Na­tional hon­our comes as shock for Cliff Hughes

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Bar­bara Elling­ton Pub­lic Af­fairs Ed­i­tor bar­bara.elling­ton@glean­

Cliff Hughes is now very com­fort­able on the job, a far cry from the first time he picked up a mi­cro­phone.

AF­TER A brief teach­ing ca­reer, Emmy Award-win­ning jour­nal­ist/busi­ness­man Clifton Gladstone Pa­trick ‘Cliff’ Hughes has for 30 years been ed­u­cat­ing a wider class­room from var­i­ous me­dia houses and now his own, Na­tion­wide News Net­work (NNN).

And on Na­tional He­roes Day, Oc­to­ber 17, he will be re­warded with the Or­der of Dis­tinc­tion, Com­man­der Class for his ser­vice to me­dia and com­mu­ni­ca­tions in Ja­maica.

Not sur­pris­ingly, Hughes is more proud of this award than he is of the cov­eted Emmy be­cause of its scope, as it rep­re­sents na­tional recog­ni­tion of his three decades of work. In an in­ter­view with The Gleaner, Hughes ad­mit­ted to be­ing shocked when he got the call from the chancery of the Prime Min­is­ter’s of­fice.

“‘You sure you have the right per­son?’ was my im­me­di­ate re­sponse,” Hughes said. Upon con­fir­ma­tion, he re­quested time to think about whether to ac­cept it.

His rea­son: “I realise that I oc­cupy a po­si­tion that leaves the bur­den of many ex­pec­ta­tions on my shoul­ders, so I won­dered how it would go down with the pub­lic. I spoke with my fam­ily mem­bers, who all agreed that I de­serve it. Then the con­grat­u­la­tory calls be­gan to pour in from scores of Ja­maicans from all walks of life – in­clud­ing for­mer Prime Min­is­ter P.J. Pat­ter­son, who said the hon­our was well de­served – so I ac­cepted,” Hughes said.


Upon re­flec­tion, the jour­nal­ist par ex­cel­lence re­vealed that his jour­ney to the present was not easy. Com­ing from very poor cir­cum­stances and hav­ing lost the op­por­tu­nity to study for the ca­reer of his first choice, law, he made the cut of 30 stu­dents from the 200 who sat the exam for CARIMAC, where he met Alma Mock Yen, some­one he still holds in high es­teem.

Lis­ten­ers to Hughes’ smooth pro­fes­sional on-air de­liv­ery to­day would be sur­prised to learn that the first time he took up a mi­cro­phone, he trem­bled vi­o­lently and har­boured a lot of self-doubt.

“But I de­cided I had to mas­ter it, and Mrs Mock Yen taught me a lot about broad­cast jour­nal­ism and in­stilled in me a sense of the breadth of what com­mu­ni­ca­tions is and to al­ways strive for dis­ci­pline and ex­cel­lence,” Hughes noted.

He also cred­its the late Carl Stone for be­ing an­other ma­jor in­flu­ence in his life. Stone was his po­lit­i­cal science lec­turer at univer­sity.

Hughes had to work while pur­su­ing his de­gree and upon com­ple­tion, was of­fered a trainee an­nouncer po­si­tion at RJR on the grave­yard shift in 1986. He later moved into an open­ing in the sports de­part­ment.

When he won a Chevening Schol­ar­ship, Hughes com­pleted his mas­ter’s de­gree in com­mu­ni­ca­tion pol­icy in Lon­don, Eng­land – some­thing that helped to pre­pare him for his present man­age­rial role.


But great things were ahead in his ca­reer when, in 2002, he lis­tened to the US me­dia’s char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion of Lee Boyd Malvo as the typ­i­cal Ja­maican bad boy who linked up with John Lee Muham­mad in the Belt­way sniper at­tacks in the United States over a three-week pe­riod.

At the time, Hughes was the host of the pop­u­lar TV pro­gramme ‘Im­pact’ and he asked the pro­ducer to go dig­ging to find out who Malvo re­ally was. Their search re­vealed that Malvo was a gifted young boy who was the vic­tim of poor par­ent­ing.

“We were shocked, this was the op­po­site of what we’d heard on TV. Rel­a­tives and friends said that’s not Malvo. We found a school­mate of his who, dur­ing our in­ter­view, un­wit­tingly gave us the ti­tle of the show, ‘The Pot­ter and the Clay’. The show was widely ac­claimed in Ja­maica and later picked up by FOX News in the US.

Hughes said the US net­work con­tacted him and they col­lab­o­rated and tweaked the lo­cal re­port, sub­se­quently air­ing it on their net­work. That led to the Emmy, which some doubt­ing Thomases even went to great lengths to prove wasn’t real. In their mind, none of the cov­eted stat­uettes had ever been awarded out­side of Amer­ica’s bor­ders. But it cer­tainly was so.

In spite of not hav­ing set out to en­ter me­dia man­age­ment, the op­por­tu­nity arose and Hughes em­braced it. There are chal­lenges along the way but, look­ing ahead, Hughes sees NNN as a mul­ti­me­dia com­pany com­pris­ing ra­dio, on­line and video con­tent.

“I would also love to for­malise an on-the-job train­ing pro­gramme in the me­chan­ics of broad­cast jour­nal­ism. This would hope­fully help to fill the gap be­tween the the­o­ret­i­cal and prac­ti­cal, while not com­pet­ing with what CARIMAC of­fers,” Hughes said.

With the re­cent merger of the is­land’s two largest me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions, and the in­creased com­pe­ti­tion for ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue, would Hughes be averse to a merger in the fu­ture? He told The Gleaner that he be­lieves merg­ers are in­evitable as small me­dia en­ti­ties can­not sur­vive on their own.

But for now, he is look­ing for­ward to Mon­day, Oc­to­ber 17, when he ac­cepts his na­tion’s hon­our in the pres­ence of his mother, sib­lings and other fam­ily mem­bers who will be fly­ing in to share his big mo­ment.


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