Hop­ing Against Hope?

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Earl Bous­quet

Eons ago, long be­fore lo­cal IT-en­hanced ed­i­tors and an­nounc­ers dis­cov­ered what’s be­come their near­est mu­tual ad­mi­ra­tion club plat­form in the clouds, I started this col­umn – right here in The STAR.

The in­ten­tion back then was to en­cour­age lo­cal media col­leagues to write (and not just talk) about media is­sues lo­cally, re­gion­ally and glob­ally. Get­ting that done was harder than pulling granny’s teeth, so I even­tu­ally iced my ef­fort—un­til fur­ther no­tice.

Since then, I have been re­minded that it will con­tinue to be dif­fi­cult to get fel­low col­leagues to write and talk about who we are and what we do be­cause of a sin­gu­lar point I keep mak­ing as a co-host on The Press Club on DBS nearly ev­ery Satur­day evening: that jour­nal­ists (and re­porters) are, first and fore­most, cit­i­zens and civil­ians, liv­ing in and af­fected by all the things hap­pen­ing in the so­ci­ety that we cover, re­port and com­ment on as pro­fes­sion­als.

My most re­cent re­minder by a col­league who re­called another re­al­ity I have of­ten men­tioned, and with much re­gret, is that we’re no longer a na­tion that reads.

My friend (and col­league) asked: “If jour­nal­ists have lost the art of read­ing and there are no more book­shops or book­stores, and if TV and the in­ter­net have re­placed the writ­ten word as we knew it, why are you sur­prised that we don’t even want to talk about who we are and the im­por­tance of what we do, or even the things that help or hin­der our progress in these chang­ing times?”

And she was right. Try as we may, Ken­dal Bur­ton and I haven’t been able to at­tract other col­leagues to come or of­fer to share their view on media is­sues on The Press Club. For­tu­nately, apart from hav­ing his fin­ger on the but­ton on media is­sues ahead of each episode of The Press Club, Ken­dal also reads.

There are ex­cep­tions to this ap­par­ent new golden rule. Young Jenna Gas­ton has shown she isn’t afraid to let her views be heard out loud on the is­sues we cover. But, by their po­si­tions (or lack thereof) on key lo­cal, re­gional and in­ter­na­tional is­sues, it’s quite ev­i­dent that most other col­leagues have ei­ther lost the read­ing habit—or never had it in the first place.

Al­ways in the mood to fol­low de­vel­op­ments in and af­fect­ing the media, I pay daily at­ten­tion to the only fo­rum I know lo­cal jour­nal­ists ex­change in: The Net.

‘Ed­i­tors and Talk Show Hosts’ here have a (rel­a­tively) new plat­form where they ex­change ev­ery­thing: like views and pierc­ing barbs, pin­pricks and brick­bats, taps-on-the-wrist and pow­der-puff­ing ac­co­lades— even at­tempts at com­par­ing Who’s Who and Who’s Bet­ter Than Who, Who’s been Where and Who’s been Ev­ery­where, Who can Walk in Whose Shoes and Whose Slip­pers can’t even fit Whose Big Toe. There’s al­ways the fin­ger-point­ing and blind lash­ing-out, low jabs and low blows. But even in the midst of the oc­ca­sional frenzy of ap­par­ent media-minded mad­ness, there’s the oc­ca­sional ex­change worth not­ing.

Fly on the wall that I am in this fo­rum, I en­joy start­ing ev­ery morn­ing on my throne catch­ing up with the latest posts. I of­ten look out for cases of Big Bards of Yore bang­ing their heads against new brick walls, try­ing harder than hard to ex­plain the dif­fer­ence be­tween a warn­ing and a threat, or why ev­ery re­porter should know the ba­sics of court re­port­ing, in­clud­ing what is sub ju­dice and what is Con­tempt of Court. There are also cases of talk-show hosts ex­plain­ing their very dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the role of talk show hosts and their treat­ment of guests.

Some of the posts are/ were clearly meant to in­cite and ex­cite, but even while the cave­man of a chron­i­cler in me will al­ways find ways and means to laugh or feel (a bit) sad in these IT times, I will be the first to en­cour­age to­day’s mod­ern media mail­men (and women), young and old, to con­tinue post­ing their mail into my (and our col­lec­tive) mail­box.

I am in­deed ex­cited by the barbs ex­changed be­tween key­board-fin­ger­ing swash­buck­lers. But I also feel the cir­cle needs to be widened to in­clude all talk show hosts and an­nounc­ers who may have been (in­ad­ver­tently or pur­pose­fully) ex­cluded from this po­ten­tially wider cir­cle.

There are those whose com­plaints that the plat­form is quickly be­ing dom­i­nated by and turned into a PR bill­board or a Tower of Ba­bel are sim­ply ig­nored. But, as in all as­pects of life, there will al­ways be cer­tain de­grees of abuse by those al­ways want­ing a lit­tle more than ev­ery­one else from ev­ery­thing.

All the above said, I welcome whole­heart­edly the idea of my i-Phone be­ing daily and con­tin­u­ously a plat­form to fol­low ex­changes among col­leagues. In­deed, we’ve come a very long way from when The Press Club was a night­club up­stairs a Castries bak­ery, where the lo­cal press gath­ered to dis­cuss is­sues (over drinks) on week­ends and at night. We’re still way ahead of the time too when The Press Club was a show on HTS/Ra­dio 100. And we’re still far, far away from when the cur­rent media as­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent was the main host and an­chor of The Press Club on DBS.

To­day, the cur­rent co-hosts of The Press Club con­tinue (ev­ery week) to in­vite col­leagues on the show and be part of the long­est-run­ning media-re­lated TV show here, but with lit­tle suc­cess. Another act­ing co-host said on air (re­cently) that she had been told by some in­ter­ested col­leagues that their em­ploy­ers had ad­vised them against ap­pear­ing on “a com­pet­ing sta­tion.”

More de­press­ing press news I haven’t heard for a long, long time. I’d rather think most col­leagues are sim­ply not yet moved to act to­gether, un­til and un­less another sit­u­a­tion arises to cause many among us to ig­nore protes­ta­tions on our be­half that we didn’t in­vite, and seek the coun­sel­ing that nor­mal per­sons need af­ter ex­po­sure to trau­matic events. I also rather think it’s for the same rea­son that too many no longer see, or never saw, the need to read.

But that won’t daunt my or our ef­forts or cause us (The Press Club co-hosts) to with­draw our open in­vi­ta­tion to whom­so­ever will or may wish to come.

Mean­while, I’ve re­quested The STAR re­in­state this col­umn weekly—and also open it to con­tri­bu­tions by and from the ed­i­tors and talk show hosts. Each week I’ll try to en­cour­age or in­vite col­leagues to ad­dress an is­sue of com­mon in­ter­est.

For ex­am­ple, next week we can start a dis­cus­sion on what has been the role of the lo­cal press, if any, in the dis­cus­sion on chang­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion of Saint Lu­cia. I know where Rick Wayne stands on the is­sue (with Philip J. Pierre). Ev­ery­body knows where I stand (I’ve writ­ten reams on the mat­ter). And we all know where Claudius Fran­cis stands as well. Any­one else?

Here’s hop­ing I’ll be able to en­cour­age my col­league ed­i­tors and talk show hosts to join this col­umn to dis­cuss Media Mat­ters and be part of an added plat­form. Here’s hop­ing too that I’ll soon climb down from my fly-on-the-wall lis­ten­ing post onto the faster-mov­ing plat­form.

And here’s hop­ing, too, that I’m not hop­ing against hope!

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