Why the gap between Jamaican media and latest technologies?
Recently I heard Naomi Francis and Emily Crooks on Nationwide Radio exclaiming how Twitter has changed the way they consume content, especially television and other live streaming content, and how much they enjoyed watching The Voice while commenting simultaneously along with so many others on Twitter. A heartfelt Hallelujah. Our media has finally got it. Not a moment too soon for this is the end of 2013 and one day scholars and analysts will want to know why Jamaican media were such late adopters of new media in general; the first big-name journalist to start blogging here was Dionne Jackson-Miller in 2012.
There were several younger, lesser known journalists who started Twitter accounts in the early days and used social media tools (Laura Redpath was one of them), but there seems not to have been any recognition on the part of their media houses that what they were doing was valuable activity, that should have been taken up at the highest levels.
For those plebs like myself who started blogging in 2008, and tweeting in 2009, it remained a mystery why the media here seemed to be spurning the most revolutionary news and opinion-gathering tools to come along in decades. For us the Tessane Chin moment Ems and Nems were describing on Nationwide had happened in 2008 when we watched Obama’s historic win, while talking to each other on Twitter, not only regionally but globally.
I’d really love to know why it took Jamaica’s top media fraternity another five years to get clued in on the powers and pleasures of Twitter. I suggest it behooves them to take a good, long look at their own foot-dragging in this context and ask what it means. What does this hostility to change imply for Jamaica’s future? The world as we know it is irrevocably moving from analog to digital modes of communication. Abandon hope all ye who insist on ignoring this fact or who convinced themselves that social media was just a fad that would go away. If it might help let me quote from a post I wrote in January 2010, “Jamaica’s Twitter-shy Media: When will the would-be watchdogs of Jamaican democracy wake up?“:
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?
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.
May i recommend that our celebrated journalists…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?
I’ve also tried, unsuccessfully so far, to interest my colleagues at the University of the West Indies in logging on to things digital, for Twitter and Facebook are prime hunting grounds for researching social opinion, commentary and discourse in general. With a few exceptions (Damien King, Sonjah Stanley-Niaah, Donna Hope, Julian Cresser, Marcia Forbes) most UWI academics have spurned these new modes of communication and research. While it may once have been possible to claim to be world-class without having to prove it, be warned that the lack of a significant digital footprint today in any enterprise that claims to be cutting edge, immediately betrays the falsity of such truth claims.
Meanwhile according to a Daily Beast article listing the 10 most popular journalists on Twitter: “MuckRack…reported that the New York Times has the most journalists on Twitter, with 502 tweeting reporters, editors, and photographers. Reuters was just shy of the lead with 496.”
What started out as a pleasant holiday trip to a beach in St Ann over the weekend was suddenly transformed into a nightmare for a 28-year-old father of two when a jet ski raced out of the water on to land and into his children, killing one and leaving another battling for life.
Richard Hyman’s six-year-old daughter, Tonoya, was killed by a deadly blow from the jet ski, while yesterday, it remained touch and go for her four-year-old sister, Remonique.
This story is typical of the farcical reporting that passes for journalism in Jamaica. It focuses completely on the victims and says nothing about the perpetrator of this killing. Instead it makes it sound as if a rogue jet ski emerged from the water and struck this poor family down. Jet skis do not propel themselves. Tell us who was riding it and at exactly what beach this ‘accident’ happened. As usual Jamaican media is more interested in protecting the name and reputation of the wealthy (the owner of the jet ski, its rider, the beach in question). Nowhere in this story is there a sense of the outrage this unnecessary death represents. Disgusted.
Here’s the view of writer Marlon James, who posted the article on Facebook with the following comment:
So you’ve been looking around for an example of Yellow Journalism. Look no further. How do you report on a act of manslaughter without implicating the possibly rich, influential or foreign person responsible? You recast it as a Stephen King Horror story (minus the talent) of a rogue jetski becoming suddenly animated with freak power then charging on its own into an unsuspecting family, killing a kid in the process. Who was the skier? Which beach? Who owned the jet skis? Private or a company? It’s called Journalism, Gleaner. You’re here to give us the news, not protect the interests of whoever’s reputation might be damaged because they slaughtered a child.
Yes, yes I know all about the supposedly draconian libel laws in Jamaica but honestly isn’t this just a case of a senior journalist from the newspaper of record willfully gagging himself? Does the Gleaner realize how ridiculous these stories sound?
And its not just the Gleaner either. A few days ago, reporting on tensions in West Kingston the Observer carried this masterpiece of evasive, or is it defensive, reporting:
“Police intelligence suggests that since the arrest and subsequent extradition of Christopher Coke, individuals said to be related to a prominent family that claimed to rule the community from the nineties to 2010, and others claiming to be relatives of a late well-known resident, who claimed to be a ‘Don’, and was said to be the leader of the community in the1980s have become involved in a deadly battle for control,” a police statement Monday said.
What is this — a suss column?? These families and Dons have no names? In the 21st century is this what passes for reportage? What’s the deal here? Why is it so hard to just say that the descendants of Claudie Massop, the Don who ruled Tivoli Gardens once and those of Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, are locked in a deadly power struggle?
Just what we need when the country seems to be going down the tube…a media that won’t call a spade a spade.
A riposte to the suggestion that Dwayne Jones’s killing was no different from the 1000+ murders that happen each year in Jamaica.
