The Malta Independent 14 April 2021, Wednesday

When a media mate goes

Charles Flores Sunday, 4 April 2021, 07:30 Last update: about 10 days ago

Most of us who have been in the media since the 1960s probably felt it more than the Johnny-come-latelies who got to know Godfrey Grima in the twilight of his remarkable career. His sad passing away, last Monday, leaves a void that will not be easily re-filled, for he belonged to that generation of journalists who genuinely put facts before anything else when covering the local and regional scenes. His professional attachment to the Financial Times most certainly says it all as did, in different ways, his Associated News enterprise for many years.

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There is a particular story in my relationship with Godfrey, which I have always enjoyed recalling by way of showing how media fellowship can come to one’s rescue, even at the worst of times. The age difference between us had Godfrey already an established journalist working at the old Church-media oriented newspaper Il-Ħaddiem, while I was just coming out of my O level exams and joining the Union Press papers, L-Orizzont and Malta News.

I swear that the first time I was sent by my News editor, Paul Carachi, to cover a Parliamentary session in the old setting at The Palace, I did not know where parliament really was, but I did not have the guts to say so. So I just went out into Kingsway, Republic Street today, and asked my way there, finding, at the entrance to the Palace, a duty policeman who quickly surmised I was about to panic and gently, evidently chuffed, walked me to the narrow stairs which the Press, as we knew the media then, was expected to use.

It just happened that Godfrey and I found ourselves rubbing shoulders, but while he was already scribbling away as the mundane process of parliamentary questions was going on (even finding the time to jot a few cartoonish doodles, which he gave me as a souvenir, and which I still have somewhere), I was lost in trying to get to grips with all the procedures and the unfamiliar jargon. When the session we were asked to cover was over, Godfrey immediately saw that I had only a few senseless notes written down and my face was a source of bewilderment and he asked me not to worry. “Go back to your newsroom,” he told me in his well-known laconic style, “once I finish my report, I’ll phone it to you.” Big heart.

Back in the newsroom, I pretended I was typing away my report as both night editors frantically waited for it. Godfrey kept his word, though, dictating the report and even suggesting I did not leave it precisely as he had written it. I know this sort of thing happened, and probably still happens, particularly in law court reporting, but it saved my day. In his case, he’d forgotten all about it until I retold the story many years later. From then on, whenever we met, Godfrey always made it a point to joke about that special parliamentary sitting.

There was, however, one downbeat moment in our relationship when I had publicly taken exception to some Financial Times piece he had written on local affairs and in which, with hindsight, I know I could have been less incisive. It occurred at a time when I too was making inroads into Fleet Street and other media mates had implied Godfrey was not too amused by it, so the whole situation got diluted by a sense of undeclared rivalry. Eventually, it was easy for both of us to realise that while he, of course, concentrated mostly on his Financial Times pipeline, I was more of a stringer for the UK tabloids, and bridges were quickly rebuilt.

Godfrey Grima was at the very fringe of the line between the pre-WWII generation of journalists and the Babyboomers, so he had the discipline and precision of old as well as the more liberal and curious vision of the new. He was not adverse to making astute judgements and observations, as his frequent radio and TV appearances showed in the latter stages of his long career. He was also a great story-teller as his anecdote in the recent Jinżlulek Għasel 2 collection amply confirms.

Resting in peace is his just reward.                                     

You can’t do that, yes you can

I see that Belarus has been banned from this year’s Eurovision Song Contest because its entry has been judged to be too political. It transpires that the Belarus TV authorities were asked a few weeks ago to change the song, Ya Nauchu Tebya (I'll Teach You) by Galasy ZMesta, after organisers said it put the “non-political nature of the contest in question” and risked bringing it into disrepute.

The story did not end there. Eurovision later said that a fresh entry had been sent, featuring the same artists, but that “it still broke the rules”.

Fair enough, the ESC should not in any way be tainted by politics. Europe has more than enough of that. Belarus experienced large protests last year over the disputed re-election of Alexander Lukashenko and the reprehensible manner in which the protesters were dealt with. Again, fair enough, but don’t we all remember that Ukrainian song criticising Putin’s Russia; not only participating, but actually winning the festival?

Not too strangely, it reminds you of a lot that occurs in places like the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. 

Out of darkness...

Indeed, out of darkness cometh light. It was so good to learn that the technology behind the creation of a coronavirus vaccine could soon be used to fight cancer too.

The married co-creators of the Pfizer vaccine, Ugur Sahin and Oslem Tureci, were actually working on a way to harness the body’s immune system to tackle tumours when the pair learned of the mysterious new coronavirus in China.  They had decided to apply the technology they’d been researching for 20 years to the new threat, by sending genetic instructions to the human body cells to make anti-coronavirus proteins. The same principle can, according to them, be applied to the immune system to take on tumours.

Science eventually wins, but not necessarily in everyone’s lifetime.

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