Sat | Dec 3, 2016

40 Years in Media - Fae Ellington

Published:Monday | September 8, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Ellington interviewing guests on the afternoon programme 'The Bamboo Lounge' 1975-78.
Fae Ellington
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Jody-Anne Lawrence and Rochelle Keane, Lifestyle Writers

Broadcasting, theatre, board meetings, lectures, event hosting, the wide world of media and journalism, are a part of Fae Ellington's vast and limitless reality. With years of experience under her belt, the dynamic Ellington continues to strive with grace and poise, always admired because she does everything with such professionalism and style, and never fails to leave each person she meets with a smile.

September 16 marks 40 years of her adventurous journey in media, and Flair sat down with this amazing lady to recollect her life as one of Jamaica's most respected journalists and media practitioners.

She began our chat with this story of her audition with the late Dennis Hall.

"That audition was frightening. The late Dennis Hall, the chief announcer at Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation (JBC) at the time, was the person who took me through my audition," she remembered.

"The first audition was for radio and that was nerve racking, but when I really thought I would die was when he said, 'Come now little one, we are going across to TV.' Of course I thought 'TV? Audition for television? Me?'."

After much laughter, she continued, "Well, I made an error in reading something that was given to me in the television audition and I think I may have sworn and Dennis Hall said to me, 'Excuse me, is that something you would have done while you were on air and you made an error?'

"That sorted me out and it is that kind of detailed audition, care and guidance that would have prepared all of us at the time to be careful not to make mistakes on air."

Ellington began her career in broadcasting at the basic level and made her way up the ladder of success.

"The very first thing I was able to say on air was 'This is the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation, it's now six o'clock,' that was all. I did that for about two weeks then I improved in terms of what I was asked to do, which was, 'This is the Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation, it's now six o'clock and time for music from the Green Antilles', with the senior announcer, Al Scott sitting next to me to ensure that everything went okay," she shared.

Ellington recalled that in her time, the programmes director would always call broadcasters to their office at the end of their shift or, even worse, stop them while on air. However, she did not find this intimidating, thanks to her background in theatre. She was used to open critique and direction and thus critical assessment was something she welcomed rather than loathed.

She had a mission and nothing would deter her.

"I expected and wanted to be guided and corrected because I had a mission. I wanted to be the best at what I was going to do," Ellington told Flair.

A FAR WAY

Things have come a far way since she started her career in broadcasting in 1974. For one, there is the formal media training many did not have in the earlier days, since there was only the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) and now there is Northern Caribbean University and the University of Technology, as well as others, that offer some form of communications course.

Radio has also expanded from two to 29 radio stations across the island, which she sees as both positive and negative. Whilst it is good that news is covered on a wider scale, it is more seen as a business to some than a service, Ellington believes.

"People are now running a business and will grab anyone and put them on air. Not all radio stations do it, but many do. The orientation for many does not exist," she said.

The media veteran also commented on how social media has changed broadcasting as she knew it. No longer does the public have to wait two or more days to get the news on anything that happened in rural sections of the country. Social media has taken over and now anyone with a smartphone can be a 'citizen journalist', allowing news to broadcast in real time.

Despite the many changes, Ellington's love and passion for the profession has not dwindled, and this is what has kept her in the game for so long.

"If you have a passion for something, it is hard to walk away," she explained, adding that although the media profession is not a well- paying one, if you are good at it, it will create many opportunities.

HARD WORK

Ellington explains that the finesse she portrays on air and before the camera did not come naturally.

"It took me years to conquer my shyness and build my self-esteem, way up into my 40s. I did techniques to manage it, but it took me years before I was comfortable," she admitted.

Looking back to her teenage years, the graceful lady said she never believed that she would have had a career in media, despite being active in different extra-curricular activities in high school. But in her entire 40 years in the profession, she has never regretted that decision.

Her journey has been influenced by some media greats, the likes of Dennis Hall Wycliffe Bennett (who not only taught her in drama school but also impacted her life while at JBC when he was serving as general manager); Leonie Forbes (who paved the way for her in media), and Dwight Riley.

It is not possible for Ellington to speak of her life in media without speaking about the influence that theatre had on her. Her love of the arts was developed through her mother and grandmother.

Though from humble beginnings, there was an organ in her home which her mother played quite well. She recalled that her grandmother had a beautiful voice. The family would have morning devotions where her mother would play, grandmother sing and she would play the comb.

"Yes, the comb that we use in our hair can be used as a musical instrument," she said quite animated.

Ellington was also encouraged to read a great deal, as each Saturday her mother would see to it that they read. This love for reading led her to do a lot of research when she started acting, which later helped in journalism. Having great research skills was a major asset for her in getting the news.

Over the years she was crafted into a well-rounded individual and loved the teamwork. She knew that being a broadcaster was only the tip of the iceberg and she wanted to know what made the entire radio station function as a unit. She wanted to learn it all. So her curiosity led her to production.

And it is this spirit, passion and love that has kept her going in the profession.

GIVING BACK

Ellington now passes on the vast knowledge, experience and wisdom she has gained to aspiring journalists, as a lecturer at CARIMAC.

To mark her 40th year in media, Ellington plans to give back even more.

"I want to do a blood drive. You always hear the blood banks calling out for blood when something tragic has happened and we need it urgently, so why not have it before we need it," said the caring lady.

The blood drive will take place this Saturday, September 13 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the National Chest Hospital in St Andrew, on the compound of the Kiwanis Blood Collection Centre.

She is grateful to all those who made the drive possible, one person in particular, who was referred by a former student. Ellington said she never met David Ebanks, but he has taken up the mantle with her and helped with the printing of the logo for T-shirts free of cost. Help is also coming from Digicel Jamaica.

"You make connections in every aspect of life, that is why I am careful about how I live my life," said Ellington, when she commented on how assistance has been coming in from all over.

She acknowledges that not everyone might be able to give on Saturday and she also wanted to make it an islandwide event. Thus, on her actual 40th anniversary everyone will be able to give their pint at a collection centre in their area.

Ellington shared that she was content with her journey and only wished that she had gotten involved in the military as well. She loves the discipline and has great respect for the men and women in the Jamaica Defence Force.

However, despite the opportunity to choose a more well-paid profession in high school, Fae 'Aunty Fae' Ellington has absolutely no regrets.