Can our Media look itself in the Mirror?

I had the immense pleasure last weekend of attending by invitation a rap session centered on investigative journalism with a visiting media expert from Canada and some of Saint Lucia’s media personnel. Over and over the question arose: how well does the local media serve the nation?
I was not surprised to learn, if only because it’s a free home-delivery service, that the majority of Saint Lucians polled said they receive their news via the electronic media. When asked to discuss what they had seen on TV, few could recall details and even fewer provide informed opinions. Again, no surprise:  for the most part local TV and radio deal only with the moment; who said what or did what that morning or afternoon. Speeches obviously partisan are regularly featured, unchallenged by reporters or representatives of the other parties. Seldom is a back-story offered. Or a follow-up
It doesn’t help that our talk shows are dominated by unidentified callers whose contributions are seldom immediately verifiable, and more often than not painted yellow or red. Now, consider the overseas press: sure, there are some U.S. stations internationally famous for spinning the news, though not during their actual news broadcasts.
For example: In the United States and elsewhere, the media reported that George Zimmerman, a white neighborhood watchman, had fatally shot a 17-year-old African-American named Trayvon Martin a short distance from the victim’s home in a gated community of Orlando, Fla. TV and radio stations, the print media too, acknowledged Martin was at the time of the shooting talking on his cell phone to his girlfriend, that he was unarmed and carried only a packet of sweets and a container of iced tea.                 Additionally, that the cops had arrested Zimmerman at the scene of the shooting, then soon afterward set him free without charges.
The spinning that immediately followed centered on whether, as the 200-pound Zimmerman told the police, and as his lawyer told the press, he had acted in self-defense after the much smaller 17-year-old had smashed his nose and bashed his head bloody on the pavement. There was much talk from the spinners on the side of Zimmerman about a rush to judgment, contrasted by incendiary demands on the victim’s side that the police take Zimmerman into custody and let justice prevail.
Even Barack Obama was moved to add his president’s voice to the popular demand. No surprise that even as I speak—and thanks to unflagging press attention, welcome and otherwise—Trayvon Martin’s death is easily America’s current number one issue, hotter than Paris (Hilton, that is), The Beeb and Lady Gaga, at least as hot as Romney’s presidential campaign and Obamacare, and likely to be much hotter in the days ahead.
Now consider the local matter of Verlinda Joseph: seven years after the 13-year-old’s violated corpse was discovered in a muddy field near her Saltibus home her accused stepfather remains untried in a Bordelais cell, with no idea when his case will be heard. Pro bono efforts on his behalf by two hardly top-tier lawyers have been widely dismissed and ridiculed, the lawyers generally treated as if indeed they were traitors for having demanded justice for a citizen without means, and who has clearly been denied his constitutional right to a speedy and fair trial. Meanwhile, the local media, print and electronic, regular reporters and normally garrulous talk show hosts, look the other way, evidently unconcerned.
To judge by the invisible and inaudible media accounts, the unresolved lunchtime rape-murder of young Giselle Georges at her parents’ home has long been forgotten. As have the police shootings at a Balata guesthouse that left at least one man dead and three others badly wounded. To date there has not been a related inquest, at any rate none that wasn’t abandoned.             Come to that, few of us can easily recall the last time there was an explanation for an unnatural death in this law-abiding Christian country of ours. And while you
might from time to convenient time hear whispers about the fatal police shooting of five citizens in Vieux Fort and Marchand shortly before the 2011 elections, there have been no sustained demands for mandated inquests.
And speaking of the last general elections: while the press afforded campaigning politicians every opportunity to express their respective party positions on the Richard Frederick visa issue, indeed while the press permitted itself, wittingly or otherwise, to be part of the campaign to sink or float the Central Castries MP, it did not until two days ago found the courage to demand an explanation for the official kid-gloves treatment of a senior police officer
whose visa was recently revoked by the U.S. authorities. It took a neophyte reporter for Choice TV—yes, a female at that—to summon up the gonads to confront the prime minister on the issue.
What he said in response was pure gobbledygook, to be dealt with at another time. Suffice it to say that while the senior police officer at the center of the latest visa controversy has been ordered to take some five months accrued leave, great care has been taken not to associate the order with his visa revocation. His name remains classified, which is not to say it’s not well known!
Meanwhile, the press appears at one with the uneducated and obviously counter-productive view that the 3-month-old government should be spared any questions concerning the dire state of our economy until it has presented its budget, expected later this month.                 And so, in the meantime, no questions about the possible fallouts from the introduction of VAT at the worst of times; no questions concerning the as yet unfulfilled promise of jobs, jobs, jobs; no questions concerning the continuation of the violent-crime spree that has been ongoing without resolve for several years now—never mind the highly controversial respite shortly before the last elections.
God forbid anyone should be mad enough to mention Grynberg. And you may bet your last recession dollar that there has been no press analysis of the repercussions from recklessly swelling the long-unmanageable public service payroll when all over the world other governments are cutting down on public spending for the greater good.
Who cares for any of that when there is the all-important matter of Ernest Hilaire’s on-going war with Chris Gayle, when we can hardly wait to clap eyes on Lionel Ritchie and Boo doing their Jazz Festival thing; when there are gay abominations to be hauled off their gaycruises and bull-dykes to be bullied by tax-exempt bullies from the nation’s bully pulpits?
Oh, yeah, better days are coming.
The question is: In this life or the hereafter?

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