Establish your independence
-journalists urged at T&T conference
By Kim Lucas
Stabroek News
November 17, 2002

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Media workers in the Caribbean are being urged to embrace the fundamentals of the profession, set standards through well-researched and accurate reporting, and not allow themselves to be used as political tools.

But in order to achieve these goals, says veteran trade unionist George DePeana, regional media workers, especially journalists, must have some integrity and stand up for themselves in a united fashion.

DePeana was at the time addressing participants attending a three-day media workshop held at the Simon Bolivar Auditorium of the Venezuelan Embassy in Port of Spain, Trinidad. The November 6-8 workshop, entitled `Information fo

r Action II - the Media and Sustainable Development,' was hosted by the United Nations System, the United States Embassy in Trinidad and Tobago and the Association of Caribbean Media Workers.

As a follow-up to the `Information for Action' workshop held in the Twin Island Republic last year June, this year's session afforded regional journalists the opportunity to discuss issues affecting the industry, as well as a proposed agenda on the way forward. Although there were extreme positions on certain issues such as the role of talk show hosts and the controversy surrounding them, journalists were able to air concerns about corruption and ethics in the media, new challenges in the newsroom and the role of the media in relation to the AIDS crisis, among other things.

It was in the context of these discussions that DePeana made his observations about the media in the Caribbean. He maintained that if journalists see themselves as professionals, then they would be able unequivocally to execute their duties in a proper manner.

"In other words, you must help to uphold the dignity of the profession. That is a matter that requires a lot of attention at this moment. There are some things that are upsetting to me. First, in the print media, I am upset by the poor use of the language called English Language. I am amazed sometimes and I wonder how some of the things escape proofreaders and subeditors. I am upset... about the poor spelling that we find in the public media. I am upset about inaccuracy in reports, which seems to indicate that not sufficient time and attention have been paid in the gathering of the information and expressing that information... I am upset about the tendency to sensationalise some issues and I am upset at what appears to be the lack of in-depth research in presenting matters," DePeana stated.

He suggested that in many instances, some journalists do not take the time to investigate properly and to be honest in their reporting. The electronic media also came in for some knuckle rapping, especially for mimicking the speech of North Americans. Disc jockeys in the Caribbean are often heard speaking with a foreign accent which might mean an inferiority complex, in that they don't think that their codes are "hip" enough; an identity crisis, or simply, as in the cases of Guyana, buying the DJ `culture' lock, stock and language from somewhere else.

DePeana challenged the regional DJs to ask themselves whether they have heard an American trying to mimic a Trinidadian or Barbadian or Jamaican.

With respect to the talk shows, there was some discussion on the uncouth behaviour of some of the hosts to callers as well as the vulgar talk and vulgar songs on the airwaves.

"You have to decide and determine what is it you want as an agenda for a set of professionals like yourselves. I think you have to build the professionalism of the media. In my view, professionalism is not what it should be. I want to suggest that we should stick to standards of decency... Greater attention should be paid to the education of young journalists... How many young journalists are thrown into the deep to just do their own thing and, how many are learning the wrong things, believing them to be right? Where are the standards? Do the media practitioners have a mission and a vision statement, something that would guide you constantly? But most importantly, it is my view that you need to combine yourselves. Don't expect other people will do it for you... disabuse your minds of that," DePeana urged.

Some of the other presenters at the three-day workshop included Dr Inyang Ebong-Harstrup, United Nations Resident Coordinator in T&T; Dale Enoch, President of the Media Association of T&T and Jamaican Desmond Allen, both of whom spoke on `The Agenda-Setting Impact of the Media - The Role of Talk Radio'; and Jones P. Madeira, Information Advisor to the Caribbean Epidemiological Centre (CAREC), who looked at `Newsroom Management for New Challenges.' Dominican Matthias Peltier focused on the `Issues of the Press in the Caribbean,' while Allen and Trinidadian Lennox Grant both talked on `Ethics in the Media - Who has the blueprint?'

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