Four days since his passing, I’ve finally mustered the courage to write about this great man who taught me a lot. These words, however, will be forever inadequate for he was greater than the descriptions in this blog post. There is an emptiness for many of us who came after him. It is the loss not of a journalist but of an older brother and a humble leader in his own right.
So let this piece be a celebration of his life. For being human is all we can be in this life.
We can never be perfect and flawless. We can only be as honest as we can be and as honorable as our human will permits us to be. It is impossible not to make mistakes. For the absence of mistakes rarely means perfection. It means stagnation in the journey of our lives. Somebody somewhere has had to make mistakes in order for some level of perfection to occur. Somebody somewhere has had to make mistakes in order to us to learn from the lessons.
Jerry Ginua was the embodiment of it all. He was not perfect. What stood out with him was that he never claimed to be. He would admit that he was wrong. He would always be brutally honest when things went bad and he would take responsibility and never complain.
He made as many mistakes as were humanly possible. He learned many lessons and his lessons were ours as well. He had the guts to make those many mistakes, to learn from the experiences and in turn pass on those lessons. He was generous enough to share so that others younger than him – others like me – could become better.
One of the most valuable skills I learned from Jerry Ginua was that of relationship building and diplomacy. Jerry was the “Melanesian journalist” in the truest sense. He was a master at building and maintaining relationships. He had the natural ability to establish contact and build trust. I learnt from him that no matter how difficult the story got, you should never lie and you should never mince your words if either party in the story felt aggrieved or angered. Above all, never run from difficulty.
Jerry never sought the fame and the attention that television tended to bring. He was very humble for a person who spoke to Papua New Guinea’s prime ministers and decision makers. I never saw him wear shoes or tuck his shirt for a whole month. But you could be sure he would wear a tie when it mattered: In front of the camera. Television was – at the end of the day – just a job.
Jerry taught me that TV journalism was a 24-hour-7-days-a-week job. He taught me that television life was unglamorous, difficult and dangerous. On one or two occasions, he was punched and verbally abused. He always saw the fun side of things and would later guide us on how do things better. If a story happened, he would be there while the rest of us were asleep. He would attend a seemingly mundane dinner party and come back with an angle that would be headline news the next day.
During the Sandline Crisis in 1997, Jerry Ginua, Benny Malaisa and cameramen – Jerry Kuasi and Francis Benny, shot some of the best exclusive footage for EMTV. Channel 9, Channel 10, Channel 7 and other major networks carried these pictures. They filmed the assault of PNGDF officers by fellow members as well as the burning of the former commander’s car late at night. They filmed the Siege of Parliament by PNGDF soldiers.
As I said, Jerry was a master at building relationships and those relationships served him well.
With me, Jerry never shared a great deal of his personal life. We were professionals in every sense of the word. But that did not stop him from providing guidance when I was not paying attention to what mattered: Family. He would be stern like a big brother would and keep me away from what he did not want me to see. He would always be there to back me up where I fell short in terms of experience and wisdom.
He allowed only a glimpse of what he thought and felt. But there is no question about the fact that his life revolved around his children and his home. These were things that were very important to him.
If there was anyone who was not afraid to live, to make mistakes and to pass on those important lessons to those who came after him, it would be Jerry. It is with these words – as inadequate as they are – that I wish to celebrate the life of Jerry Ginua.