- The agency has served the Government and people of Jamaica with distinction for 50 years
- The entity’s vision is to be the Agency of choice for credible Government and national information
- A publication on the agency’s history will also be produced
A year after playing a pivotal role in the celebration of the nation’s Golden Jubilee, the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) is this year marking its own 50th Anniversary.
The JIS, which began its role as the Government’s information arm in 1963, is rolling out a number of activities to mark the milestone, including bringing back some old favourites from its archives that are sure to delight and elicit nostalgic smiles from viewers and listeners.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mrs. Donna-Marie Rowe, notes that the agency has served the Government and people of Jamaica with distinction for 50 years and is inviting all Jamaicans to join the celebration by reliving some of those special moments with the organization, through its various programmes on radio and television.
“We have been present at all the iconic moments in the nation’s development over the past 50 years, and have worked closely with local media to bring those images and news items into the homes of Jamaicans from all walks of life. Today, the JIS is a household name and an entity on which members of our Diaspora rely for vital information on their homeland,” she says.
“Our programmes are dynamic and exciting, as they are informative, and we have a passionate team who enjoys receiving feedback from persons locally and overseas about the services we provide,” the CEO adds.
Nevertheless, the JIS does not take its achievements for granted, the CEO says. “We are constantly looking at ways to improve and raise the bar…to do better overall, and to serve the Government and people of Jamaica better. We are doing this by keeping abreast of the latest professional trends and technology, and empowering the team,” Mrs. Rowe says.
The CEO notes that the entity’s vision is to be the Agency of choice for credible Government and national information, cutting edge media services and employment, while maintaining the full confidence of all Jamaicans.
“To attain our National Development Plan – Vision 2030 Jamaica – and see our nation as the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business, our people must be able to make informed decisions. The official government information agency must be at the centre of realizing those goals,” she asserts.
Elaborating on the celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary, Director of Production, Enthrose Campbell, explains that they will begin with a Service of Thanksgiving on Sunday, July 28, at the Webster Memorial United Church, 53 Half-Way Tree Road, across the road from the JIS, which is located at 58A Half-Way Tree Road, Kingston.
The service will begin at 9:45 a.m. and everyone who works at the JIS and those who have worked at the agency or have had any association with it – suppliers or clients – are invited to share with the JIS family at the service.
A publication on the agency’s history will also be produced. “The JIS’ history is not fully recorded and so we are conducting the research to supplement the pieces from the past for the book,” Ms. Campbell explains.
It will feature details of the agency’s background, its journey over the years and interviews with some of the pioneers who contributed to its growth and development. The history will also be captured in a 15-minute documentary.
Jamaicans will also get a glimpse of the agency at work over the years through a newspaper supplement. A new and exciting website will also be unveiled during the year. The current website has been the recipient of several awards, but Ms. Campbell points out that the agency is not resting on its laurels, so it constantly tries to improve on its offerings to the public.
The usually well supported JIS Essay Competition, which is in its third year, will take a different focus in October to feature the 50th anniversary.
Additionally, in-house JIS 50 activities have been generating excitement among staff.
“I think people are more appreciative of the work of the JIS and at the end of this period, we want our team to be fired up. We want everyone to be fired up about the JIS, knowing that we are here to surpass the achievements that we have had over the past 50 years,” Ms. Campbell says.
Both the radio and television departments are currently digging into their archives to remind Jamaicans of time past, and hopefully evoke some pleasant memories. Over the course of the celebrations, the public will hear and see many presenters who once ruled the local airwaves, some of whom began their media journey at the JIS.
Radio Manager, Lorraine Walker-Mendez, reveals that the department will be featuring two programmes, ‘From Our Archives’ and ‘Standing Ovation’.
With ‘From Our Archives’, persons will hear programmes that would have been aired in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. She notes that programmes like ‘One One Cocoa’, which gives practical tips on making life easier, and how to make local staples, such as ‘mackerel rundown’ and ‘ginger beer’ will also make a brief return to the airwaves.
The ‘Standing Ovation’ feature, once popular in the 1990s, she says, will make a brief return to the Arts Page. It showcases interviews with persons in the entertainment industry.
Both programmes have been airing every Friday in July “on your favourite radio station,” Mrs. Mendez says.
The programmes give Jamaicans a chance to hear JIS presenters with whom they might have been familiar long ago, and in sense pay homage to those presenters and their contribution to the agency.
Manager at JIS TV, Stacy-Ann Smith, informs that for every day during the month of July, a former TV presenter has been on the agency’s flagship news and current affairs programme, ‘Jamaica Magazine’. Among those who have made appearances are: Helene Coley-Nicholson, Fae Ellington, Gary Neita, Errol Lee, Christopher Daley, Gwyneth Harold-Davidson, Elise Kelly, and Hume Johnson.
The television department will also be airing popular features from its archives, such as the once popular ‘Jamaica Attractions’, as well as special interviews with outstanding Jamaicans like cultural icon, the late Dr. Olive Lewin.
Two programmes will feature employees. ‘The Builders’ is a series of eight features that highlight JIS staff members who have served the agency for upwards of 25 years. It takes the form of an interview and captures their recollections of life with the agency as they work to keep the public abreast of national happenings.
In one of these features, Production Co-ordinator, Seaton Richards, who is now in his 36th year with the agency, speaks with pride about the privilege and honour of working with the Right Excellent Sir Alexander Bustamante, who at the time was a living National Hero.
“For me that experience was invaluable. It was at a later stage that I realized it was a very significant occasion for me to be experiencing working with a living legend, a National Hero…that was an awesome, awesome day,” he recalls.
A second series, ‘Flashback’, features former production staff members who speak about their experiences with the JIS. These persons captured iconic moments in national life for all Jamaicans to see, and recount their experiences as part of the agency’s 50th anniversary.
“These programmes will be aired every day during the month of July, so you just have to keep on watching,” Mrs. Smith says.