The words that I’ve heard used to describe Therese Mills over the last week have not been surprising. Grand Dame. Iron Lady.
They are descriptions that seek to wrap the achievements of a strong-willed and determined woman in the armour of a fighter and crusader.
That’s one way of seeing Therese Mills who came to the end of a remarkable and unprecedented career as a shibboleth shattering journalist thirteen hours into her 69th year in the business. She was all of those things, but she was something more.
Beneath the flint and steel, she remained very much a woman and a mother. Despite clearly stated beliefs and opinions which were not always modern, there was a deep caring for the people who depended on her judgement.
On her watch, the description “woman journalist” moved from being an aberration to being the majority of the workforce in today’s newsrooms.
It’s no small achievement and much of it was done by example, not a campaign of equal opportunity. Which isn’t to say that Mrs Mills didn’t fully understand what she was up against in a once male-dominated newsroom.
For as long as I knew her, from 1982 to 1992, she had a paperweight on her desk that read: “They found something that does the work of ten men—a woman.”
Much will be said about this remarkable woman and journalist. Today I’d like to share some of the lessons I learned from her.
On my first day at the Trinidad Guardian as an employee in 1990, Therese Mills knew there was some departmental hostility toward me as the first Picture Editor of the paper. So she sent me out to cover a long, harrowing assignment about a chicken magnate’s kidnapped daughter that kept me out for the whole day. No food. No drink. I had the front page photo the next day with an image of the girl on her return home.
It was a perfectly horrible experience for which I was utterly unprepared. And a necessary one.
Read More: Click here for the complete article on Newsday’s founding editor-in-chief Therese Mills.