Why won’t our dominant newspaper houses challenge the entrenched interests that are holding Jamaica from the development of which we are capable?
According to the CIA World Factbook, Jamaica has close to 3 million people with 87.9% literacy. Surprisingly then, we only have two national daily newspapers and a handful of weeklies that range from more substantial offerings like the Sunday Herald to tabloids like X-News. So why don’t the most dominant players in our print media take on any entrenched interests?
It’s not a lack of capacity, as they have that, and it shows itself when safe and mundane topics are addressed. Reading Ross Sheil and Petre Williams’ article in the Jamaica Observer about Obama’s primary victory, we get a sense of the talent of which Jamaican reporters are capable. The article is more than a regurgitation of wire copy, it is written from a uniquely Jamaican perspective and makes use of a wide range of local experts and even government officials to flesh out the full record of local reaction.
Similarly, the Jamaica Gleaner had articles on both Wednesday and Thursday about the country’s transport infrastructure (or lack thereof) crisply written by Mark Titus. Firstly, it is impressive enough that the editors actually allowed continuity as each issue of the paper generally flints from one issue to the next with little continuous coverage. By having the first article cover the ‘urban transport woes’ of Kingston, and the second cover Mo’bay, it allows Jamaicans to become aware of a problem that will only get more severe if it doesn’t make its way into the public consciousness. It’s a mundane story about traffic and the lack of urban planning, but when our citizens and politicians begin to pay attention to this problem we will move closer to becoming a well-developed country. So these prove that there is the requisite talent in the Jamaican journalist pool to write clearly and convincingly about Jamaican issues.
We can also eliminate the lack of suitable topics as the reason why the dominant players fail to challenge entrenched interests. For example, as great as the blind items in the Thursday Talk column are to read, do they really belong in a gossip column or as part of an exposé? Take the following examples:
Who got the waiver?
1. Seems like the ‘New People’ are racking up some scandals of their own. At the pace they are going, it appears that they will outpace their predecessors in the first term, as following upon the questionable land transaction; the facilitator’s fees; talk US$1 million (J$71 million) payment to a certain person. There is now breaking news of yet another scandal – about just who is the real beneficiary of the duty waiver of the imported high-end transport?
Jamaica Gleaner, Thursday Talk – May 29, 2008;
6.Some are saying at least one high-profile official with insider information was allowed to withdraw his money from the failed cash-rich scheme days after it was adjudged insolvent, and they are not amused by the notion. They are threatening to make public a copy of the cheque that was issued to cover his ‘loan’ to the company, to show up the person being so accused as being a two-faced hypocrite.
Jamaica Gleaner, Thursday Talk – June 5, 2008
If the Daily Gleaner is aware of corrupt practices by the new JLP government, why won’t they run exposés on the abuses? Do you know how much more credible and influential their newspapers would be? Not to mention how high their circulation and corresponding ad revenues could grow?
These items are not gossip about some personal peccadillo, whether one prominent musician has been caught cheating on a spouse or one politician is feuding with another. This is public malfeasance of the highest order – and the closest we come to disclosure in Jamaican newspapers is in a gossip column!
My theory on why our media don’t challenge entrenched interests is that they are owned and run by the same entrenched interests, and nobody naw juk out dem own eye. We are thereby obliged to help them.
Though a few dollars stolen here and there can maybe be one day replaced, the silence of our media makes them also complicit in the theft of people’s humanity and the theft of innocence.
As reported by both the Gleaner and Observer, Jamaica continues to receive poor marks for its attempts to combat the scourge of human trafficking. We are a source country, transit country, and destination country for trafficked humans — including children trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation.
In a country the size of Jamaica, no-one has seen or heard anything regarding this pernicious practice? Or do we — the successors of slaves (blacks) and serfs (Indians, Chinese, poor whites) — sit in silence and watch as chattel slavery is perpetuated in our midst?
Few people are willing to take on this topic in public. Kudos to the indomitable Betty-Ann Blaine for her courage in addressing this issue publicly. We who revel in the ignorance of homophobia and proudly we woulda kill all ‘batty-bwoy’ are curiously silent in the face of pedophilia and slavery.
Where are the media? Where are the police raids on pedo-brothels? Where is the more rigorous enforcement at hotels? Our press can pick on violent dancehall lyrics and the people downtown, but they dare not pick on the ‘bigger heads’ who are workers of inequity, regardless of the benefits that their media companies could derive from serving the public right to information. Duppy DON’T know who fi frighten.
An article in the Saturday Gleaner outlines some of the steps the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) will be doing to combat human trafficking. While in general the new JLP government (the Ministry of Labor in particular) seems more interested in fighting this than the PNP government, only time will tell if a just chat dem a chat.