From Analog to Digital: Mind the Gap

Why the gap between Jamaican media and latest technologies?

analogue clock cartoons, analogue clock cartoon, funny, analogue clock picture, analogue clock pictures, analogue clock image, analogue clock images, analogue clock illustration, analogue clock illustrations
Can’t afford the rights to this cartoon, but am carrying it with a link to the original site as free advertising…

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’s our excuse?

How Indian Journalists are using Twitter

How Indian journalists are using Twitter

The excerpt below is from a Neiman Journalism Lab article on Indian journalists and their use or non-use of social media. I was struck by the following paragraphs because of the connection to my previous post Why Twitter is Essential for Journalists in which i asked when the top brass of Jamaican journalism was going to start using Twitter, one of the most revolutionary new news-gathering tools available today.

The Delhi gang rape case prompted many journalists to use Twitter for updates on events and immediate responses from activists. To a greater extent than in previous protests, social media helped journalists keep a finger on the pulse of middle class India and get their immediate feedback on important issues. An Australian reporter said that “Twitter was really helpful to get a sense of the public sentiment and developments.” He followed the #delhigangrape hashtag, the official Twitter account of the Indian government, women’s groups, pressure groups, and Indian media on the subject.

Venkataramakrishnan, the journalist who found 140 characters limiting, nonetheless said that the protests have been incubators for social media sophistication in India. “Following the Anna Hazare case and the Delhi gang rape case, social media began to achieve a critical mass,” he told us.

Many journalists cited the importance of social media for background information. A journalist from The Hindu told us “I look at tweets by our own editor, editors from other newspapers, well known journalists such as Pritish Nandy [a columnist with The Times of India and the Hindi newspaper Dainik Bhaskar], Abhijit Majumder [editor of the Delhi edition of the Hindustan Times], and Saikat Dutta [a Delhi-based editor of the newspaper DNA]. I also look up tweets by television journalists such as Shiv Aroor [deputy editor at Headlines Today]. You get a mix of opinions from their tweets. Knowing these people’s perspectives helps me during coverage — but only indirectly…I rely on what I see when I am on the ground.”

Interestingly the overall thrust of the article I’m quoting is that in countries like India social media only reaches a tiny percentage of people and therefore may legitimately be overlooked. In Jamaica the number of people who have access to the internet and use social media  via cellphones is much higher. Low internet penetration is all the more reason for media heads and top journalists to be au fait with the latest technologies so they can use it to inform themselves and their audiences who aren’t as well linked.

Why Twitter is essential for Journalists

An attempt (once again) to rally our top journalists to start using Twitter, the definitive newsgathering tool, before its too late.

investigativetweeting

2012 was the year a handful of name-brand Jamaican journalists decided it was time to start using Twitter. That was pretty late in the day already. The majority however are still holding back, perhaps signalling their impending mortality or the end of their shelf lives as journalists to take seriously? We still have no @ianboyne, @markwignall, @cliffhughes, @MartinHenry (perhaps the only local science writer!) and many others who straddle traditional media like local giants.

This post is dedicated to all the non-tweeting local giants of Jamaican journalism: The following quote from How to break into science writing using your blog and social media (#sci4hels), a Scientific American article should clue you in on why you’re shortchanging your audiences by continuing to spurn the latest newsgathering technologies such as Twitter. In addition this useful but long article provides a lot of great information for journalists in general on how to use social media to find new audiences and outlets.

“Let’s focus on Twitter now. It is essential for a journalist. Not having – and using – a Twitter account today is like not having an email address ten years ago (and yes, some cutting-edge people are completely abandoning email and doing all of their communications over social media).

Big companies have suffered losses because their old-timey PR teams were unaware of the backlash on social media, and then incapable of responding correctly on social media. Businesses can lose money if they are missing key information that appears only on social media. Academia is especially horribly insulated and way behind the times. But nowhere is use of social media as important as in journalism. Don’t be this guy who was completely oblivious that his newspaper was in the center of national maelstrom of harsh criticism, because “I only deal with what’s on paper”.

When an airplane skidded off the runway in Denver, I knew it, along with 100,000s of other people, 12 minutes before everyone else. A passenger tweeted about it, and it spread like wildfire, including his updates, blurry photos, etc. CNN had a brief piece 12 minutes later. The accidental “citizen journalist” scooped them. Sometimes, for some news, these 12 minutes may be crucial for you.

Twitter and Facebook were key methods of communication not just between participants, but also to the outside world, during the Mumbai attacks and the Arab Spring.

People got jobs and gigs on Twitter that started their careers.

Journalists on deadline quickly find expert sources for their stories.

Journalists who observed the massive, instant, intense and scathing reactions of experts to #arseniclife or #Encode did not make the mistake of filing their positive stories and then having to backpedal later.

If all you see on Twitter is garbage, you are following the wrong people. You have to carefully choose who to follow, and then learn how to filter. Unfollowing is easy, and polite. You are not dissing your Mom, as if you would if you unfriended her on Facebook.”

And guess what the best thing about this most cutting-edge tool for journalists is? It’s free!

