The media and people together . . .
It was somewhat surprising –– though not bemusing –– to hear Minister of Foreign Affairs Senator Maxine McClean berating the media for their coverage of the dismissals of Public Service workers –– under Government’s belt-tightening measures –– and the featuring of these fired people’s varying states of agony and diversity of comment.
In the first place, the firings were never private, being executed in full public –– and in some cases insensitively and ruthlessly –– and in the second, the heart punch had long been telegraphed by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler. It was he who stated the numbers to be sent home and the time frame in which it would be done.
In any civilized place in Christendom all this makes for news. Further, in a true state of democracy, the people have a right to articulate the pain their Government may inflict –– with good cause or not –– upon them, and the media a responsibility to record it.
At best, this is good. At worst, neither bad not good; just is!
That the Press has been pouncing upon those thrown out of their jobs by the Government while in their most vulnerable state, as Senator McClean would imply, in fact has much less to do with embarrassing the Cabinet of Barbados than with providing the fired and humiliated with an outlet for expression, and offering professional empathy. Sadly, the goodly senator finds this scenario inappropriate and disgusting.
The thing is neither Senator McClean nor any of her fellow politicians have any difficulty with “mikes in front of their faces” when they have their own grievances to air, when their circumstances make for a far greater circus than the curtailment of employment of people who know not where next to turn.
But politicians –– particularly those in Government –– are so overtly biased and self-absorbed, they miss the point that their utterances (except in the odd case) are conditioned by the party they belong to, and that party’s policies, and paranoia. And while they may think their assertions strike notes of justifiable censure and ethical outrage, their pronouncements, to be blunt, are merely blah-blah-blah, uninfluenced by reasoning and common sense.
The journalistic ethics of objectivity and fairness in news gathering are strong influences on the Press, which have been manifested in impartiality but charitableness when interviewing those put on the breadline through the Government’s present predicament; and a professional approach to reporting that has sought out propriety, accuracy, completeness and balance.
And Senator McClean cannot deny that in all this the politicians –– Government and Opposition –– have been having, through the same media she would castigate in Parliament, avenues again and again to fulminate on the national economic pressures we are under and the political and social fallout thereof.
The attack on the mainstream media by the senator was uncharitable and uncalled for. Admittedly, the ethical heights journalists set for themselves are on the rare occasion not reached –– and this does not go unchecked. But we would wager that the profession of journalism is as honourable as that of politics –– and is definitely more noble.
It is a distinguished and dignified profession practised, for the most part, by people seeking to do the proper thing, in the most correct way for the very right reasons –– and without the grandstanding.
Regrettably, the average Barbadian politician of today sees the Press as “right” or “left”, Bee or Dee (depending on his or her conviction, desire, or conspiracy), a simplistic thinking that creates ideological struggle, where there ought not to be any, and which is hardly useful in getting politicians to comprehend what journalism is really about, and appreciate its tenets.
The news media may be seen as biased towards conflict. In fact, it is inclined towards contrast. That is why the media will seek to report two conflicting sides. It is called balance.
The media, we will confess, are biased towards what’s new and fresh, which may be a challenge when reporting from the Parliament of today. The regurgitating of unbroken promises and the presenting of macaronics hardly qualify as interesting and complementary to the immediate and fresh, the ever-changing nature that makes news readable and worthy of an ear.
The news media cover happenings in terms of stories –– happy or sad –– that have a beginning, middle and end, and which reports will hardly be without their natural protagonists and antagonists. That is the world the media live in –– and the people who follow us, these very ones whom Senator McClean and her political ilk swear they represent.