One of the main complaints against prime minister Portia Simpson-Miller is her indifference to the Jamaican media. This was highlighted especially by two bloggers, Jay over at Commonsense Jamaica and Ricardo over at Constructed Thoughts.
This is Ricardo:
the office of Mrs. Simpson Miller purported to be “concerned” for the safety of the Prime Minister. Fair enough. The worrying aspect of this development is that there is no security threat, in the standard sense, to the Prime Minister. Instead, the OPM released this dubious statement after members of the media sought a response from an ever evasive Simpson Miller. In her now characteristic attempt to dodge the media, and their relentless pursuit of information, the Prime Minister was apparently struck by a microphone. It is regrettable that the PM was struck, but the real issue is why was she running? The real issue is why hasn’t she consented to sit for an interview having taken office 15 months ago?
That;s all well and good, but I don’t think that really matters that much. This is a comment I had left over at Jay’s
Now compare that to media in our time. It is really nothing more than a means for press releases, press conferences, news leaks and interviews for politicians to twist around the interviewer.
I mean, what is the press going to do, call (ahem) Emmy-award-winning journalist Cliff Hughes to throw some softball questions her way?
Jamaican news at the Cliff’s edge
The reason why I am picking on Nationwide News is because it represents everything that is wrong with journalism in Jamaica – even more so than CVM News at its worst. Yet Cliff Hughes and company are generally considered the Jamaican archetype of the “Intrepid Reporter” running down leads and “speaking truth to power”
Again from my comment:
I listened to Nationwide News at 5 yesterday. It was really nothing useful. I can download and read the budget speeches from the net. Whatever commentary was added was redundant. The rest of the news was basically dudes asking the opinions of people on the road, reading aloud Facebook and Twitter posts and repeating BBC news posts that I had heard earlier that day.
The same could be said for all of their other news shows. There is no analysis of the day’s events, only annotations of previously existing news stories. The utter and complete lack of any subject matter expertise among any of their staff members is so laughable, its sad. They recently had several of the potential candidates for the new 360MW power plant project on for interview. You would have had expected them to ask questions such as:
- How much cents per kilowatt/hour will you be charging for electricity?
- How will you deal with fluctuations in the Liquified Natural Gas Prices?
- What are the safety issues with LNG as a power source?
- What advantages or disadvantages does a barge present during a natural disaster?
and so on. However, their journalistic team’s grasp of basic economics, infrastructural development, educational or any other technical issue is just lacking. Compare this to a Ralston Hyman or a Dennis Chung, whose brains seem to be made from Excel spreadsheets and SQL queries. Just listening to Hyman talk to someone,you know that, while he may be blunt, and not have manipulative skills of a Mike Wallace, he will catch you when you fuck up. With Cliff Hughes and company, its the opposite, they fuck up and get led around by their balls (or in Emily Crook’s case, her titties). Portia’s only problem, is a lack of grip.
Pseudo-events and Pseudo-Journalists
The great American social critic Daniel Boorstin defined a pseudo-event as an event or an activity that exists for the sole purpose of generating media publicity, and serves no other purpose in real-life. Events like these are planned, scheduled for media convenience, ambiguous, and try to be self-fulfilling prophecies. This means that the party who sets up the pseudo-event, for the media’s benefit usually do so for their own selfish purposes, i not the outright manipulation of the media itself.
Thus, examples of pseudo-events would include press conferences, interviews, press releases and newsleaks – exactly the sorts of things that the bloggers and Jamaican people want from Portia Simpson-Miller. More pseudo-events will not shame our leaders into morality and performance. Those types of events only allow the leaders to make their case in a deceptive manner, and give cliff Hughes and others like him the audience share and ratings he so desperately craves – as long as he doesn’t rock the boat.
The failure of mainstream Jamaican media
Remember back in about 2006, when P.J. Patterson resigned and you had about five PNP members competing for leadership? Remember how they treated Portia? Hell, even Mutty Perkins got a hard-on interviewing her, and he hated the PNP almost as much as me! By failing to critically engage Portia in the first place, the media has put itself in the situation it is in now.
You fix that problem with boots-on-the-ground journalism. Not reciting Twitter feeds or reading Facebook responses, or reading the morning dailies verbatim. You get on the ground, dig through spreadsheets, official, and unofficial and cultivate sources. You cannot expect to go up to a politician’s face and expect them to tell you the truth. That is not how you hold power to account in a democracy. Perhaps if Nationwide News Network took their job more seriously, they would understand this.
What they hell kind of piece of shit website these guys have operating? No podcasts? Live streaming? What the fuck is this, 1998? I call and the lady tells me that they don’t record their shows either? Ah fuck. And what the fuck does Emily Crooks do? Is she really needed?