Blazing a newspaper trail

 

The Caymanian Compass will be 45 years old
on Wednesday, 6 October. The newspaper and the islands have come a long way
since that first paper went to print changing from a ten page edition newspaper
printed in black and white, to sometimes a 108 page edition printed in colour.

Retired fire chief Kirkland Nixon is one
reader who has watched the company and the islands grow from the days when
Caymanians were not familiar with newspapers and news reporting, to today where
there are a number of media houses and television services to report the
news.“I enjoyed reading the Compass from its very first edition. Each morning
on my way to the fire station I would purchased a copy because I never knew
when I would be the topic of a headline for that day.”

Now the newspapers are distributed by vans
to various outlets but in these days it was a job for one boy as Nixon
recalls.“In the yesteryears Brian Uzzell’s son Justin would peddle his bicycle
around town delivering newspapers to various supermarkets and folks congregated
at the old downtown By-Rite Supermarket Saturday nights discussing its latest
news.”

As fire chief Nixon says the Fire
Department always had a good working relationship with the Compass. He
remembers Editor Ursula Gill calling him one day for an interview asking how
the newspaper had grown. “I was reluctant at first, being not too familiar with
newspapers and reporting in those days I wondered what would be the outcome of
the interview, but I agreed anyway. From that day onward the Compass developed a
relationship with the department where they got the facts from me when there
was a fire.”

Nixon says he thinks the Compass has been a
very responsible newspaper. “I remember one day the editor called me to say she
had just been informed that a fire truck had turned up at the scene of a fire
without any water in the machine and she was just calling to confirm the facts
before the paper went to print. Imagine the anxiety I felt as my head swirled
with thoughts as to how that happened and the news had gotten hold of it.” When
Nixon rushed to investigate filled with anxiety he was relieved when he finally
arrived on the scene.“Now imagine as a fire Chief the relief I felt when I
found out that one truck had used up the water and another truck was filling up
at a well nearby to return to the scene of the fire. Apparently a few people
had seen the truck appear and head down another road and wondered what was
going on. Those were days. I called back the Editor and gave her the full
story, she responded by saying that did make a lot more sense.”

He goes on that this was a good example of
the Caymanian Compass responsible reporting that they got the facts before the
newspaper went to print but at the same time they were keeping residents on the
islands are updated . He has seen both the island and the Compass go through
many changes over the years. “Some dramatic changes have taken place in these
islands since I joined the force in 1966.” 
He lists a few : The Compass going colour; the surfacing of the airport
runway; the building of the George Town harbour; surfacing of the airport
runway; paving of sandy roads in the islands, the new hospital; the building of
the Legislative Assembly Building and the Courts Building. He says “It was a
big ruckus when government borrowed the money, but it surly set us on the
course we are on today.”

When the Compass started life here was very
different and so news was different. Nixon recalls beating away thousands of
mosquitoes with a blanket to relight kerosene lanterns lining the airport
runway after LACSA plane had blew them out on landing; his policeman father
settling more disputes in his front yard then at the police station for in
those day police were friends of the community and crime was as far away from
people’s minds and children had respect for the elderly.

“I tell people we had a paradise, but we
did not see it that way. Life was tough but we were strong and resilient
because we were dependent on one another for many things.

There was no outside help and Caymanins did
not look that way. They fought to survive on their own.”

Nixon also remembers the friendly meeting
place of residents being the old Byrite supermarket parking lot in downtown
George Town. This was where residents gathered on Saturday night to chat and
talk about the news of the week with friends and family.

“The contrast is almost hard to imagine,
where we came from to where we are today,” he said. “In those day West Bay had
two hotels, Galleon Beach and Beach Club; the airport terminal was a workman’s
shed left from fixing the airport; six officers manned the George Town Police
Station and donkeys and dories were the mode of transport.

His first trip to the Eastern Districts
when he was a boy Scout he said took him a whole day. The roads were sandy and
bumpy riding in the back of Mr. Warren Connolly’s old  canvas top pickup truck  seated on wooden seats which were torture on
the behind. “A lot of the children were transported to school in that manner
until they got buses,” said Nixon. And the Compass was there charting the
changes.“A good newspaper is one that is responsible in getting the facts. I
hope the Caymanian Compass will continue to do just that. Like I say, you don’t
please everybody all the time, and people have to realise you do not make the
news you report it.”