Watch incredible CVM video footage of Dwayne Jones, 2 months before his lynching, talking about his fear of being killed at the hands of the police, the difficulties of being homeless and demonstrating his awesome dancing skills for the camera crew. Horrific to think that society could not protect him from his worst fears.
On August 13, after a weekend during which Jamaica got a lot of bad press in the international media over the Dwayne Jones case, BBC Radio’s highly acclaimed programme World Have Your Say, held a half hour discussion on the subject of being gay in Jamaica, triggered by the violent killing of Dwayne Jones on July 22nd. I was invited to be on the show along with local BBC rep Nick Davies, Jalna, convenor of a group called Quality of Citizenship Jamaica, who identified herself as lesbian and Bishop Alvin Bailey from the Portmore Holiness Christian Church. I was invited because the producers had read my blog, Active Voice, and the two posts I did on the Dwayne James murder.
The discussion was quite robust although Bishop Bailey seemed not to realize that this particular gender war is about the freedom of gays/homosexuals to be open about their sexuality in Jamaica. His comments suggested that much ado was being made about nothing and he even asked if he was living in the same Jamaica the rest of us were talking about. His contention was that there are many homosexuals living and working in Jamaica peacefully and that most of the murders of gay people were by fellow gays. When Jalna talked of the fear she felt at having threats directed at her when she had to walk on the street he asked how people knew she was a lesbian (!). This suggests that the good Reverend is unaware that the debate is about gays in Jamaica being able to ‘come out’ (of the closet) without being threatened with bodily harm, something not one of those hundreds of professionals feels comfortable enough to do. Conform to gender norms of dress and behaviour he seems to be saying, and every little thing’s gonna be alright. Three Little Birds…
Here’s an MP3 of the BBC World Have Your Say discussion on being transgender in Jamaica in case you want to listen to it yourselves. There’s a general introduction dealing with international news and then the discussion begins:
Nationwide’s Emily Crooks having listened to part of the BBC discussion, mentioned it on her radio programme the morning after, saying that the world didn’t realize that the lack of reaction to Dwayne Jones’s murder was not to be read as homophobia but as the sign of a population inured and calloused to murder in general…as if a lynching is equivalent to the random murders that take place daily. According to her the lack of outrage at his death was hardly exceptional for a population accustomed to 2-3 murders a day and he wasn’t the only child who had been murdered recently either, she added, just look at the shooting of 11 year old Tashanique James, in the west Kingston community of Denham Town on August 1.
I found this interesting. In an earlier discussion I’d had with the intrepid Simon Crosskill, a prominent TV journalist here, he made a similar point, claiming that he didn’t understand why Dwayne’s murder was any different or more deserving of attention than that of Tashanique James. Both Crosskill and Crooks claim like many others that there is simply no difference between Dwayne’s murder and all the other horrible murders that happen regularly in Jamaica. This view is also very widespread on social media and for that matter in traditional media.
Human rights campaigners tried to point out that Dwayne Jones’s murder qualified as a ‘hate crime’ but this didn’t help either. Many Jamaicans on social media were adamant that Jones’s death merited no special concern or attention. In the next paragraph I quote a few tweets that illustrate this sentiment.
A couple of days after the lynching former deputy police commissioner Mark Shields, who came here on loan from Scotland Yard 10 or so years ago, and is now resident in Jamaica, tweeted the following:
Mark Shields @marxshields: The lack of condemnation by political & church leaders re#DwayneJones murder is sending a message to Jamaica that it condones hate crimes.
And he received what now seems to me to be the standard party line in Jamaica from my good friend @Grindacologist. To wit:
Grindacologist @Grindacologist: RT @marxshields: lack of condemnation by political & church leaders re #DwayneJones murder ¤ 1000+ murders a year…why this one special?
The two following tweets came weeks later, during or immediately after the BBC show, but they express almost exactly the same view:
Dat Mawga Bwoi @MrKritique
What is different about this 17 year old that has been killed tho why this much publicity? 17 year old die everyday in JA @anniepaul
Dennis Marlon @dennisbroox
…The retired Priest was killed too. That was sad too. Jamaicans moved on too. Not that special in the indifference dept
So what’s going on here? Surely even an imbecile can see that there’s a difference between an ordinary murder and a lynching. Neither Emily Crooks nor Simon Crosskill could ever be mistaken for imbeciles. What is the blind spot that makes top Jamaican journalists and others oblivious to this difference? On the grounds of that fact alone the Dwayne Jones killing is immediately in a separate category from shootings like that of Tashanique James who was killed by a stray bullet in a gang war in Denham Town. Everyone is in agreement that killings such as that of young Tashanique are wrong. Gangs have been targeted by police for years now and there are policies in place (as ineffectual as they may seem) to remedy this situation.
There are no such policies in place to deter mob killings, which have been on the rise in the last few years. It’s barely a year since that horrific attack by a mob on a man and his daughter in Trelawny, in which the father was chopped to death, his daughter left severely injured and their house burnt to the ground. Their sin? They had the misfortune to be related to a young man suspected by the mob of having ‘sodomized’ two young boys who had drowned in a nearby river. The man who was killed was the young man’s stepfather, not even a blood relative. But here’s the clincher: Police reports said that there was no sign whatsoever that the drowned boys had been sodomized (buggered). Yet this mob descended on the house of a young man they insisted had violated the boys and when they didn’t find him there put to death his stepfather and slashed his sister with machetes.
