Everyone has a “Rick Wayne talks a lot” anecdote. When I was told of his upcoming headline speech at the Media Workers Association Media Law Seminar my reaction was not exactly one of utter jubilation. Impending doom might be more appropriate. In a futile attempt to mollify me my editor shared the first of several anecdotes I heard that morning alone. The brunch he had just attended where Rick’s promise of a few words before the meal practically left him prostrate from starvation. Our copy editor weighed in with her own experience at a charity event where Mr. Wayne, in full Bob Dylan circa 1963 mode, shared political war stories between sets. At a school function no less. I remained nonplussed and unimpressed. Because you see I had been enduring this loquacious Rick syndrome for years as a longtime fan of WWE Smackdown, which unfortunately aired on DBS just after Rick’s two hour plus gabfest, appropriately titled ‘Talk’. And talk he did. Over his guests, through the callers who braved the phone lines, and well into the time allotted for my wrestling viewing as a young student. Thursday nights always felt like the longest of my life. So forgive me for being less than thrilled at attending this three-hour lecture which in Rick time would bleed well into hours four and five if he had his way.
But an assignment is an assignment so I made my way to Monroe College with a colleague, resigned to my fate. Once on site I made a mental note of all the exits and sat strategically next to the nearest escape route, determined not to become a prisoner to his propensity for prose. Also on the bill was Winston Hinkson, respected broadcaster and attorney-at-law. But when Rick turned up in a canary yellow shirt and crimson pants, it became clear that Hinkson would be relegated to the role of Robin to his Batman.
The subject matter was one which was very relevant and necessary in light of recent events; the rights of media workers and the legal implications of publishing certain material. By now, unless you have been on a space mission, you might have heard about the Timothy Poleon saga, where the veteran anchor issued an apology after he was threatened with legal action by Saint Lucia’s minister for legal affairs, home affairs and national security, Philip La Corbiniere, for reading a critical article from Caribbean News Now in its entirety. Said article had been in circulation well before Poleon repeated the content. The incident and subsequent fallout has cast a pall on the industry, with members wondering what invisible lines they may be crossing and what protection was available.
Hinkson got the ball rolling by familiarizing those in attendance with some concepts pertaining to the top issues facing journalists; libel, slander, and proving malice.
“You’ll find in many instances the courts give a very wide berth to journalists who criticize government and the manner in which persons in public office administer the affairs of the general public. The courts are not prepared to fetter, I mean to restrict, the latitude given to journalists so that free speech, free expression and free flow are guaranteed.”
The outspoken Wayne, who has unsurprisingly been sued a few times himself, added his two dollars.
“A lot of times I do things and people don’t realize what my motivation is, and more often than not it is because I’ve been there and I’ve been the topic. I’ve been sued about five times by politicians, usually always when they are in office. Because then they have this subtle control of, don’t let them fool you about that, the courts. And they’re confident too that they can get away with it because most people don’t have the resources to take them on.”
Wayne impressed upon the group that if they were aware of how much law was in their favour they would not fear politicians. However as a journalist you have to be prepared and well-versed in order to make an impact and command that respect.
Throughout the seminar Wayne talked a lot, yes. But I will admit it served a genuine and important purpose; galvanizing media workers to not only improve upon their craft but to present a united front to serve as a force field against all who threaten to invade and threaten their territory. Wayne has been a one man shield for years, but certainly an army would be more effective in battle.
I can’t say how long the seminar truly lasted. After 1 hour 58 minutes and 47 seconds, hunger won out over solidarity for me. What you must know is that I finally understand the constant rants; just a burning desire for courage to stand up and be heard. It’s the old adage. If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. And I respect that.
But where do I get off writing this seemingly insolent, tongue in cheek, jab at my boss? Mr Wayne said it himself; “You can say anything you want, as long as you say it well.” Hopefully I’ve done that. If not I expect a call sometime today and a lecture on the significance of answering my phone.