Guyana has lazy journalists
FREDDIE KISSOON COLUMN
June 1, 2004
I know a student who was doing the public communication diploma at UG. I ran into her on the campus one day and remarked about the big robbery that occurred in her village, and asked her if she knew the victims. She asked me which robbery, and I responded by telling her it was the front page story in the Kaieteur News. With a nonchalant look, she neatly smiled and said that she didn’t know the last day she had read a newspaper. I subsequently learnt that there were many like her at UG in journalism that hardly read the newspapers.
Now a newspaper is an expensive item for the ordinary folks. If you buy all three dailies then that is $1,190 per week. Which ordinary folk, which teenager, which unemployed citizen, which minimum wage worker can afford to spend $1,190 a week on newspapers? That is sad, so sad because the television and the internet can never replace the newspaper. The newspaper is and will remain part of human conduct, an essential aspect of human society.
There has been an additional new newspaper in the UK despite the many others that are there. Do you know that most of the phenomenal scoops that have either shocked or changed the world were due to newspaper reporting? The prison abuse scandal in Iraq was first broken by a magazine reporter, Seymour Hersh. It was the Kaieteur News that broke the remigrant scam. But more importantly, it was the Kaieteur News that prevented any cover up of the Nirmal Rekha factor in the investigation that eventually led to his forced leave at the Ministry of Finance. It was the Kaieteur News that informed the nation about the Axel Williams-Ronald Gajraj connection. Last month, I succeeded in persuading my Dean, in the Faculty of Social Sciences, Dr. Mark Kirton, to buy additional daily newspapers for the clerks and secretaries of the faculty to read.
Of course, the prohibitive cost of newspapers in Guyana should not prohibit UG’s communication/journalism students from buying and reading them. That must be a requirement on their part. But not reading the newspapers on the part of UG’s communication/journalism students is nothing compared to the lack-luster, lazy and uninspiring minds you find among the community of journalists in Guyana.
Now, it is natural to find that in larger populations, the tendency for more things to happen is greater. This is simple logic. So in more populous countries, there would be more news. Guyana has just over 700, 000 persons with a significant percentage of them being very young people who have no economic or political power. Where then does the news come from to keep alive the following media houses; three daily newspapers; two weekend papers (the Mirror and Catholic Standard); a monthly magazine (Guyana Review); and eight television newscasts?
Aah! But there is news even though we have a small population. But lots of the journalists we have in Guyana are lazy people. They don’t go after very interesting news items that are so important that the Guyanese people need to know about them. They wait for news conferences to be called. They wait for crimes to occur. They wait for politicians to err. But what is even more pathetic is that these journalists, who are earning their daily bread through the profession of journalism, do not read, and they do not investigate.
Of course I am not talking about all the journalists in Guyana who are afflicted by this culture of indolence. Do you know how many reporters in Guyana who work for foreign media houses would ask me for my opinion on unfolding political occurrences even though the very comments they are after are contained in my four weekly Kaieteur News columns? This happened last week on the Sheriff Street seawall. These people do not read the newspapers. The questions asked at press conferences are so boring and irrelevant that the political establishment has little respect for the media community.
There is a goldmine of journalistic scoops waiting to be tapped but our reporters are content to churn out banality after banality and in so doing, they do a horrible disservice to this nation. Let me describe this rich field of scoops that differentiates Guyana’s journalistic community from the rest of the world.
(1)- No one has touched the growing alienation of GAP from the WPA that has virtually dissolved the GAP-WPA alliance. (2)- Is it true that OMAI has made no profits since it started operations in Guyana? So why is it looking for more mines to explore? (3)- The law stipulates that you cannot retain an empty house lot bought from the state for more than a year; it will be reclaimed as in the case of the daughter of Moses Nagamootoo. Yet some ministers haven’t built on theirs for years now. (4)- By what means is Manzoor Nadir holding on to the leadership of the TUF? (5)- Two lawyers have applied for senior counsel status but there is serious evidence of extreme legal malpractice against them. (6)- An accountant at UG has been dismissed for financial mis-behaviour involving a very, very huge sum; only the Kaieteur News reported the dismissal; has she been charged? (7)- Who are the members of the WPA in the Walter Rodney Research Institute seeing that the WPA no longer embrace Rodneyism as their political culture but more importantly, how many members the WPA has and who are in its executive leadership? (8)- Why no lengthy journalistic interview with Christopher Ram on his many detractors and his relationship with the WPA? (9)- Why to date, no serious journalistic probe of the unending scandals at UG including the latest in which an entire class in a course in journalism was failed by a lecturer who seems to be an “untouchable” and a lecturer has UG in front of the Ethnic Commission for discrimination? (10)- Why aren’t the media looking into a most vulgar case of favoritism in front of the North Road entrance of the Post Office in which the owners of the leather craft booths are openly claiming unfair trading practices? (11)- What about the outrageous media practice of a television station owner, that in his commentaries on his newscast, continue to speak of how more good-looking he is than those of his critics? (12)- Is the Speaker of Parliament challenging Bharrat Jagdeo for the PPP’s nomination for presidential candidate in 2006? We can go on and on about these dark corners that need to have a journalistic torch light shine on them. But lazy people do not know how to use a torchlight.