THAT was a good occasion to talk about homophobia but did we? NO. We shoved it under the carpet, pretended that all was normal in good old Jamdown, and moved right along. We certainly never got to hear the kind of details about the victims of that mob killing we’ve seen about Tashanique James, the 11 year old girl mentioned earlier.
Similarly we know far more about Dwayne Jones, the family he came from, the circumstances of his abandonment at their hands, who his friends were, the kind of person he was, from international media who were able to glean all this from as far away as Canada where the Toronto Star devoted the entire front page of last Sunday’s paper to this story. None of the media houses here considered it worth their while to humanize him by letting us know these details about him. Contrast this with the killing of Tashanique James which prompted the Gleaner to devote its senior-most journalist, Arthur Hall, to the story, in which he proceeded to do just that. His front page story, Outspoken child becomes victim of gunman’s bullet, showed us the human face of the little girl who had been so brutally cut down and then did a follow up story on the gang warfare that had resulted in her death.
No such consideration for Dwayne Jones. Not even though he died in extraordinary circumstances which in themselves merited front page coverage. But oh no, how dare you say this lack of media attention was because we’re homophobic? It’s just that the media can’t keep up with all the murders that take place here everyday.
In a sensational posthumous scoop CVM TV announced on its main newscast two days ago that they had just realized that in covering another story in the St James area two months ago, their reporters had actually met Dwayne Jones and done an in-depth interview with him. Not only that, he dances for their camera, extraordinarily lithe, bouncing with life–so hard to imagine such vitality snuffed out for nothing at all. It’s a measure of the dysfunctionality of our main media houses, and the class and gender biases they suffer from, that it took them three weeks to realize they had this stunning footage. You can watch it in the video below. The TV host is none other than my good friend Simon Crosskill, mentioned earlier in this post. This is how Jamaican media should have covered this terrible killing from the beginning.
In case anyone thinks I harp too much on the shortcomings of the media let me point out one of the dangers of local press not recording a murder in all its gory detail especially when you know that it’s likely to attract international attention. Look at this conversation I came across on Facebook, posted on the wall of a group calling itself I AM JAMAICA, the day the Associated Press story hit the news all over the world about a week ago. A woman named Greta asks if anyone’s seen the story which appeared on Yahoo.com and posts it. Another person named Dean reassures her that the foreign media has made all this up pointing to the lack of eyewitness accounts, photographs and generally coverage of the murder by local media to make his argument(!):
Greta Mellerson: I AM JAMAICA
Did you hear about this, got this from yahoo http://news.yahoo.com/jamaica-transgender-teen-murdered-mob-070446416.html
In Jamaica, transgender teen murdered by mob
MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica (AP) — Dwayne Jones was relentlessly teased in high school for being effeminate until he dropped out. His father not only kicked him out of the house at the age of 14 but also helped jeering neighbors push the youngster from the rough Jamaican slum where he grew up.
Greta Mellerson: Even though I am anti-gay, I don’t think we should go as far as to kill people for what they want to become or do in life. As long as it does not hurt anyone in the interim.
Dean Strachan: its false reporting generated by the gay lobby similar to how the republicans and Faux news creates stories that doesnt relate to the real events.
the gay teen was shot to death and dumped by his friends.
then they made up this story about him being attacked by a straight mob in a dancehall on** a monday night at 3 am.
Yet there is no eye witness report nor pictures.
with all the cellphone cameras in jamaica and cheap phone credits.
not even the owners of the dancehall.
moreover permits have to br issued to have dance.
and no permit would be issued by the police for a monday night dance.
it also have the teen beaten and chopped.
Only he was killed by the bullets or five gun shots.
its just another murdoch type entertainment for news.
Greta Mellerson: You see de now Dean Strachan, people reading this would believe it and don’t have somebody like you fe straighten out de story! Now this is coming from yahoo (USA), that means lots of people maybe cancelling their trips to the island because of this, that means less $. So it could be a political move! thanks for straightening out dis story ya!
Dean Strachan: the story has been all over the place, but the government dont think it is important enogh to deal with it before it start affect the revinues. then they wiill spend millions to mop up it.
Incredibly the group’s catchline says “I AM JAMAICA is responsible for attracting and developing foreign investments. We will guide you throughout your decision making process.” Not sure why they think investors would be attracted to a country where occasional lynchings take place, homosexuals are told they’re not wanted, there are so many murders the media can’t keep up and the justice and police system are shambolic.
Are we ever going to give up the fondly held myth that Jamaica is an English-speaking, heterosexual, devoutly Christian nation of polite people who run fast and make great music? Your guess is as good as mine.
Jamaican media trips over itself in its haste to curtail freedom of speech
In the last six months I’ve virtually stopped buying the newspapers completely, even the Sunday papers which was all I had been buying for some years now. Last Sunday I decided to buy the papers just to see if any of our esteemed columnists had mentioned the gruesome mob killing of Dwayne Jones which had occurred less than a week before.
Alas not a single one had commented on it nor did I find anything else pertaining to the cross dresser’s murder in any of the numerous sections which piled up on the floor as I went through them.
I did read something that gave me pause on the Gleaner’s editorial page. The editorial addressed Milton Samuda’s extremely strange behaviour in the wake of a press conference involving Olympians Asafa Powell and Sherone Simpson, and the recent controversy the two were embroiled in. Samuda, a lawyer, is the lead attorney for the two athletes whose ‘A samples’ had tested positive for banned substances.
