Tom Vesey
Tom Vesey

When Tom Vesey became editor of the Bermuda Sun in 1992, the island was moving towards political change. 

Mr Vesey was joined the Sun from The Royal Gazette and was at the helm of the paper when the PLP broke though to finally unseat the UBP as the Government in November, 1998. He had previously worked as a reporter on the Washington Post.

Mr Vesey took the Bermuda Sun from weekly publication to the addition of a second, Wednesday edition.

“I was the business editor at the Gazette and was doing political stuff briefly and I was finding it a bit frustrating — so their timing in approaching me was not bad.”

Mr Vesey took over the editor’s position from publisher Randy French.

He said: “I was really impressed with Randy’s knowledge about the technical aspects, like layout. He had obviously worked hard to learn it.”

He said the Bermuda Sun was known for, and continues to be known for, having “a great core of very loyal people who through troubles and turmoil stuck with the paper and believed in it”. It was amazing for a small paper… to have such a high-quality staff like Tony [McWilliam], Meredith [Ebbin], who are two respected senior reporters, and Roger [Scotton] who was the business editor and at that time was ‘Mr Business Reporter’ in Bermuda.”

Mr Vesey said: “The team, despite whatever grousing may have been going on, most of the people, most of the time, really believed in what they were doing. They were enthusiastic most days of the week, Fridays excepted. There was a sense we were on a roll. We were doing the right things and we were playing a part in Bermuda’s development and making forward progress for journalism in Bermuda.”

He said previous to his arrival “the Sun was a very small town, childish version of British tabloidism without the genuine material for big scandalous headlines most of the time.

“We became better at tackling real issues at a fascinating time in Bermuda’s history — there were major political changes underway.”

He said the Bermuda Sun had become more stable with a steady stream of advertising, which in turn helped lead to the growth of the Wednesday edition of the paper.

Mr Vesey said: “It was really exciting but a bit scary. It was good being able to do more than one paper a week. One of the frustrating handicaps of being a weekly paper… there was a hideous number of stories that we lost in which we had six days to be scooped by other people.”

He said with the quality of staff the Bermuda Sun had, there was a number of stories that could not fit in just one paper, and going twice weekly helped find a place for them.”

He said the biggest story the paper covered during his tenure was the switch from the UBP to the PLP.

Build-up

“It was a six-year story — the build-up to the end of the UBP Government in 1998 and the start of the Government of a different party. That was the dominant theme for the six years — Bermuda getting ready for change and the growth of the PLP.”

Mr Vesey said during his tenure “there wasn’t any story that I lost sleep over thinking ‘I wonder if this is true?’, but there were loads of times I worried and had second thoughts wondering if we got the angle right or had the right perspective. Was it blown out of proportion or was it given enough emphasis?”

He said there was some anxiety on whether the story was fit to be printed or whether he was “dithering” on getting it published.

He says the Bermuda Sun’s role in the community is still vital: “[It’s] especially [important] in this day of the Internet, [for] people get information that has been prepared by experienced journalists with experienced oversight. 

“It’s also important to be a part of the community so you have the right to tell the community things they may not necessarily want to hear. 

“The Sun also has an important role to play vis-à-vis The Royal Gazette, where the newspaper is a check-and-balance on Government. The Bermuda Sun plays a check-and-balance on The Royal Gazette, which is the biggest and most influential media on a day-by-day basis in Bermuda.”

Mr Vesey added that even though the Bermuda Sun is 50-years-old, “it’s not a part of the establishment like the largest daily newspaper anywhere, is. No matter how liberal the largest daily paper may be, it tends to preserve the status quo because that has what has benefitted it. 

“This has given the Bermuda Sun a huge advantage when it comes to looking at controversial political issues, social changes and examining inequity in society.”