Looking back as 90th birthday nears

  • Giant of journalism: journalist and Royal Gazette columnist Ira Philip waves to the audience after being recognised for his work during the Annual Labour Day Banquet a few years ago

    Giant of journalism: journalist and Royal Gazette columnist Ira Philip waves to the audience after being recognised for his work during the Annual Labour Day Banquet a few years ago

My 90th birthday is just a few days away and some of my friends have speculated about what I might say about myself considering the lengths I’ve gone to salute so many others on such a significant milestone.

The truth is there’s little to state, aside from giving thanks to the Almighty for enabling me to come closer to my “big century” in good health, and for restoring me with spiritual and physical strength after one or two recent episodes, such as nearly upstaging the Governor at the ceremonial opening of this session of Parliament.

That was an incident that evidently gained me some notoriety in the media. It reminded me of when I was in my early forties and fifties when I was bold front page.

I chose not to talk about myself preferring instead to relate what others have said about yours truly. I alluded to the Bermuda Sun Weekly article dated Saturday, February 1, 1969 and the four-column profile produced by its star journalist, Ruth Jones, headed “Running the Bar of Public Opinion”.

It stated: The words “Hear and Now” flash up on the screen. In ZFB’s Devonshire studio a guest waits to be interviewed. And in their homes thousands of viewers adjust their sets and lean back with gleeful expectation to “see what Ira’s going to put them through this time”.

At 43, I was ZFB’s solemn-faced, serious-speaking news director. My quiet manner hid a sharp mind and talented flair for interviewing.

I introduced what has become known as The Allen Show to viewers — Progressive Labour Party’s Wilfred “Mose” Allen was talked about at thousands of breakfast tables the next morning; there was also the interview with lawyer Geoffrey Bing, QC, which brought a bomb threat to the studio while the programme was on the air and belligerent action from a man who turned up at the studio and had to be made to leave.

I was the only newsman the Bishop of Bermuda would consent to be interviewed by before he left; I later questioned the Archbishop of Canterbury on race relations.

It was also me who took the excitement of the General Election into the homes of thousands of people who couldn’t be inside City Hall.

Off-screen, I had a slow smile, a quick wit and a denial for opponents who claimed I put people I interviewed “on the spot”. No one does that but themselves.

My philosophy is if they’re coming to the bar of public opinion, as I call it, they must be prepared to be examined, and if they’re not prepared, they may put themselves on the spot.

I don’t have any political affiliations or leanings. I stand for equality, justice, fair play, freedom and honesty. In varying degrees the political parties here theorise on these things, and to some extent they try to practise them. I try to relate to what I see them doing.

What anyone thinks when they’re watching is only their opinion. Unless I take an open-minded approach, the interview is likely to fail before it starts.

When audience reaction is unfavourable, it is more likely to take the form of a telephone call, often not just confined to an expression of polite disapproval.

Invariably, extremists react to a certain question asked or conversely they’re agitated over my failing to ask a particular question and they set out to abuse me.

Normally imperturbable in front of the camera, I have been insulted by a belligerent interviewee and unexpectedly showered with confetti by an exuberant member of staff in the Christmas spirit.

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Published Dec 12, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 12, 2015 at 2:10 pm)

Looking back as 90th birthday nears

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