In what has proven to be a clear case of wearing one hat too many, Mr. Samuda (also the chairman of Television Jamaica (TVJ) and board member of its parent company RJR—virtually the only journalists allowed at the press conference were from these two entities), first demanded that journalists stick to a pre-approved list of questions and when they departed from this, used his managerial clout to demand that the reporters surrender their recording devices to him. Perhaps cowed by his powerful position the journalists meekly handed over their devices. The next day the recordings were returned with the offending questions and answers edited out.
As the Gleaner editorial correctly pointed out “Mr. Samuda’s role as defence lawyer and a custodian of the media collided violently in this case.” He had flouted one of the fundamental rules of journalism–freedom of speech. The journalists concerned were also taken to task for spinelessly submitting to Samuda’s imperious demands.
I then moved on to the bottom two thirds of the editorial page which is devoted to a segment called Public Affairs. ‘Ineptocracy Squared’ blared the headline to an article by Gordon Robinson, who normally writes a regular column in the Gleaner’s In Focus section. The opening of the article informed me that this was a thing of the past.
“People ask me why I no longer write for The Gleaner,” began Robinson, going on to explain the convoluted circumstances which led to his resignation as a Gleaner columnist:
Here’s how it happened. In a column headlined ‘Ineptocracy at the Racetrack’ published May 14, 2013, I took Andrew Azar to task for his silly and baseless comments made before a meeting intended, in my opinion, for Caymanas Track Limited’s (CTL) CEO and “stakeholders” to discuss and explain the board’s previously announced intention to cut purses.
… To my surprise, Andrew, absent when the board’s decision was announced, attended that meeting with “stakeholders” and made inflammatory statements, which could only have the effect of undermining the very board of which he was a member. In that context, as a result of that unexpected input, the meeting (and its purpose) was “crashed”. I pointed out why his public utterances were, in my opinion, inappropriate, inaccurate, reckless and improper. I tried to educate Andrew Azar on how to “separate his personal role from his role as CTL director”. I reminded that no company director is appointed to “serve” any interest but that of the company, and cited Section 174 of the Companies Act as authority for that trite law.
Well, to paraphrase the great Paul Keens-Douglas, who tell me say so? The Gleaner (not me) got a letter from a lawyer. Instead of finding the nearest trash receptacle, most serious newspapers’ preferred place to file lawyers’ letters, it took the letter seriously.
Without going into the ins and outs of this complicated case let me just say I found the irony of the situation quite funny. In the wake of Robinson’s criticisms Azar’s lawyers issued the Gleaner with a defamation claim. According to Robinson the Gleaner rushed to publish an apology without so much as pausing to find out if there was any merit to the claim:
Nobody asked Mr Jobson [Azar’s lawyer] to specify which of my words were defamatory and what defamatory meanings were alleged. Nobody asked to see the alleged invitation. Nobody reminded Mr Franz Jobson that an opinion (that Azar, a public official politically appointed to a government-owned company, “crashed the meeting”) honestly held, based on uncontested published material wasn’t actionable no matter how stubbornly the columnist stuck to the opinion in the face of competing assertions. It never occurred to The Gleaner that it wasn’t in any way demeaning to Azar to allege that he “crashed” a meeting that, as board member, he was absolutely entitled to “crash”.
In a rush, like Beenie Man, The Gleaner‘seditor offered Azar an “apology”. For what? For quoting him accurately? For making a fair and unassailable critique of the nonsense he spouted? The Gleaner‘seditor published an “apology” that asserted the newspaper was “satisfied” Azar was invited to the meeting. Well, whoop-de-doo! Again, so what?
How on earth had Gordon managed to get the Gleaner to carry this Jeremiad detailing their own fecklessness right under an editorial in which they were chiding the board member of a rival entity, RJR’s Milton Samuda, for abusing his powers? The answer came towards the end of the article.
“The Gleaner‘s unnecessary apology damaged my own reputation as a senior counsel and one of Jamaica’s foremost horse-racing experts,” said Robinson who no doubt slapped the newspaper with a defamation claim of his own. And trust me there is nothing that frightens a Jamaican media entity more than the threat of a libel or defamation suit. Merely mention the word ‘libel’ and the editors will be reduced to shivering, quivering wrecks willing to toss freedom of speech out the window along with the baby and its bathwater.
What can one do but laugh at this absurd state of affairs? The Gleaner takes to task the journalists who bowed to Samuda’s edict that they hand over their recordings but when it’s faced with a similar situation jumps with alacrity to offer an apology when none is required. Ay Sah! All I can do is shake my head at the farce that passes for journalism in this country and for the long-suffering, stellar journos who are stuck in this mess.
After Dan Rather’s in-depth coverage of the Lotto Scam in Jamaica might it be a good time to ask why local media doesn’t produce similarly aggressive, investigative reporting?
News outlets in Jamaica this week were inundated with coverage of and responses to the US media’s unprecedented focus on the Lotto Scam, a locally generated con game, whose victims are elderly Americans. Former 60 Minutes stalwart Dan Rather visited Jamaica some weeks ago so his in-depth exposé of the scam, Just Hang Up, which aired on March 12, complete with heart-rending interviews with some of the victims didn’t come as a surprise. The documentary was timed to air in tandem with evidence presented to the US Senate’s Committee on Ageing yesterday. At least two other major US channels also aired stories on the scam.
