Jamaica’s Twitter-shy Media: When will the would-be watchdogs of Jamaican democracy wake up

CARTOON of the YEAR

Clovis, The Observer, December 31, 2009

One thing’s for sure, the Golding government could definitely use a shot of VITAGOV, the miraculous tonic recommended for ailing democracies everywhere. In Jamaica the Farcical News Network (Left, Right and Centre, Nationwide Radio) is sponsored by this super syrup whose ad goes like this:


VITAGOV!…Vitalize your Government!


Is slow representation getting you down? does the bad road leading to your house get on your nerves to the point of nausea? Then reach for VITAGOV! VITAGOV’s new and improved, time-honoured potent formula is crammed full of the major indices of development, including civil rights and liberties, the rule of law, effective representation and economic growth.


Combined with every hyper-caffeinated drink on the planet, VITAGOV is guaranteed to get your member of parliament and prime minister working in unrealistically fast time. Use our aerosol pump and spray your MP when he finally turns up in your constituency. Pour the VITAGOV syrup into your Minister’s drink at a party function or sprinkle it on a chair that he’s about to sit on. Whatever the method you’ll be sure to get him working. For governance on the go, it’s VITAGOV!


Meanwhile Messrs. Brooks and Co. need to develop a similar product for our ailing media, the print media in particular. I wonder if 2010 will prove to be the year when Jamaican journalists finally discover Twitter. Their silence on/in this increasingly crucial new medium is deafening. Where are @Boyne, @MartinHenry, @Wignall, @Hughes and @emilycrooks? Don’t you know that Twitter is how news is telegraphed nowadays and audiences created?


Photo by Colin Hamilton


Ah well, i continue to scratch my head in perplexity at the lagging behind of those who claim to be our watchdogs. Their caginess and timidity would be amusing if it wasn’t so tragic. While the formal, English-speaking posse bury their heads in the sand the Patwa-speakers are off and running with the new technologies. I was able to get a blow-by-blow account of the rather uneventful Sting finale this year because the dancehall massive and crew were tweeting comments and photos, alternately transmitting their disgust at the lack of clashing and fear when shots were fired amongst a range of reactions which i wouldn’t have missed for the world.


Here’s a selection of tweets from that morning:

Kartel dress like a wedding cake ornament.. LOL RT @tplayfair: #sting http://tweetphoto.com/7374217
Vybz Kartel at Sting09 by Tara Playfair-Scott
Shot of crowd at Sting 09 tweeted from location.
And after all the boasting and pre-Sting publicity (see trailer below) LA Lewis didn’t turn up giving rise to many jokes about the Queen, the new taxes, the coffin he had prepared to bury Goofy and much else.

tplayfair RT @SuppaKid: @tplayfair at least he made the
coffin b4 they pass the taxes. so him save some $$$

tplayfair Twit Classified> One white coffin red velvet
interior comes w/4 cans of spray paint & 7 pairs of white sox.
Vampires get 17.5% off purchase

KandeeAppl Everybody’s FB status is about how lame sting
was, glad I opted to watch it on TV, big up ER an Anthony
Miller, pon top a tings-as always!

anniepaul But of course! RT @RoryLeif: La lewis said he was
unable to attend sting becuz he was meeting with the queen

LivUp_Records Reach home. Laing biggest joka. Bout kartel
& vado pon stage 1 time di prezi alone can do that!!

LivUp_RecordsTeacha de ya.

