ST JOHN’S, Antigua – No voice. No money. No media experience. No support from the political directorate. All the Derrick brothers had was a dream that evolved into a vision.
And that vision was OBSERVER Media Group – the voice of the voiceless for Antiguans and Barbudans.
The story of how Winston and his brother, Samuel ‘Fergie’ Derrick, founded and cultivated OBSERVER Media is no secret to the masses, in fact the story has now become something of a legend.
OBSERVER Media’s rise from a weekly publication sent through a fax machine at Winston’s home, then from his Cockle Shell restaurant, printing using a risograph, to eventually becoming the national newspaper of record in Antigua & Barbuda, is well documented.
“Let there be light”, was not only their motto, but encompassed what the Derricks envisaged for Antigua & Barbuda.
They were disillusioned by the state of affairs in the twin-island nation and, like other nationals of the time, they felt disenfranchised, having been locked out of the national debate – and by extension, the decision making process.
They were determined that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel and the beacon for that light would first be OBSERVER-by-Fax, launched in 1993.
When the brothers expanded their operations to a daily paper in 1994, launching the Daily OBSERVER newspaper, Eutha Meade became one of their first employees.
Some 20 years later – having now survived both Winston and Fergie – she harkened back to the era when a small staff, with idealistic ideas, sought to systemically change Antigua & Barbuda.
For Meade, the vision was and is clear; theirs was a message of inclusivity for Antiguans and Barbudans.
“At the time, the country was highly political. There was really no other voice, Winston and Fergie decided they wanted to make a difference,” the long-time employee said.
She added, “They wanted to shine a light, particularly on government, and stamp out corruption and anything that is wrong within the system. They made it possible for people who wanted to write to have a venue, and there was nothing like that before.”
One of the areas Meade said inspired great change in the nation as a whole was the re-launching of OBSERVER Radio after winning a Privy Council decision in 2001.
President of Professional Organisation of Women in Antigua (POWA) Gisele Isaac said OBSERVER Radio helped to launch her career. Hosting the women’s empowerment group, she said, was the platform that launched her political career and established her as an activist.
“I am the beneficiary of his vision,” Isaac said of Winston Derrick.
“It launched me. OBSERVER Radio launched me … It was through that medium that I came to political prominence and social activism prominence,” the now Speaker of the House of Representatives said.
Many others who frequented the airwaves of OBSERVER Radio prior to 2004, would take up key positions in the Baldwin Spencer administration.
“That is how I came to the notice of today’s government … I became a national figure, and with me, there was POWA,” she added.
Former editor-in-chief Mickel Brann said that over her tenure, “They (The brothers) clearly understood how to use the newsroom as a force for change. They were serious about nation building.
“We could never say it was about media and media only, it wasn’t. It was about nation building, that was what he was about and by extension the company was about the same thing,” she said.
Brann said Winston’s vision for media was dedicated to recognising the role of “free and fair” media to democracy in Antigua & Barbuda.
However, she said that Derrick was always saying to her, ‘I need you all to take this over so I can go concentrate on other things. I have other things to do.’
As the newspaper turned 19 on January 27 and Winston Derrick passed on February 2, he left behind his dream and legacy for the OBSERVER group of companies.
Part of that vision was the Samuel ‘Fergie’ Derrick Media Centre, a dream he realised in June of last year.
He has left the OBSERVER Media management and staff to fulfill his vision of expanded radio programming into the region, with OBSERVER Caribbean and OBSERVER Television.
We endeavour to ensure that Winston and Fergie’s dreams become reality.