The US Embassy in Jamaica obligingly posted links on Facebook with the following note:
As you are aware, there has been a great deal of U.S. media attention focused on advanced-fee fraud (also known as “lotto scams”) recently. Below are the links to the Dan Rather, CBS and NBC stories.
I haven’t yet seen the entire documentary featuring Rather (its available free on iTunes though only in the US not in Jamaica) but the excerpts shown on TV here have been riveting. The American TV team even lured a scammer, tracked down by his IP address, to a meeting in Montego Bay, showing him live and direct for all to see. Naturally the impact has been sensational especially because this well-crafted documentary was shown on prime time TV in the United States. It suddenly came home to Jamaicans that ‘Brand Jamaica’, as local technocrats and the media in general have taken to calling it, was going to take a battering.
Relying on tourism and American visitors as much as Jamaica does this could be potentially devastating.
What does it mean that serious crimes like the Lotto Scam and the Tivoli genocide (the 2010 killing of 73 plus citizens by the State in its pursuit of fugitive don, Christopher Coke) are exposed by foreign not local media I asked on Twitter yesterday. For although the media here has carried any number of stories on the Lotto Scam, many of them bizarrely claiming that most of the scammers are gay, we’ve never been given a true idea of the scale of the problem, affecting enough Americans for their political representatives to start raising the alarm about it.
Several media folk I follow on Twitter reacted negatively to my question, interpreting it as a slight or a claim that there had been no local media attention to the scam. It s true that there have been many stories about the Lotto scam here. To my mind however there’s a qualitative difference in the way the story was investigated and reported on American TV and the way it’s been carried in the local media which mainly focused on the scam when police action brought it to the forefront. Piqued by public criticism Simon Crosskill played some of CVM’s previously aired coverage of the Lotto Scam last night. It did cover much of the same ground as Rather’s documentary but the audio was poor and too many of the people interviewed had their faces obscured and voices disguised, thus robbing it of the impact it could have had.
Are there some stories local media consider too dangerous to touch? or don’t have the resources to I wondered puzzling over this variance in the quality of media coverage. In the case of the 2010 Tivoli carnage also there had been nothing in local media to approach the in-depth investigative article by American journalist Mattathias Schwartz whose exposé provided evidence that the US had given Jamaica military assistance in the May 2010 incursion into Tivoli despite the Jamaican government’s claims to the contrary. In both cases it was the American media that brought these stories to international attention, and sustained interest in them, not local media.
Let it be noted that Jamaican media are perfectly capable of executing well-researched, hard-hitting, in-depth stories when they’re ready to. In 2004 Cliff Hughes’s TV programme Impact won an Emmy in the United States for its documentary on sniper Lee Boyd Malvo called ‘The Potter and the Clay’. It was so good it not only attracted the attention of the US media, it won one of the most coveted journalism awards there. Other journalists such as Earl Moxam, Simon Crosskill, Dionne Jackson-Miller and Emily Crooks are as good as or better than their American peers.
Is it that there’s a lack of political will from the big media houses to provide the best journalists with the required resources and time to follow up the really important stories? Or are there more sinister reasons why Jamaica doesn’t have aggressive, exposé-driven investigative news outlets such as 60 Minutes and ABC’s 20/20?
The closest thing Jamaica has had in recent times to similar hard-hitting TV newsmagazines, was Doubletake, produced by Anthony Miller and CARIMAC lecturer Yvette Rowe for TVJ in 2000-2001. Despite winning awards the programme was phased out after only 8 or 9 episodes because it was considered too hard hitting and perhaps too close to the truth for comfort. It was felt that the broadcasters’ relentless focus on corruption and calling out politicans and others without fear or fanfare was ‘mashing too many corns’. This was the perception of the hosts of the programme; the station apparently discontinued it for lack of sponsorship although it was extremely popular and well-received by the public. Why a popular, well-made documentary programme would have difficulty finding sponsors is anybody’s guess. But it reinforces the point I’m making about the lack of will on the part of those with the means to enable and sustain high quality, hard-hitting journalism.
Among other subjects Doubletake covered, were the death and funeral of Grants Pen area leader Andrew Phang in Death of a Don, colour and race issues in The Browning Syndrome, the politics of the 100 Lane Massacre and other such matters. Whatever was the issue of the day was grist for their mill and with a miller like Anthony, no holds were barred. We desperately need a show like Doubletake again.
Information famine on Patrick Powell, the suspected X6 killer
See just as i thought! If Jamaican newspapers were serious they would have had the story all ready and waiting to roll out the moment the police charged Patrick Powell with murder. Everything you ever wanted to know about the mystery suspect; Who exactly is Patrick Powell? What makes him tick? They would tell us how he made his m/billions; how many cars he has; how many children; details of the crime his son is charged with; photos of his house, wife and workplace. Tell us why on earth this man is so powerful! And more!
Serious newspapers/media entities have obituaries on political leaders, business moguls, socialites, the glitterati–ready and waiting to trot out in case one of them suddenly kicks the bucket. They do that for major news stories such as that of the X6 killer too but not in Jamaica it seems–there is woefully little in the papers today about Patrick Powell and who he really is. I mean not even the Star has anything!
