Enrique forced people to think
Wednesday 20 December 2017
I had a talk with Enrique Jara about two weeks ago. He knew the end was near, and had no complaints, saying he had a full life. He only hoped to make it to Christmas. His wife Nelly was nearby. They had been together 62 years, since they met in high school when they were 16.
Enrique talked about some of the things he was most proud of, particularly related to those things we had shared. I told him that he was not only a visionary - sometimes a bit ahead of his times - but also somebody who turned those visions into reality, despite many obstacles particularly from doubters.
In the late 1980s he brought Reuters to the forefront of the news agencies and financial services in Latin America by replacing antiquated delivery systems with satellite delivery. It was an audacious project, due to its ground-breaking nature and the magnitude of the work required.
But satellite delivery greatly enhanced Reuters’ ability to swiftly and efficiently deliver large volumes of news, news pictures and information. It was a game changer, with Reuters in the lead.
In the early 90s, Reuters was the first news agency in the region to switch clients to computer reception of text services. But that was just the start. Enrique quickly realised the possibilities offered by the computer, and sought to make the Reuters Textual News Terminal the place of choice for reception of all news agencies.
With Reuters’ satellite capacity and the computer terminal, he also undertook very lucrative delivery contracts with a variety of third parties. Some were aghast that we were helping out competitors, but Enrique was not afraid of competition especially when Reuters was the driver of change.
But his major gamble as a visionary was the creation in Miami of TeleNoticias, in 1994, combining the forces of Telemundo Network and Reuters to create a 24-hour Spanish language network. The venture lasted three years before being sold off for reasons extraneous to fundamentals, from my understanding.
The creation of TeleNoticias was combined with the move of the Spanish-language desk, and the Reuters Television operation, to Miami, so that all might be under one roof. Enrique understood very early that digital would do away with the compartmentalisation of different media formats, and he wanted integrated newsrooms.
With this effort, I think he was a bit before his time. The hardest changes were always cultural, but he was always pushing.
Enrique’s greatest characteristic, nevertheless, was that of forcing people to think. He was a classic debater and devil's advocate, switching from one side to the next, just to make sure all sides of a problems were covered. When the final decision was his, you were often left wondering where the chip would fall. It was generally on the side of progress.