Letter columns serving useful purpose To the Editor
Guyana Chronicle
October 20, 2001

Someone once said, if you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything. I stand for my beliefs, as would anyone or any company with a mission statement or government with a guiding ideological philosophy.

As a regular letter writer and a reader of the letters written by others to both the Guyana Chronicle and the Stabroek News, I have come to learn quite a lot, even though I may not always agree with certain points of view and or suggestions. And I do not expect everyone to agree with me all or any of the time.

The letters column has proven to be quite a useful medium through which people, otherwise, may not be able to have their views read, or even heard.

As a former GBC employee, I recall the days when comments by the man in the street were strictly vetted to comply with management policy of always projecting a positive image of the Government. Even if the truth about a situation adversely affected ordinary citizens, it could not be readily reported unless and until levels of authority were cleared. Dumping was an in thing.

This is one reason why I penned a previous letter calling for Freedom of Expression and Information Acts.

When the Stabroek News was launched, it was the greatest thing that ever happened in that era to offer some semblance of hope for information-starved Guyanese. Both President Desmond Hoyte and Mr. David deCaires have to be commended, notwithstanding the fact the Catholic Standard, Dayclean and Mirror were already doing a reasonably good job under trying circumstances.

Without going through too much history, however, I wish to state my satisfaction with the level of progress both local dailies have made in trying to give the people a chance to ventilate and, at the same time, provide balanced reporting on issues in the news.

The Guyana Chronicle, still state-owned, and perhaps still serving as an extension of the development support communications focus, understandably reflects Government's position while gradually shying away from its previous managers modus operandi by opening doors for constructive criticisms and debates.

The Stabroek News has come in for its fair share of criticism from both the PNC Government and the PPP/Civic Government, clearly establishing a sense of independence while reflecting the precarious position in which it operates.

Yet it also reflects its willingness to reach everyone by opening its door to anyone who has a view or comment, for or against Government, or on any issue of human interest.

Both dailies have not reached their zenith in professional newspaper layout (including on the Internet), news reporting and balanced commentaries from notable local writers, so we can look forward to continued improvements over the years ahead.

But suffice to say that the letter columns have served and can continue to serve a useful purpose, despite the fact that not all letters people write get published. Editorial judgment on length, style, content and other factors obviously determine which letters get published.

As a Guyanese living abroad for the past thirteen years, I find the Internet a useful means of staying in touch with Guyana, and would frequently comment or express my view on issues to the editors of the two dailies. Sometimes I copy my letters so both editors have equal access, but based on editorial judgment, one or both may publish, or one may and the other may not publish.

I make no judgmental distinction, but simply move on to other emerging issues in the news, from Guyana, Trinidad, the Middle East, America, Europe, Africa, etc.

Apart from complimenting both dailies for a useful service and heartening performance, I look forward to a cadre of Guyanese writers (at home and abroad) who will take issues in the news and write short essays, or offer commentaries and opinion editorials that can be carried in Guyana's two major dailies on the Internet.

Emile Mervin, Brooklyn, New York