Apparently Powell, who has connections to the entertainment industry in Jamaica is also known as Nigga Charlie…
Perhaps we’ll find a Patrick Powell info feast in the Sunday papers? Let’s hope so. I’m certainly looking forward to my copy of the Herald…
The Rebekah Brooks arrest shows up the ineffectualness of Jamaican media
As if to underscore the point made in my last post–that it was disingenuous of Jamaican media to make excuses for their refusal to identify the names of prime suspects by blaming the police for not releasing their names (as if the police are the only means to get access to information about them!) –a classic example of what I mean has just unfurled in Britain with the arrest of former Murdoch media head Rebekah Brooks. The British police didn’t identify her either–but this hasn’t kept the media there from verifying and announcing the arrest (see story below).
What then keeps Jamaican media from doing the same? Why does the public here put up with this nonsense?
Incidentally @ravisomaiya, one of the authors of the NYT article below tweeted the following this morning:
Everyone I’ve spoken to since the news broke suggests #Brooks will use the arrest to avoid questions in Parliament. #NotW
British Police Arrest Rebekah Brooks in Phone Hacking
By ALAN COWELL and RAVI SOMAIYA Published: July 17, 2011
LONDON — The British police on Sunday arrested Rebekah Brooks, the former head of Rupert Murdoch’s media operations in Britain, according to a former associate at News International, the newspaper group at the heart of a phone-hacking scandal convulsing the Murdoch empire, the British political elite and the police.
A police statement did not identify her by name but said a 43-year-old woman had been detained for questioning by officers investigating both the phone-hacking scandal and payments made to corrupt police officers. A News International official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that Ms. Brooks had been arrested.
Britain’s Press Association news agency said she was arrested by appointment at a London police station at approximately midday and remains in custody.
The terse Metropolitan Police statement went thus:
“The MPS [Metropolitan police service] has this afternoon, Sunday 17 July, arrested a female in connection with allegations of corruption and phone hacking.
“At approximately 12.00 a 43-year-old woman was arrested by appointment at a London police station by officers from Operation Weeting [phone hacking investigation] together with officers from Operation Elveden [bribing of police officers investigation]. She is currently in custody.
“She was arrested on suspicion of conspiring to intercept communications, contrary to Section1(1) Criminal Law Act 1977 and on suspicion of corruption allegations contrary to Section 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906.
“The Operation Weeting team is conducting the new investigation into phone hacking.
“Operation Elveden is the investigation into allegations of inappropriate payments to police. This investigation is being supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
“It would be inappropriate to discuss any further details regarding these cases at this time.”
Jamaican police statements no doubt end with a similar caution. The problem is our media treats this as some kind of divine order rather than a suggestion. Nary another word issues from them on the matter. Some people think this may be because of our libel laws, slavishly copied (like the buggery law) from British libel law. But if the British media doesn’t find their libel law a shackle on their ability to publish information of public interest why does it have this gagging effect on media here? Have their laws been modified? If so can we modify ours to match posthaste? Mimicry has never been a problem before…
Seet deh? I rest my case. can we now agree that Jamaican media has been wantonly derelict in its duty to inform the public?
Jamaican media’s vow of silence is ruminated upon…and speculated about.
Kudos to James Harding, editor of The Times (UK) for his newspaper’s coverage of the Murdoch empire’s embarrassing collapse. Despite the fact that his paper is owned by the one and only Rupert Murdoch Harding has treated the story as if it were a regular news item and given it front page coverage as any self-respecting newspaper should.
What do you want to bet that this would never happen with our two leading papers were the news stories about the respective business empires that own and fund them? Hell these are media entities that refrain from naming names even when you’re the prime suspect in a murder case–unless of course you happen to live below Crossroads in which case they splash your name around with abandon. In fact in the instant case of the seismic events shaking up the Murdoch-owned media subsidiaries the story would probably go like this if they involved a local magnate:
Day of atonement as media chiefs quit
July 16 2011 12:01AM
The publisher of one of the island’s leading dailies, Mr. Nobody, issued a series of abject apologies and heralded sweeping changes to his newspaper business yesterday as he sought to repair the damage of the phone-hacking scandal. The media mogul and chief executive parted company with two longstanding allies in a clearout of senior executives. Hours after accepting the resignation of Editor-in-chief, Ms Anonymous, at Newspaper X, the leading businessman also bade farewell to #Itwasn’tme, the chief executive of ZZZ, publisher of The ABC. Whereas the resignation of Ms Anon as chief executive of Newspaper X appeared inevitable, the departure of #Itwasn’tme, who has served the media giant on both sides of the Caribbean for more than 50 years, was a surprise. Please stay tuned for further updates on these cataclysmic events…
A friend who shall–in keeping with the craze for anonymity–remain nameless, said he thought that the real news was to be gleaned from the social columns of the leading papers, which we also won’t name, in case they sue us. The fact is that there’s absolutely no danger of a News of the World type scandal happening here because far from hacking into people’s phones to get the full story our media routinely averts its gaze from the crucial stories affecting us plying us instead with a choice selection of press releases from the corporate world.
Up to now we don’t have a comprehensive printed account of what is going on in the case of the X6 killer, though the alleged owner/driver of the car, Patrick Powell, has been arrested. We also heard on radio that Mr. Powell has refused, on the instructions of his attorney, Patrick Atkinson, to speak or explain anything. He has also apparently refused to turn over his firearm for examination. The Gleaner also issued a stern editorial advising the Police Commissioner to release details of the raid of the home of a senior police officer in connection with the same killing. One doesn’t get the impression that the police not naming the leading suspect or the policeman whose house was raided would have kept the British media from unearthing those names and publishing them along with more detail than you could possibly want.
