That comment about laziness
Kaieteur News
March 15, 2007

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There has been a lot of talk about comments by President Bharrat Jagdeo on the state of the media operatives. In his recent address to the Guyana Defence Force officers, President Jagdeo was influenced to describe the local media operatives as lazy.

Since then there have been a slew of letters in the press and comments in various sections of the society. As is the case with every issue there are supporters and critics. His supporters feel that the Head of State was justified in his comments.

Reporters have a challenging job. They are the gatekeepers and they are the people who must provide information to the public. They are also the people who have the unenviable role of keeping the government on its toes.

Many feel that they have failed miserably in this regard because they have allowed the government to perform tasks that initially seem to be not in the best interest of the society. There have been instances when sections of the media uncovered perceived irregularities but failed to follow up simply because they felt that they would be persecuted by the rabid supporters of the government.

A reporter should do what needs to be done. He is expected to act in the best interest of his readers and in the case of television, in the best interest of the viewers.

He needs to follow stories to their logical conclusion. Sad to say, this has not been the case of today's reporters. They are too quick to drop a story because the follow-up often entails footslogging and research.

This is not an area that the young untrained reporters in today's society seem inclined to pursue, largely because Guyana is not one of the easiest places to conduct research. Material is not easy to come by and often the repository of the information is not among the most convenient.

In many countries, the material is computerized so the researcher simply has to type in certain key words and procure the information. In Guyana, there must be a determination to plough through the material often contained in bound volumes and sometimes requiring searches through a series of these materials.

Their failure to do what is necessary certainly condemns them to the ranks of the lazy. Computers were not always there and the reporters of old did just that—painstakingly plough through the material regardless of how it was stored.

Then there are the interviews. A successful and meaningful interview demands research. A reporter must know the subject as well as the interviewee. Very few reporters take the time to research the subject as well as the interviewee. They are lazy.

But then again these reporters had to deal with Government officials who more often than not have been reluctant to speak to them on any subject, citing some regulation that was issued in 1982.

Repeated efforts to access Government information would break the heart of a young reporter and pretty soon the reporter could be forced to develop an attitude that would see him/her avoiding the very people who make the job tedious. This should not be construed as laziness.

The absence of a Freedom of Information Act is one of the things that force the reporter to resort to taking the easy way out. It is not easy chasing a shadow, as has been the case of just about every reporter today. Officials have no compunction to divulge any information and whenever the reporter in pursuit of the information gets it wrong then he has to contemplate the cost of legal action, something that every media house seeks to avoid.

One cannot then blame the media operatives for seeking to adopt a cautious approach. By no stretch could he/she be considered lazy.

Perhaps they could have gone after the foreigners who issued the report that got President Jagdeo's vote and prompted the accusation of laziness against the reporter. Perhaps President Jagdeo knew that the foreigners came from a different culture and would speak to the local media but then again these people can hide behind the contention that they are not keen to comment on Guyana's affairs.

Under such conditions the reporter cannot be considered lazy. So we have a storm in a teacup even as there are other things that need the attention of the reporter.