Orielle Berry, Former Cape Community Newspapers reporter
There is so much to say and yet choosing the right words seems to be so difficult. But perhaps the most appropriate – and used so much among colleagues since the very sad passing of this giant among journalists – are “mentor”; “Brian taught me so much”. “I learnt such a lot from Brian”.
Israelis use the word sabra to describe their fellow countrymen – the prickly pear that has a tough exterior and a sweet fruit within when you peel away the skin. And yes, Brian appeared to have a gruff manner but inside there was a heart of gold.
Brian was the one who employed me back in 2005, when I was directed to him by a friend. Almost immediately, he set me to work proofing pages as a way to assess my eye for detail and see if I was familiar with what was right and wrong in reporting. A week later, then editor of Cape Community Newspapers, David Hill, offered me a contract to work on Tabletalk and Brian, in his inimitable gruff way, said “Ja it’s good.”
I spent the next 12 years at the community newspapers working on a number of titles. In that time I became a friend of Brian’s – and we also saw each other outside of work with a mutual friend in Hilary Benjamin – former reporter on the Atlantic Sun.
Many a time I sat in Brian’s office and chatted during a break and observed his strict sense of organisation, deep dedication and incredible attention to detail.
But as important as his friendship, was the advice he imparted: story ideas and what to do and what not to do when editing a page or interviewing sources. I was already in my late forties at the time, but as the saying goes “you can always teach an old dog new tricks”, and so I learnt and constantly gathered invaluable information from him.
Brian was sparse in his praise and I whimsically recall how, if he liked a story that I or anybody else wrote, he would say, “That’s quite a nice story”. Brian had a strong work ethic – first in and last to leave but as tough as he may have been he was fair and disliked unnecessary and what he felt was petty discipline.
In all ways, Brian will leave a deep legacy as a journalist and newsman who displayed those often elusive qualities of being at once talented, informed, fair and humble. Above all he was approachable and generous with his time in helping others – something we all seek and need in these difficult times.
Rest in peace, Brian.