On the contrary island journalism ensures that literally little or nothing is known about this senior cop and what his connection to the case might be nor is any real information available from the newspapers of record about the alleged killer of the young schoolboy. Powell is to face an ID parade next week approximately 3 weeks since the killing of Khajeel Mais, who was buried today. What are the chances that anyone will be able to remember well enough to accurately identify Powell as the shooter in question? Meanwhile news broke yesterday that the Supreme Court of Jamaica had overturned the amendment to the bail act of July 2, 2010, ruling that it was/is unconstitutional. Speculation is rife as to the effects this might have on the X6 case.
Meanwhile I drove on Barbican Road today and noticed that in the area of Grants Pen Ave the road has been completely resurfaced, a sure sign that elections are looming. As a Facebook friend (who shall remain faceless) announced the other day:
Notice: The General Elections are upon us, with it comes several job opportunities – “person to call talk shows”, “person to write letters to editors”, “persons to peacefully block roads” & several others. Interested persons can send CV to my Inbox with a $500 processing fee. Thanks.
Syria’s Hafez Assad was a brutal despot who ruled the country with an iron fist and a 65,000-strong secret police force for 20 years. When he died, his son Bashar took over and is today fighting a growing insurgency. A joke that did the rounds in Hafez Assad’s time seems pertinent. One of his aides informed him, “Mr President, you won the election with a 99.7 percent majority. That means only three-tenths of 1 per cent of the people did not vote for you. What more could you ask for?”
Assad’s reply: “Their names.”
You would think we lived in Syria, judging by the vow of silence that seems to prevail in the media here. SMH, it seems the ‘informer fi dead’ culture has strangled journalism in Jamaica for good. There is little or no freedom of information in this island.
Double standards in Jamaican media: an update on the X6 killer, Chinese restaurant in mandeville etc
Well, well, well–how interesting! An article in today’s Gleaner ‘Puzzle over lack of name in X6-killer probe’ follows up on several of the issues raised in my last post without even a nod in the direction of Active Voice. Here’s a quote from that article:
Police investigators probing the death of 17-year-old schoolboy Khajeel Mais have been accused of double standards for their decision not to release the identity of the alleged BMW X6 killer as a person of interest.
Julian Jones-Griffiths, the manager for dancehall star Mavado (real name David Brooks), who has twice been listed as a person of interest, said this move by the police is “unfathomable” given the evidence they have already collected and the haste with which other individuals are identified.
Does any of this ring a bell? Never mind, we won’t take offence, it just goes to show the influence of this blog, that the major newspaper in the island seems to follow in its footsteps. In fact I’ll treat it as a compliment. Thanks Old Lady of North Street!
Meanwhile the Observer carries an article today about a man fitting the description they published yesterday of the putative X6 killer to a T, a Chris Kerr, who wants to establish that he is NOT a suspect in the case. See? This is what happens when you refuse to name the person being investigated by the police; in protecting his identity you expose a wide range of people who superficially fit the description to speculation and innuendo. How does that make any sense?
Similarly in the case of the Chinese restaurant in Mandeville rather than naming the restaurant concerned, after it was established that 14 people fell ill after eating there, the public was warned to be wary of eating at any Chinese restaurant in the area!
The ‘restaurant of interest’ has attracted far more negative publicity by pulling strings to keep its name from the public than it would have if it had humbly apologized for the incident, reimbursed the patrons who fell ill and paid their hospital bills. At the moment it isn’t clear if those who suffered the consequences of eating contaminated fried rice have been compensated in any way for this. It has also exposed all the Chinese restaurants in the Mandeville area to the suspicion of patrons who are rightfully wary of eating at any of them.
The threat of being outed in the media is the only recourse hapless members of the public have when they become victims of wrongdoing–even if the damage was unintentional. In a similar case a group of friends who had food poisoning after eating at TGIF in Kingston some weeks ago had to resort to exposing the incident on local media (fortunately one of them is a journalist himself and could broadcast the information on his show without having to rely on the tender mercies of our news media) before they suddenly got calls from the head office in Trinidad and Tobago apologizing profusely and refunding their money including tips! Till then the local management of TGIF had arrogantly refused to refund the money spent!
On a considerably more depressing note the security guard mentioned in my previous post, who was accused of killing his wife and mother-in-law was set upon by a mob who hacked him to death, ‘limbed’ him and burnt the remains. This is the man whose identity the Observer blithely revealed while coyly concealing the name of the person of interest in the X6 killing.
Breaking news: Yesterday’s post on Active Voice is breaking all previous records for number of hits, with 3,030 page views since this morning. Today has been the busiest day on my blog with a total of 3,720 views, breaking the previous record held by Cake Soap and Creole of 1,167 hits.
Also the Observer is announcing that the suspected X6 killer has been arrested on re-entry into the island. His name however is still being withheld!
Answers some questions about the owner of the BMW X6 whose driver killed a 17 yr old Jamaican and why his identity is being protected by the media, police, church and government.
