Thu | Nov 21, 2019

The brilliance of Ed Barnes

Published:Sunday | October 20, 2019 | 1:28 AM

When Edward Norman Barnes, or ‘Ed’ as he is popularly known, steps forward to receive his national honour, the entire local sports fraternity, and, perhaps, the regional one, will stand in unison in his honour.

Barnes is one of 143 Jamaicans appointed to the Orders of the Societies of Honour and awarded the Badge of Honour, effective Independence Day, August 6, 2019. He is to receive the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Commander for his service in journalism and media in the sporting arena.

With over 40 years of active service to the field of journalism, Barnes has mightily transformed the local landscape of sports journalism and, in particular, sports coverage. He entered the field in 1976 as a sports reporter following in the footsteps of elder brothers Jeff and Winston. Unlike his two elder siblings, however, he decided to sprint down the proverbial journalism track of the sporting arena and set indelible records at RJR, JBC, WAVS in Miami, and WWRI New York, among others.

It is often said that the greatest form of flattery is imitation, and that is evident in today’s sports media landscape as almost all of the current practitioners of the art of vocal sports media coverage have some aspect of his inimitable style. He is gold, the standard by which true sports journalists are judged as he embodies the tenets of truth, fairness, fearlessness, integrity, and honesty.

Not only did he model the way things are to be done, but he took time out to train a number of people who have made their own mark in different sports nationally, regionally, and internationally. Among those on whom he had an impact are Lance Whittaker; Patrick Anderson; the internationally respected cricket commentator Michael Holding; the Bajan Donna Symmonds, one of the first female cricket commentators; regional standard-bearer in cricket commentary Fazeer Mohamad of Trinidad and Tobago; Dahlia Harris; Neville Bell; Hubert Lawrence; Juliet Cuthbert; and many others.

His stewardship in media has seen him record a number of firsts. Among them are:

n The racing commentator who introduced extended coverage of horse racing at Caymanas Park in 1977 with the first interviews of jockeys, trainers, and others on radio much to the chagrin of naysayers who opined that this would not work;

n Introduced radio coverage of Boys & Girls’ Champs in 1979;

n Introduced live radio coverage of schools and club basketball;

n Covered seven Olympic Games, one as press officer for the Jamaica Team in 2004;

n Press Officer for Reggae Boyz to France in 1998;

n The first sports radio call in programme (Sports Call) and started the Eye on Sports (TV) programme.

He is a multiaward-winning sports journalist has the distinction of serving as head of sports for RJR from 1977-89, and director of sports for JBC from 1991-1997. He was on three occasions named Sports Journalist of the Year, has covered horse racing for RJR, JBC Radio, and Television from Caymanas Park and also did commentary on the Caribbean Horse Racing Classic from the then El Comandante Race Track in Puerto Rico in 1978.

Internationally, he has reported on racing from tracks in New York, New Jersey, California, Philadelphia, Maryland, Florida, New England, Texas, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada, Barbados, South Korea, Australia, and South Africa. Staying true to his chosen field, he was offered the position of operation steward by the then Dennis Lalor-led Racing Commission in 1981, while at RJR, but declined the offer to continue as a sports journalist.

Passion for sports

Such was his passion for the craft of journalism that he gave up more lucrative offers to stay with his love: sports journalism.

Many have spoken of the role he played in their careers, but one has documented it. The world-renowned Michael Holding, in his latest book, said that Ed Barnes had to convince him that he could do cricket commentary. Holding said that he told Barnes repeatedly that he could not do it, but Barnes saw in him a reflection of himself and persisted until Holding finally said yes. The rest is history. Holding is now one of the most recognised voices of world cricket.

While others have spoken about the debt of gratitude they owe Barnes, the veteran has never failed to mention the influence of Winston Ridgard, a man he holds in high regard.

Others in the sporting arena to receive the Order of Distinction Commander Class include Dr St Aubyn Bartlett, Margaret Beckford, Christopher Dehring, and Richard Salm. Bruce James, president of MVP Track Club, Llockett McGregor (tennis), Hugh Perry (cricket and football), and Nelson Stokes (bobsled) are also to receive honours.

- N.W.