Media Matters: Hoping Against Hope?

Eons ago, long before local IT-enhanced editors and announcers discovered what’s become their nearest mutual admiration club platform in the clouds, I started this column – right here in The STAR. The intention back then was to encourage local media colleagues to write (and not just talk) about media issues locally, regionally and globally. Getting that done was harder than pulling granny’s teeth, so I eventually iced my effort—until further notice.

Since then, I have been reminded that it will continue to be difficult to get fellow colleagues to write and talk about who we are and what we do because of a singular point I keep making as a co-host on The Press Club on DBS nearly every Saturday evening: that journalists (and reporters) are, first and foremost, citizens and civilians, living in and affected by all the things happening in the society that we cover, report and comment on as professionals.

My most recent reminder by a colleague who recalled another reality I have often mentioned, and with much regret, is that we’re no longer a nation that reads.

My friend (and colleague) asked: “If journalists have lost the art of reading and there are no more bookshops or bookstores, and if TV and the internet have replaced the written word as we knew it, why are you surprised that we don’t even want to talk about who we are and the importance of what we do, or even the things that help or hinder our progress in these changing times?”

And she was right. Try as we may, Kendal Burton and I haven’t been able to attract other colleagues to come or offer to share their view on media issues on The Press Club. Fortunately, apart from having his finger on the button on media issues ahead of each episode of The Press Club, Kendal also reads.

There are exceptions to this apparent new golden rule. Young Jenna Gaston has shown she isn’t afraid to let her views be heard out loud on the issues we cover. But, by their positions (or lack thereof) on key local, regional and international issues, it’s quite evident that most other colleagues have either lost the reading habit—or never had it in the first place.

Always in the mood to follow developments in and affecting the media, I pay daily attention to the only forum I know local journalists exchange in: The Net.

‘Editors and Talk Show Hosts’ here have a (relatively) new platform where they exchange everything: like views and piercing barbs, pinpricks and brickbats, taps-on-the-wrist and powder-puffing accolades— even attempts at comparing Who’s Who and Who’s Better Than Who, Who’s been Where and Who’s been Everywhere, Who can Walk in Whose Shoes and Whose Slippers can’t even fit Whose Big Toe. There’s always the finger-pointing and blind lashing-out, low jabs and low blows. But even in the midst of the occasional frenzy of apparent media-minded madness, there’s the occasional exchange worth noting.

Fly on the wall that I am in this forum, I enjoy starting every morning on my throne catching up with the latest posts. I often look out for cases of Big Bards of Yore banging their heads against new brick walls, trying harder than hard to explain the difference between a warning and a threat, or why every reporter should know the basics of court reporting, including what is sub judice and what is Contempt of Court. There are also cases of talk-show hosts explaining their very different interpretations of the role of talk show hosts and their treatment of guests.

Some of the posts are/were clearly meant to incite and excite, but even while the caveman of a chronicler in me will always find ways and means to laugh or feel (a bit) sad in these IT times, I will be the first to encourage today’s modern media mailmen (and women), young and old, to continue posting their mail into my (and our collective) mailbox.

I am indeed excited by the barbs exchanged between keyboard-fingering swashbucklers. But I also feel the circle needs to be widened to include all talk show hosts and announcers who may have been (inadvertently or purposefully) excluded from this potentially wider circle.

There are those whose complaints that the platform is quickly being dominated by and turned into a PR billboard or a Tower of Babel are simply ignored. But, as in all aspects of life, there will always be certain degrees of abuse by those always wanting a little more than everyone else from everything.

All the above said, I welcome wholeheartedly the idea of my i-Phone being daily and continuously a platform to follow exchanges among colleagues. Indeed, we’ve come a very long way from when The Press Club was a nightclub upstairs a Castries bakery, where the local press gathered to discuss issues (over drinks) on weekends and at night. We’re still way ahead of the time too when The Press Club was a show on HTS/Radio 100. And we’re still far, far away from when the current media association President was the main host and anchor of The Press Club on DBS.

Today, the current co-hosts of The Press Club continue (every week) to invite colleagues on the show and be part of the longest-running media-related TV show here, but with little success. Another acting co-host said on air (recently) that she had been told by some interested colleagues that their employers had advised them against appearing on “a competing station.”

More depressing press news I haven’t heard for a long, long time. I’d rather think most colleagues are simply not yet moved to act together, until and unless another situation arises to cause many among us to ignore protestations on our behalf that we didn’t invite, and seek the counseling that normal persons need after exposure to traumatic events. I also rather think it’s for the same reason that too many no longer see, or never saw, the need to read.

But that won’t daunt my or our efforts or cause us (The Press Club co-hosts) to withdraw our open invitation to whomsoever will or may wish to come.

Meanwhile, I’ve requested The STAR reinstate this column weekly—and also open it to contributions by and from the editors and talk show hosts. Each week I’ll try to encourage or invite colleagues to address an issue of common interest.

For example, next week we can start a discussion on what has been the role of the local press, if any, in the discussion on changing the Constitution of Saint Lucia. I know where Rick Wayne stands on the issue (with Philip J. Pierre). Everybody knows where I stand (I’ve written reams on the matter). And we all know where Claudius Francis stands as well. Anyone else?

Here’s hoping I’ll be able to encourage my colleague editors and talk show hosts to join this column to discuss Media Matters and be part of an added platform. Here’s hoping too that I’ll soon climb down from my fly-on-the-wall listening post onto the faster-moving platform.

And here’s hoping, too, that I’m not hoping against hope!

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