That Jamaica 50 song…

The Jamaican 50 song fiasco and the role of social media in holding the relevant authorities accountable…

Las May, The Daily Gleaner, June 20, 2012

Once upon a time the Jamaican Government commissioned senior producer and songwriter  Mikie Bennett to write a song to celebrate the nation’s 50th year of independence which will occur on August 6 this year. The song, Find the flag in your heart and wave it,  was duly written and produced with as many Jamaican celebrity voices as Mikie could get into his studio. If the country had to pay for the song it would have run into millions so Bennett and all those involved decided to donate the song to the nation.

In October 2011 the song was officially launched as the theme song of the Jamaica 50 celebrations slated for 2012. On December 29, 2011 after general elections, there was a change of government: the new PNP government it seemed had no intention of continuing with the schedule of events put together by the Jamaica 50 planning committee and Mikie Bennett’s song was one of the casualties.

Clovis, Jamaica Observer, June 21, 2012

Journalist and blogger Dionne Jackson Miller, covered this flipflop on her blog:

So even our music has fallen victim to that agent of change – the election. Some months ago, I was perplexed to see people calling for Eric Donaldson’s “Land of my Birth” to be made the official Jamaica 50 song. What the hell?I thought. We already HAVE a Jamaica 50 song! Remember? The song, “Find the Flag” was produced by the respected veteran Mikey Bennett and officially presented to the country.
Let me reiterate that. The song was officially and publicly presented to the country last October. If you don’t believe me, or never heard about it, read this story by Mel Cooke in the Jamaica Gleaner.
http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20111204/ent/ent7.html
Reporter’s Guide to Jamaica 50 sent out by the Culture Ministry in December stated that:
“The Jamaica 50 song ‘Fly (sic)  the Flag in Your Heart’, written by Michael Bennett, captures Jamaica’s journey of challenges and triumphs.”
So I posted to that effect, saying that we have a Jamaica 50 song.
Except… silly me. There was an election. For months we heard nothing of Find the Flag  – the official Jamaica 50 song – until another story in the Observer told us the song had been shelved.

You can read more here.

On June 15, 2012, the current government suddenly released a new song, On a Mission,  announcing at its launch that THIS was now the official Jamaica 50 song. Starring prominent singer Shaggy and others the song’s driving technobeat whipped up a wave of resentment on Twitter with many expressing disapproval and disappointment that such an ‘un-Jamaican’, Europop sounding song could represent Jamaica in its 50th year of independence.

Initially Robert Bryan, director of the Jamaica 50 committee and young Lisa Hanna, Minister of Culture airily dismissed these concerns, claiming that they had not designated On a Mission the official Jamaica 50 song and that there was therefore no controversy involved.

Since there was considerable evidence to the contrary what with the public launch in a prominent venue that had just taken place (see photograph below) and the official CD of the song that was distributed. the chorus of disapproval kept growing until it could no longer be ignored.

Closeup of invite to the launch of second Jamaica 50 song posted on Facebook
Suddenly yesterday a penitent Robert Bryan appeared on radio claiming in a shaken voice that he and the Minister had been ‘blindsided’ by Shaggy’s company and producer Sharon Bourke who had without any authorization launched ‘Mission’ as the official song etc etc. As one tweeter wryly noted:

Robert Bryan jus threw Shaggy, Sharon Burke and Solid Agency under the bus on Nationwide Radio! #JA50!

For details I refer you once again to Dionne Jackson Miller’s blogpost Lessons from the Jamaica 50 Song Fiasco where she details the latest series of missteps by the political authorities.

Again on Facebook and Twitter arguments and criticism raged about the controversy, proving more than anything else that in its 50th year of independence Jamaican politics has not reached the critical level of maturity required at this stage. Instead of admitting at the outset that they  had handled the whole affair  poorly and apologizing to the nation  Robert Bryan and Minister Hanna tried to brazen it out with the usual political chicanery which assumes the people they act on behalf of are dunces. They are now left with egg on their faces and Minister Hanna has suffered a damning blow to her credibility she could easily have avoided.

I reproduce below a Facebook conversation on the subject with names carefully concealed to avoid any unpleasant repercussions  for the individuals concerned.  It would behoove the political class to remember that you are being judged, and judged harshly by sane and intelligent people. Its the twenty first century and you can no longer rely on a docile, feckless media to avert their eyes from your shenanigans. Please find the flags in your hearts and wave them, the national flag, not the party ones.

Finally, thank god for social media.

BB: the Secretariat says, it does not intend to, nor did it choose, select or designate an official or national Jamaica 50 song. Why was the event called “launch of the official Jamaica 50 Song?

    • GS:  Repeat after me: “Pathologically Mendacious”. Thank you.

    • DK: bareface liars…..smh

    • FS: A lie dem lie, danny Buchanan must be turning in his grave to his his prophesy now taking root in his party

    • VS: If we count the lies told in the flag fiasco and in this “launch” of the song for Jamaica 50, pathologically mendacious is too generous. However note, the lies have been flowing in patriotic issues…..signs of the times!!!

    • AV: thanks for the reminder GS!

    • MW: This is politics at its best. If you listen the song carefully it mentions Lisa Hanna and HPSM in glowing terms. It must be a PNP party song.

    • PR: I’m putting it to you that you’re Pathologically Mendacious…lol

For more on this sorry affair please watch the news item here: