Is the Media Serving the People?

Photo Credit: Peter Schrank - www.economist.com

Photo Credit: Peter Schrank – www.economist.com

On Wednesday morning I took a phone call from a local TV reporter who wanted me to comment on-camera, as she put it, “on the latest bomb scare.” My immediate reaction: What was there to say about this long-running nuisance that already had not been said by most sections of the concerned society?

Oh, but this was different, she maintained. While the allegedly endangered building had been evacuated, the prime minister and his Cabinet colleagues had refused to budge. What did I have to say about that?

Candidly, there was much I might’ve said on the matter. For instance, that perhaps this group of politicians at their wits’ end had decided to make a name for themselves, to have a park or something rededicated in their honor by going down, so to speak, with their ship.
Or maybe they could think of only one way out of all the trouble they had created for themselves and this ever-trusting nation—with still more to come. Perhaps, the prime minister had locked the Cabinet room and thrown away the key, having decided that if he had to go he would take the rest of his team with him. After all, they had together contributed, one way or another, to Saint Lucia’s seemingly irreversible indebtedness, to the apparently endless CSA strike, to the BS election promises that were never deliverable, especially the pledges of a hundred million dollars and jobs-jobs-jobs.

Yes, such were some of the thoughts that had immediately occupied my mind. But I resisted the urge to express them. Instead, I found myself handing the reporter at the other end of the line a lecture that in fact was the tail end of a conversation I had been having minutes before her call with Nicole McDonald, who, after some 14 years with the STAR, had finally decided she’d learned enough about small-pond pretend sharks to try swimming among the real thing in uncharted territory. (More on Nicole in due course!)
Yes, it was my editor’s (former?) considered opinion, several times previously expressed in our private conversations, that what the majority of our journalists and other local workers needed was “training,” as if indeed the workplace were a school. (Funny how, on reflection, the needs of employers, if they are to stay in business, seldom enter such discourses. Neither the fact that investors in talented staff have toooften been confronted by monsters of their own creation, whose primary ambition upon returning home is to be their patron’s main competition, bond or no bond!)
I disagreed with Nicole, as I had on so many previous occasions when the subject of local journalism came up in our conversations. I observed that either you had what it requires to bring the truth to light or you didn’t. Some were born to win contests such as Britain’s Next Top Model and American Idol, while others had little choice but to be satisfied with being fans of the winners. Life’s like that!
With journalism it was as important to get one’s facts correctly as it was to write a story that got the message across as intended. Easier said than done, I assure you, as well Nicole knows. Ditto the likes of Earl Bousquet, David Vitalis, Guy Ellis and Nicholas Joseph.
Good journalism demands excellent writing and an ability to tell captivating stories, not to mention natural talent and dedication, to say nothing of a social conscience. And these are just the basic tools. Alas, most of your young media workers would happily trade their current employment for occupations that have not the slightest relationship with bringing to the nation facts that our politicians would prefer to keep under wraps. But that’s for another show.
You may well imagine my state of mind by the time I took that earlier mentioned phone call from a TV reporter. I fear I was harder on her than I need have been.
“Pardon me,” I said, “but do you think there’s anything more to be said about the government’s decision to risk going up with their Cabinet documents that others have not already said? They are the alleged best brains of the country. Maybe they stayed put because they knew something about the bomb threat the rest of us don’t.”
And then I switched direction. “Are you aware,” I said, “that right now a court is being asked to determine whether parliament should by itself have the right to dump the Privy Council as the people’s court of last resort—without need of a referendum?”

“No,” answered the reporter, “I didn’t know that.”
“Do you know the Saint Lucia sea bed is effectively owned by an American oil speculator? Do you know Jack Grynberg and the prime minister engaged in a secret deal some eleven years ago and now the government is being sued for some US$500 million for breach of contract? Do you know a gag order has effectively been placed on parliamentarians so that this issue of great public interest cannot be discussed in the House?
“Are you not concerned about the governor general’s silence on the matter? Why has no reporter, not even the leader of the opposition seen the need to ask Dame Pearlette whether she had issued Jack Grynberg a license to explore Saint Lucia’s sea bed? After all, she alone has the authority.”
The reporter said she’d “heard something about that but not much.”
So it went for at least ten minutes before the reporter’s cell phone died. Perhaps
her battery needed recharging. Or maybe she figured she had better things to do with her precious time and hung up on me—which, I must admit, gave me quite a chuckle.

I called Nicole. Alas, my story seemed only to strengthen her doubtless sustaining
belief in miracles. I suspect she may have been thinking, although she never actually spoke the words: “Hell, if in a relatively primitive time it was possible with the
wave of a hand to turn water into wine, why should it not now be possible for men who have been to the moon and back to turn a few sow’s ears into purses of silk?”
Nicole may be right. But I doubt it!

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