A funny misunderstanding happened when Kartel’s fans thought that their fanpower and enthusiastic tweets had made #Gaza a trending topic on Twitter (Gaza is the name Kartel also known as the Teacher adopted for his community after its original name ‘Borderline’ was besmirched by association in a popular play) only to find that it was no such thing. It was just that their beloved Teacha’s performance in the wee hours of December 27th coincided with a Twitter campaign to raise awareness about the ORIGINAL Gaza that unfolded at 3 pm middle eastern time but early morning for us:

In honor of the one-year anniversary of Israel’s attacks on Gaza in December 2008, a number of activists have planned a targeted “tweet for Gaza” campaign on Twitter. The campaign, widely promoted by Twitter usernmoawad, is meant to draw attention to the current siege on Gaza, and will be implemented on Sunday, December 27, between 3pm and 7pm GMT, in an effort to make#Gaza a Twitter trending topic . . . a great number of people are using Twitter to share their own personal thoughts about Gaza, one year after the attacks which left 1,417 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead. Rime Allaf, a Syrian Twitterer, explains what it means to her:
Rime Allaf shares her thoughts on Gaza
New Twitter user Joelle Hatem joins the campaign
May i recommend that our celebrated journalists follow Joelle Hatem’s example and take a crash course in Twitter? The lagging behind in use of new technologies from the most literate segments of Jamaican society contradicts the ‘English is better than Patwa’ message that the English-speaking elites are constantly advancing, claiming that English is necessary to ‘move ahead’, converse with the rest of the world, keep up with new knowledge and so on. It would seem from the example that they’re setting that English is actually holding back the learned, speaky-spoky elites.

Even the latest Shebada play Serious Business, pivots on the plot-bending detail of ‘Facebook and Twidder’ for he plays a Revival preacher from New York, with 5000 Facebook friends and 3000 Twitter followers. Those are his qualifications for being hired to replace the crufty, corrupt old Preacher who is busy ripping off the Church at every opportunity he gets.

It’s an amazing development when the less literate massive and crew get the new technologies before those who benefited from the highest education this country can offer. What can it portend for the future?

21 thoughts on “Jamaica’s Twitter-shy Media: When will the would-be watchdogs of Jamaican democracy wake up

  1. YardEdge said…

    The media lagging behind in the online technology space is an example of the same phenomenon of corporate Jamaica lagging behind the ever expanding advertising/marketing opps that exist online (twitter included). Don’t know if it’s just ignorance, fear or change, both or something else. Not sure what it will take but I guess corporate & media JA will catch up with the rest of the world eventually. I suppose the public sector will be lagging behind them too…

  2. Actually i see it as an opportunity for the younger generation to move to centrestage as the people in charge are made obsolete by the new technologies and their own lack of curiousity, resourcefulness and just plain gumption. They will lumber on to a well-deserved extinction while people like you will inherit what’s left. make the most of it Yardedge and co!

  3. Interesting post.

    On this matter, Jamaica is really no different from most other countries regarding how youth and underprivileged people make use of technology.

    I think that cellphones are very integral to the identities of young(er) and less privileged Jamaicans in a way that it has not needed to be for more privileged Jamaicans.

    For one thing, the unprivileged are the ones who were often denied access to formal communication tools (whether language, telephone or typewriter). So, the cheapness and easy access of the technology of cellphones has led to far more excitement about and diverse use of the cellphone (porn images? DJ sucking dick?) and all that you can do with it among folks who are also coming of age at a time when the constant message is that they need to be hip to the latest technology or they will perish socially. Cellphone connects them to others in a way that planes often work for middle class folks. And, you don’t need to be fully literate to use it. Plus, nobody nuh love text like smaddy who nuh have no credit!

    On the other hand, cellphones are nothing new or exciting for people who have always had access; it’s just affirms one’s status rather than implies or enhances it. They take it for granted, which is of course, a big, big, big mistake.

    I don’t think the establishment media and corporate world have much to twitter about really; it would mean they would want to actually communicate with the masses, and share information rather than hide it. I don’t think that’s ever been of interest.

    I also don’t think that elites’ status will be undermined by not getting hip with technology. They already have the IMF and the government working on their behalf, so a bit of laziness and sense of entitlement has certainly set in. Savvy use of new media will definitely get them new neighbors and competitors though.

  4. LB on cell phones etc I agree. But many of India’s top journalists use Twitter and my ability to keep informed about things Indian has gone up exponentially. It’s an invaluable tool that Jamaican professionals ignore at their own peril. Am writing a piece rt now on it’s importance for UWI academics.

