Mills’ daughter Suzanne, also a journalist, completed the book after her death in 2014 at age 85.

A must-read for media practitioners, writers, historians and those who value diligence, sacrifice and ambition, Byline: The Memoirs of Therese Mills, is an authentic, engaging, inspirational look at one of Trinidad and Tobago’s quintessential journalists.

It is a story about family, legacy and one woman’s commitment, amidst unspeakable odds, to changing a paradigm.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

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Mills, the former Editor-In-Chief and Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Daily News Limited (Newsday), passed away on January 1, 2014, at the age of 85.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

mundinews.com
She died from stage four cancer, her memoirs revealed.

Mills’ shocking death drew the curtain on a distinguished 69-year career in journalism which reached its pinnacle in 1993 when she launched Newsday, the country’s third daily newspaper – one which she often said, discredited the view of some in the society that the paper would not have survived beyond its initial six months in operation.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

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The year before Mills’ untimely passing, though, she had been completing her memoirs to incorporate the “Newsday” years of her stellar career.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

economiavenezuela.com

And although she did not live to complete it, Mills’ daughter, Suzanne, who worked as an editor alongside her mother at the newspaper for two decades, embraced the opportunity to celebrate this exciting, ground-breaking chapter of the iconic journalist’s career – one which brought to bear elements of Mills’ life experiences dating back to her early childhood in Woodbrook and later, Diego Martin and Belmont as well as the struggles she overcame to survive in journalism, a once male-oriented profession.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

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Told in an effortless yet incisive manner containing snapshots of pivotal moments in Mills’ life, including her years in London, the death of her husband, Ken, and her stint as the first female Editor- In-Chief of a daily newspaper in the region, Byline opens with Suzanne’s vivid, emotional account of the days leading up to her mother’s death in 2014.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

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She recalled that her mother had come into her room, one week before her demise, announcing, with a sense of urgency, that there were floods in St Vincent.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

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In hindsight, Suzanne deduced that her mother, perhaps sensing her impending death, had wanted to “extract me from my despondence and depression and pull her toward me in a last embrace of mother and daughter.” On that day, however, Suzanne wrote that when her mother entered her room, “I would not budge, now my greatest regret.” Mills’ deteriorating health had taken a personal toll on her.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

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“I could find no passion for breaking news. Having watched her body wane for months, I knew that she was soon for the afterlife, even if she did not,” Suzanne wrote, adding that she had been infuriated with her mother for months after having tried unsuccessfully to take her to the doctor.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

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In Mills’ announcement of floods in St Vincent, Suzanne surmised that her mother was “dying as she lived,” becoming more upbeat “as the flesh weakened.” Mills’ passion for news, even in the face of impending death, dominated Suzanne’s account in My Mother and I, which, essentially chronicled Mills’ work at the Newsday, from the moment she received a request from the Chokoolingo Group to lead Newsday in 1993 to the confident, uncompromising leadership she provided at the paper for more than two decades.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

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As Suzanne wrote: “My mother was Newsday and Newsday was her and though, in 2013 – the year in which Newsday turned 20 – she kept insisting that she would retire.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

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I could hardly imagine her not working on her paper.

Such was her love for it.” In Byline, Suzanne jokingly recalled how reporters, in Newsday’s embryonic years, were forced to use “antiquated computers, point and shoot cameras when the competition carried laptops, digital gear and travelled with mobile phones.” These setbacks, she mentioned, did not stop the paper from rising to number one, just four years after its inception.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

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“The little paper that the Express and the Guardian had said could not, really did. The two giants certainly stopped laughing in 1997 when the Daily Newsday made it to number one,” Suzanne wrote.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

She also explored Mills’ meticulousness, recalling that her mother, at the age of 65, when she began Newsday, “could spot an error (in the paper) a mile away.” “Who could have picked up every error such that the proof readers sought to sneak by her office? Who could chastise us with that sideways glance?” Suzanne asked.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

Suzanne’s account of Mills’ illustrious tenure at Newsday, however, was not drawn mainly from familial association but through the views of several persons with whom her mother worked over the years.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

These included retired news editor John Babb (whom Mills met shortly after cutting her teeth in journalism); Horace Monsegue (Newsday’s Assignments Editor); university lecturer and political scientist Dr Hamid Ghany (one of the paper’s first columnists); and former political/investigative reporter Andre Bagoo, all of whom provided personal insights into Mills’ strength, work ethic and tenacity – traits she never relinquished.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

Indeed, Mills blazed a trail in which only few can boast. The once outspoken Providence Girls student, who initially wanted to become a lawyer, has interviewed many prominent personalities and experienced many watershed moments in TT ’s development, Byline revealed.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

For example, it talks about the entry of the US on local shores during World War 11 in the 1940s, which brought a number of air and sea bases, most notably at Wrightson Road, Port-of- Spain and Wallerfield.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

Mills, who worked at the now defunct Gazette at the time, recalled the impact of the US influence in Trinbagonian society.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

“I remember Port-of-Spain, particularly Park Street, virtually run over by US sailors and soldiers and their military police.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

Park Street (like Wrightson Road, a section of which was known as the “Gaza Strip”) was a stretch of clubs, bars and brothels.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

MPs, (military policemen) powerfully-built men, patrolled day and night largely to stop fights and drunkenness,” Mills wrote.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

She also recalled that many intimate relationships were established between American military and Trinidad women – liaisons which may have provided material for Sparrow’s “Jean and Dinah”.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

Seemingly countless high-society engagements, an interview with revered social worker Audrey Jeffers, the birth and growth of the People’s National Movement and a chance meeting with Sir Hugh Wooding, were all part of Mills’ experience in journalism.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

Regarding the latter, Mills wrote that it was her “widely read” column, Focus, during her years at the Trinidad Guardian, which led to a meeting with the former Chief Justice.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

Wooding, in a public speech at a convention, had made comments about women which Mills found to be offensive.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

“When the article appeared, several colleagues expressed amazement that I could be so bold as to criticise the Chief Justice.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

I had no regrets and I waited for his reaction,” she wrote.

Mills, though, was pleasantly surprised by Wooding’s reaction. He invited her to his office at the then Court of Appeal on St Vincent Street.

“It was my first meeting with him and it was entirely cordial…. he never once mentioned his address or the column.

Instead, we talked about many other topics. We became good friends.” In Byline, Mills also referred to a quirky assignment while at the Guardian in which she was asked to interview an Arima man who wanted a wife.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

As it turned out, the man mistakenly took her for a possible candidate.

“I laughed all the way back to the office.

He certainly wasn’t my type either but I did get a story out of it…,” Mills wrote.

Through it all, Mills never discounted the experience of her earlier years in the library of the Gazette, her first job, which, she felt, set the framework for the career she thoroughly enjoyed.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

“The years in the Gazette library made me familiar with just about everything that was taking place in the country.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

I learnt the importance of accuracy in writing and orderliness in presenting facts,” she wrote.

“It was a period when funerals were reported with as much detail as were meetings of the Legislative or County Councils.” Perhaps it was an act of fate, then, that Mills’ first grandchild, Jerome, had given her a book, titled Write Your Story, during her 2006 Christmas visit with eldest daughter Michelle in Bristol, England.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

It was meant to record her legacy.

The inscription read: “Granny, I look forward very much to reading all that you decide to commit to our family heritage, Love Jerome.” She granted Jerome’s wishes in her Byline.

© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

© Luis Oberto Anselmi

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© Luis Alfonso Oberto Anselmi

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