardly radical, he positioned himself as his own man, with viewpoints independent of whichever administration happened, at the time, to be the overlords of JIS and custodians of national policy.

And while doing this, he, for 30 years, produced a weekly television programme in which he interviewed Jamaicans who had mostly risen from poverty or other adversity to positions of prominence and power. Critics will perhaps claim that some of these interviews were filled with saccharine sentimentality, but there can be little doubt that they were mostly uplifting and offered hope.

As a theologian whose entry in biblical disquisition started in Herbert Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God and the fragmentations therefrom, Ian Boyne was willing to debate the worth and value of Christianity - and other religions - in a secular world and to put these on show in his television, programme, 'Religious Hardtalk'.

Mr Boyne had a passion for Jamaican music of the 1960s and '70s and could hold erudite arguments about the artistes of the day, even as he vehemently decried the nihilism of the lyrics of many of today's dancehall performers, who, he believed, contributed to the coarsening of Jamaican society.

Another side of Ian Boyne is that he was mostly self-taught. He would have been a fine subject of one his 'Profile' interviews, to explore the basis of his catholic interests and from whence the will, or miracle, for their achievement.