    Think about it. If you as a journo or lecturer refuse to engage w new technologies u are in effect going to find yrself talking only to other old technophobes. Yet the university’s clients are young and very
    mediated by tech; so in a sense you are rendering yourself obsolete.

    I strongly doubt that Ja will prove the exception to what is becoming the rule…

  5. In more technology with it societies, corporations, media, academia, pretty much everybody with a clue who wants to communicate with others are using twitter, facebook, blogs, etc., etc…

    So, is it just fear of change or laziness or can’t bother why our “establishment” corporate, media and otherwise are lagging and lagging behind???

  6. Annie – I do agree with you that the old fogies are making a critical mistake in ignoring new media. But they also don’t care about the consequences because being obsolete is a desired status. Think Rex Nettleford. This is not a place where people are known to be thoughtful about anything, including why they don’t do something. Irrationality and arrogance is the order of the day.

    I really don’t think comparing Jamaica and India is exactly fair. India leapt into the neo-liberal techno age and has never looked back. Jamaica has rarely made an intentional step towards anything, and is often reacting to or being coerced into change.

    It seems like you might want to consider using what you have learned from the Indian media, and organise a small workshop/roundtable with journalists to talk up this issue. This is something well worth talking about.

  7. Ha! I like that. Ja has rarely made an intentional step towards anything. Maybe true.

    But this is no time to be caught like a deer frozen in headlights.

    Would be happy to do a workshop but would anyone come?

  8. Hail Annie Paul, (1) LA Lewis is and will forever be a JOKE. It is my feeling that talking about IT anymore would be taking a joke too far! Like most Jamaican males dis bredda yah ego bigger than him accomplishments (what accomplishments?).

    (2)The cartoon…is inaccurate…as a Jamaican tax payer I don’t feel like a ‘big titty’ black woman being dually sucked by her children. I feel more like a petite white woman being forcibly ‘double-teamed’ by 300lbs defensive linemen from the Texas Cowboys.

    (3)Have you heard Lovindeer’s song called IMF…the thing is hilarious…post it if you can. I can send you a copy via email if you wish. Hey, please don’t get started on nuh copy right issues! In fact… I just send it… delete it backside after yuh listen to it if yuh waan appease yuh conscience.

    (4) I’m not sure what to make of Jamaican journalists being unplugged. If the argument you and Longbench make is true then the evolutionary process will take care of everything. The non-users will fall behind and go extinct.
    I like many others don’t use twitter and I avoid Facebook like the plague (and thank God I’m not a journalist!)…but I’m rarely out of the loop. Besides, persons often say that many times when people tweet about some event or incident initial reports are usually inaccurate (in a rush to be first some become false). It is most often in subsequent communiqués that accurate information is transmitted. Therein lays the crux of the matter. How accurate is the information received? There seems to be no real checks and balances. If somebody tweeted that Obama was shot and killed the first thing most of us would do is turn on CNN (A trusted source?) or BBC. These news organisations make serious use of the information streams we are discussing but they are able to verify (through affiliates and correspondents) the info before they relay it. Until local Journalists have that ability I don’t think Twitter or Facebook would be much help to them except to provide a medium for the public to react to some story or opinion they shared and other avenues already exist for that. I don’t know I could be wrong.

    Peace and love, Stero

  9. Stero,

    i never take anything reported/tweeted only by one or two persons as gospel. if i read that Obama was shot and killed i would NOT turn on CNN or BBC, i would go to their twitter feeds, and i would also hashtag Obama and see how widespread the tweets were and from what sources. i have developed my own set of ‘reliable’ sources.

    The point is if God forbid the VC here was attacked and i happened to be walking by and saw it or heard thru the UWI yamvine i can put out that news much quicker than any radio station or TV. so you’re getting news on the spot from people who happen to be witness to something and who are smart enough to be on twitter.

