BY: SERENA GRANT
#MontegoBay, Jamaica, November 14, 2022 – The Lloyd Barnes Smith name is synonymous with the town of Montego Bay, St. James, as is the popular and highly sought-after community newspaper, The Western Mirror, which he has run for over 30 years.
Widely referred to as “The Governor,” Mr. Smith is renowned for his journalistic prowess, business acumen and unwavering generosity to his beloved city.
For these traits, he was, unsurprisingly, conferred this year with the Distinguished Order at the rank of Officer (OD) for service in Business, Media and Community Service.
The award was presented by the Governor General, His Excellency the Right Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, during the National Honors and Awards Ceremony at King’s House, Monday October 17, which has been celebrated as National Heroes Day.
The proud Cornwall College alum reveals that it was during his studies that he discovered his love for writing after winning a national essay competition.
“I knew I had this innate ability to write and interestingly when I was in Cornwall the boarders were looking to hire young girls from [neighboring] Mount Alvernia Girls’ Secondary School and Montego Bay Girls’ Secondary School; at that time, you had to write love letters. The letters sometimes took the form of poems or quotes or just puns, and I ended up making quite a fortune writing the letters for them,” Smith laughs.
After graduating from Cornwall College, instead of embarking head on into the writing career he was destined for, Mr. Smith followed the more traditional path of teaching.
He tells JIS News that he was among the first group of students to attend Church Teachers’ College in Manchester, “because the college had just opened and a few of us had been selected. I think we were 75 in all to start with; later i graduated with honors from college.
Among the schools where Mr Smith taught were Holmwood Technical High School and Craig Head Primary School in Manchester, as well as St. Georges College and Kingston College in Kingston.
He was also headmaster of Oxford Preparatory School. However, during his tenure there, he saw an opportunity to finally embark on his dream career.
“I saw an ad in the newspaper where this particular publishing house was looking for an editor, and I always wanted to come back full-time to publishing and eventually journalism. It was McGraw Hill , a very well-established publisher internationally, and Kingston Publishers was their local agent, so I got the job and became editor at Kingston Publishers, and stayed there for quite a while, editing a few books says Smith.
The journalist established himself as a literary exponent when he edited the first two books ever published on the national hero, the very excellent Sir Alexander Bustamante.
The first was titled ‘Alexander Bustamante and Modern Jamaica’ by Professor George Eaton and was published in 1975, while the second, ‘Bustamante and His Letters’ by Frank Hill, came out the following year.
After making his mark at Kingston Publishers, Mr. Smith joined Jamaica Publishing House, a subsidiary of Teachers’ Book Store, in a sales and marketing role, based in Kingston. He was, however, promoted to the position of Western Regional Manager of the entity, which saw him return to Montego Bay.
Now back home, Mr. Smith has once again given in to his urge to write. Still chasing his journalism dreams, he approached the editor of a small Montego Bay-based community newspaper called The Beacon to write a column.
“I started writing a column under the pseudonym ‘The Republican’. It turned out to be a very controversial column because I was hitting left, right and center, upsetting the status quo, making life miserable for those in authority,” the reporter says with a wink. .
The turmoil created by Mr. Smith’s column was reflected in paper sales, and the rest is history. Soon, fate landed him a full-time job at The Beacon, where he became an editor. However, when he started his new job, he realized that the publication’s operations were collapsing.
The owner and director of the newspaper, who had welcomed Mr. Smith with open arms, left the entity unceremoniously.
The entity also suffered the misfortune of the seizure of its printing plant by the bank financing its operations with a loan, for which the equipment served as collateral, after the company defaulted on payment.
This made the paper heavily dependent on a popular Montego Bay printing press, a move that drained its then meager funds. These misfortunes left a shocked Mr. Smith to pick up the pieces.
“The paper was crumbling, no ads; [for] Several weeks, [the] staff were not paid. I even went home for several weeks [with] no wages and the workers began to rebel; there were troubles,” he says.
“One day one of the workers said, ‘Mr. Smith, you seem to be our only hope here; what can you do for us? We want you to take over the business.” I said ‘I couldn’t do that. If I were to move into such a position, you should all write a letter that clearly [states this]’; so they made the letter,” he says.
Subsequently, the publisher formed a management team and set to work, and in 1980, from the ashes of The Beacon, The Western Mirror was born, published by its own publishing arm, Western Publishers Limited.
It was not an easy undertaking, because rebuilding the company took courage, determination and, above all, heart.
Mr Smith recounts how the company eventually acquired another printing press but unfortunately they could not afford to charter a vehicle to take it to the newspaper location. He fondly remembers how the dedicated members of staff pushed the press on a trolley across town to where the Western Mirror once stood.
Even though he ran the newly created company, Mr. Smith received a media scholarship from the then United States Information Service (USIS) to study mass media at the Newhouse School of Communication in India. Syracuse University, New York, USA, in 1985.
With more than 45 years in the media and contributions to several other fields, Mr. Smith’s professional accolades and accomplishments read as the formation of a well-rounded man of excellence.
As well as being managing director and editor of the Western Mirror, Mr Smith has the distinction of being the Jamaica Observer’s longest-serving columnist, writing for the publication since its inception in 1993. He has also copied the Pegasus News Association of Advertising Agencies of Jamaica (AAAJ) Chef and Media Personality of the Year Award and Lifetime Achievement Award, 2008.
The veteran also received the Sam Sharpe Award for Journalism from the St. James Municipal Corporation and the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry Award for Distinguished Contribution to Journalism.
Under Mr. Smith’s leadership, the Western Mirror has received numerous awards and citations, including the Press Association of Jamaica’s Best Small Publication Award six times, the Marcus Garvey First Memorial Achievement Award, Print Media and the St James Parish Council Trailblazer Award in recognition of the 35 of Montego Baye Anniversary of its obtaining city status.
In addition to his media career, Mr. Smith is a former MP and served as Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives in 2011.
In the field of philanthropy, Mr. Smith was the principal sponsor and organizer of the Lloyd B. Smith Community Football League in St. James from 1979 to 2019. He is also an honorary director of the Committee for the Upliftment of the Mentally Ill ( CUMI), and a justice of the peace (JP).
He is an accomplished stage actor and was the first from West Jamaica to win the local Actor Boy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
Mr. Smith is married and proud father of two children.
As his list of accolades continues to grow, the veteran journalist remains the undisputed “governor” of Montego Bay.
Contact: Serena Grant
Photo caption: Managing Director and Editor of the Western Mirror, Lloyd B. Smith.
Photo by Serena Grant