November 6, 2011
UPDATE! For readers searching for information about the Sunday Herald you can tune in to my interview with the chairman of the board Rev Garnett Roper about what’s happening with the Sunday Herald at 9 am Jamaican time on Newstalk 93FM, it streams live on the internet at http://newstalk.com.jm/LiveStream.htm. Back to my July 10 post below….
I’ve been very irregular with updating this blog. Largely this is because in February this year I started doing two weekly radio programmes, Double Standards and The Silo, on Newstalk 93. Coupled with my full time job at the University of the West Indies this leaves me with very little spare time. Something had to give and alas, its been Active Voice…
Double Standards, which I co-host with Yvette Rowe, a BBC-trained radio and TV broadcaster attempts to give listeners a more in-depth, analytical sense of issues in the news, both locally and globally. We also look at media coverage in general, pinpointing where we think it’s biased or employing a double standard, or just plain inadequate, leaving the public ill-informed, in the dark or providing it with little more than a succession of press releases. In the last week or two there’ve been so many instances of this that we can barely keep up.
For instance the cover page headline in today’s Observer, one of the two main daily newpapers in Jamaica, blares ‘Who is the X6 Killer?’ The question relates to the leading article in the paper, illustrated by the image below, about a killing that has shocked the country.
About two weeks ago Khajeel Mais, a 17-year old schoolboy travelling in a taxi, was shot dead by the driver of a BMW X6 which the taxi had accidentally grazed. In an apparent act of road rage the BMW driver leapt out of his vehicle and proceeded to fire at the taxi, which turned and tried to flee. One of the bullets entered the head of the unfortunate 17-year old killing him immediately.
Since then it has emerged that the owner of the luxury car is a highly connected businessman with ties to top policemen as well as politicians. No doubt this is why its driver felt empowered enough to attack the taxi in the brazen way that he did. No doubt this is why the major media houses here are scared to name either owner or driver. We don’t even know if they were one and the same or different.
All week long rumours have been flying about the murderous X6 driver to the effect that the man had left the country within hours of the shooting and that a senior cop with connections to the driver had been caught concealing information pertinent to the case. Although the policeman’s name has been mentioned at least once in a television news broadcast I saw, the alleged shooter’s identity, as well as the name of the owner of the car, have carefully been kept from the public in much the same way that the name of a Chinese restaurant in Mandeville, whose fried rice sickened at least 14 patrons, sending some to hospital, has been punctiliously withheld from the public.
What’s the deal here?
According to the Observer:
While the name of the alleged shooter cannot be published because he has not been charged with a crime, there are some things the Sunday Observer can report about him, based on interviews with persons who have intimate knowledge of him.
Clearly the newspaper IS in a position to divulge the name of the suspect, or the ‘person of interest’ to use a technical term, judging by the wealth of detail it goes on to provide about him. He’s “of dark complexion”, is a Canadian citizen and “has deep ties with both major political parties, though he is said to have greater loyalty to the Opposition People’s National Party”.
The murder suspect — who is a real estate developer and who is said to have enormous wealth — is also linked to other major local figures from the criminal underworld, while maintaining “very deep” connections with senior members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
The suspect, who over the years has kept a low profile, is said to have real estate developments in several posh St Andrew communities, including Liguanea and Norbrook.
Additionally, he’s said to have developments along Red Hills Road and owns several other multi-million-dollar properties in the Constant Spring area of St Andrew, among others.
He’s also the owner of a private jet.
The claim that the paper can’t publish the name of the suspect because “he has not been charged with a crime” is a crock of shit; this has never kept them from trumpeting the names of other less influential ‘suspects’ who have yet to be charged with a crime. In the very same paper there is another story: Security guard sought in mother-daughter murder:
A security guard is being sought by the Savanna-la-Mar police following the killing of two women and the injury of their neighbour during a dispute in Farm District, Westmoreland yesterday.
The accused has been identified as 25-year-old Roche Tomlinson.
The guard who is on the run, is yet to be charged with the murder, yet the paper boldly tells us his name! (omg! news has just broken that the security guard was killed and dismembered, then set ablaze by vigilantes, wonder if this has anything to do with his name being called?) Similarly some months ago Jamaican media, including the Observer had no qualms about bandying about the names of Vybz Kartel and Mavado when the two were taken in by the police for questioning as ‘persons of interest’ in crimes we are yet to be informed about. Mavado even complained of the resulting damage to his reputation but its not clear what compensation if any he has recieved. The same goes for Kartel who was kept in the lockup for two weeks prompting him to appear on stage at last year’s Reggae Sumfest in handcuffs and prison uniform.
Photo of Kartel: Marcia Forbes
And only a couple of months ago we heard all over the media that DJ Spragga Benz was wanted for questioning by the police in connection with a triple murder. Apparently nothing came of it because he’s out and about. Has he been compensated for damage to his reputation? The answer is a resounding NO. Talk about double standards!
Well, guess what? The Sunday Herald names the owner of the car, calmly and without any fanfare, in a short news item titled “Police awaiting forensic tests on BMW X6”. It’s Patrick Powell. Of course we don’t know whether this was in fact the car that was involved in the accident, nor do we know, even if it was the car, that the owner was driving it at the time of the shooting.
But why is it only the Herald that had the balls to come out and name the owner of the car which is being investigated by the police? That’s what i want to know. More power to them! Again from Twitter: RT @JustSherman: Jamaica Observer and Gleaner couldn’t cross it, but the Jamaica Herald can swim #onlyrealjamaicannewpaper