    Oh why am i wasting my time responding to you here when i have to put finishing touches to my Seaga interview questions??

    going to listen to Lovindeer now.

  10. I.M.F, I.M.F, no apshan no lef, so I.M.F, I.M.F hehe, that one put a smile on my face.

    I understand what you are saying, but at the same time your call for the English-speaking elites might be one of the reasons why the Jamaican media does not have the stature and influence that it should have in providing commentary and shaping social, economic, and political policies. English in Jamaica serves primarily as an academic language, so for many people it is a bore. We don’t typically relay information in English, and we would much rather receive it in the language that we speak from day to day.

    @IanBoyne and @emilycrooks would likely serve the interests of other english-speakers, and possibly widen the gulf between the informed and the under/ misinformed. That is how I see the print media functioning today. I wish Jamaicans were literate in Patwa, and that there was a Jamaican Creole news source/ television channel that was not created solely for the purpose of providing laughs. That would one sure way to bring news to more people, and increase the exchange of news and information between people who have access to tools like twidder and facebook.

    There I go again, forever with my head in the clouds.

  11. Hail Annie, when since yuh tek up archeology? Why are interviewing a political dinosaur? Just kdding….nuh badda tak offense.

    I was telling a friend that the Bruce Golding administration has successfully done the impossible: 1.) make some of us miss Edward Philip George Seaga’s always-confident, always-decisive, always-right style of leadership and 2.) make Omar Davis look like a economic and financial geneous.

    These are really hard feats to accomplish in such a short time.

    Hey, ask Seaga if im did really tek guns from Ronald Regan to fight communist expansionism in Jamaica. If im sey no…then ask im a wey dem did get suh much gun from…if not the CIA.

    Then ask im what happen to this heap a tax money wey im did owe. How come wi caan hear nutten bout it? It write-off? Was that the price im pay for giving up his ‘donship’?

    Then ask im about the IMF and how im was able to skillfully mek people believe that Is Manley Fault (IMF) why Jamaica had to go to the IMF after the JLP tief the 80 election…using Regan’s guns.

    Then ask im if Bundling Bruce Gelding is using the same play from the dinosaur politics play book…as again the free-spending socialists are being blamed. Even though is JLP sey fee everything…is a dyam free for all e.g. Montigue,Warmington, Robertson et al.

    Then run! Bob and weave… Shotta Seaga aim may still good.

    That said, you know I have tonnes of respect for Blinds. Besides, fossils are interesting stuff if you know what you are looking at.

    Oh, point taken on the eyewitness bit in your last comment.

    Peace and love, Stero.

  12. I absolutely LOVE that cartoon. Such beautiful imagery. I circulated it to all my friends when it came out. If the babies aren’t careful they might just suck the “mother” dry… who will they turn to then!? The more plump breasts of multilateral loan agencies, I suppose.

  13. Hey FP,

    good to hear from you. yeah the cartoon is wicked, captures it all.
    and you have the handle on the use of English here. its true, now there’s a fossil Stero, Jamaican English…people actually say things like ‘I crave your indulgence’ and Goodday Mistress so and so…

    yes, proficiency in Patois would be good, btw my Patwability went up exponentially since i started on Fbook…all those hilarious convos…most of them in Patwa…

    Stero, i did ask Seaga if he’s heard the new Lovindeer, he’d heard of it but no heard it yet.
    on the CIA in 1980 etc its all in his book, dem neva push dem nose inna Jahmekya bizniz…

  14. Annie, it seems as if there are too many LUDDITES,NEO-LUDDITES and TECHNOPHOBES that people certain strata of Jamaican society.

  15. EAR, you’re absolutely right. What i find ironic is that they’re mostly in the ‘learned classes’. Its people who fetishize English and literacy and the ability to communicate ‘properly’ who are shying away.

  16. Twitter, Facebook and other social networking media are the only way one can get information and generally communicate with earthquake devastated/ravaged Haiti at this moment.Annie, the Haitian devastation re communication substantiates your point extremely well.

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