The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Peter Josie

It was de­lib­er­ately planted in my youth­ful head to never trust a liar. ‘Liars are dan­ger­ous peo­ple; of­ten dis­hon­est crooks!’ And ev­ery crook is a po­ten­tial mur­derer. Th­ese and other ‘mes­sages’ to the youth of my gen­er­a­tion were time-tested truths; sim­ple and clear. A fur­ther guide was to choose si­lence over use­less speech. Use­less talk led to lit­tle lies and then to big­ger ones to cover the ear­lier lies. ‘Speech is sil­ver and si­lence gold.’ Ev­ery child knew then that gold was more pre­cious than sil­ver. Un­for­tu­nately, in a con­stantly chang­ing en­vi­ron­ment and cul­ture such val­ues tend to fall away leav­ing the young and so­ci­ety poorer.

To­day, mass com­mu­ni­ca­tions us­ing mod­ern elec­tronic de­vices have ex­ac­er­bated the use and spread of lies. Para­dox­i­cally, liars are on the as­cen­dancy in a world hun­gry for truth­ful in­for­ma­tion. It is such hunger for fac­tual in­for­ma­tion which al­lows liars, im­posters and crooks to hide be­hind their anti-so­cial con­duct of­ten in plain view. Too of­ten, the in­no­cent watch and lis­ten like sheep without dis­cern­ment, to that which is of­ten fake in­for­ma­tion. For this rea­son the world owes a huge debt of grat­i­tude to jour­nal­ists who dare to seek truth, bring­ing it to light. By my reck­on­ing there are only three such jour­nal­ists – fear­less truth seek­ers – in Saint Lu­cia.

The one who tops the list and of whom I write is dif­fer­ent . . . and spe­cial. He some­times comes across as brash, ar­gu­men­ta­tive and a poor lis­tener – ‘Mr. Know-it-all’. He can be in­fu­ri­at­ing, frus­trat­ing, in­sult­ing even. But, to his credit, he does not drink; nei­ther does he smoke or do drugs. He reads and re­searches, con­stantly ed­u­cat­ing him­self. He is there­fore able to lock onto an im­por­tant story like the jaws of a pit-bull to its vic­tim. Such tenac­ity is rare. Yet it is such fo­cused de­ter­mi­na­tion, driven pur­pose and truth-seek­ing that is needed in jour­nal­ists in young, strug­gling democ­ra­cies such as ours.

One may like him or hate him but he is one ‘pain-in-the-butt’ of a jour­nal­ist that you ne­glect at your peril. His com­bat­ive, ar­gu­men­ta­tive and opin­ion­ated dis­po­si­tions are the qual­i­ties which best serve his pub­lic. Such qual­i­ties are sadly lack­ing in those for whom the me­dia is merely a source of in­come. Such job-seek­ers tend to be more par­ti­san and in­dis­ci­plined. Wher­ever the rules of law and free­dom are chal­lenged, es­pe­cially by the peo­ple who are sup­posed to up­hold them, a peo­ple can count it­self lucky to have fear­less jour­nal­ists to turn to for en­light­en­ment, re­port­ing and cor­rectly in­ter­pret­ing a story, re­gard­less of where it leads.

His one weak­ness may be his hu­man­ity which he of­ten tries to hide. He can some­times be soft­ened even though he of­ten dis­plays a hard ex­te­rior and a mean vis­age. Within his once su­per-de­vel­oped Mr. World Body physique lies the gen­tle heart of a friendly kit­ten. The man pro­tects his soft heart with brash and de­lib­er­ate at­tack­ing tac­tics us­ing both pen and voice. But don’t be de­ceived. That soft­ness can harden into an iron res­o­lu­tion when things are not done prop­erly within the law and when gov­ern­ments and oth­ers (e.g. the po­lice) cross the line into il­le­gal­ity and abuse. Re­port­ing and com­ment­ing on un­solved heinous crimes such as rape and mur­der are his pas­sion. He re­fuses to let the na­tion for­get the vi­o­lent deaths of its young women at the hands of cow­ards and crim­i­nals.

If any­one doubts the role which the me­dia plays or is sup­posed to play in the life of a coun­try, one has sim­ply to visit the huge pin-ups at the en­trance of the as­cend­ing steps to his news­pa­per of­fice. One slo­gan shouts in bold six-inch print ‘Our lib­erty de­pends on the free­dom of the press, and that can­not be lim­ited without be­ing lost.’ And for this jour­nal­ist th­ese are not mere words. He lives it! It is one rea­son he stands apart. There is this other quote: ‘The press is not only free, it is pow­er­ful. That power is ours. It is the proudest we can en­joy.’

Since turn­ing to jour­nal­ism as the bread and but­ter pro­fes­sion of his choos­ing, he’s writ­ten for and edited a body-build­ing magazine in Los An­ge­les, grad­u­at­ing to writ­ing books on body-build­ing wars, and later on his sec­ond love, pol­i­tics. Per­haps it is his in­ter­est in pol­i­tics and pub­lic life which led him to choose the fol­low­ing quo­ta­tion pinned on the same wall as men­tioned above. I add it for good mea­sure and for its rel­e­vance. ‘The press is the best in­stru­ment for en­light­en­ing the mind of man, and im­prov­ing him as a ra­tio­nal, moral, so­cial be­ing.’

If one were to ex­am­ine his pro­fes­sional jour­nal­is­tic life over the past forty years it would be crys­tal-clear that the man lives by the printed words on the mon­tage to his of­fice. By the way it’s more than a sim­ple of­fice. It is a Pub­lish­ing House which pro­duces work that can match and sur­pass the best from the USA and Eu­rope. His wife, whom he has fi­nally started call­ing that, shares a large part in the out­put and qual­ity of their joint pub­lish­ing en­ter­prise. She has been cen­tral to its class and pro­fes­sion­al­ism. Sur­rounded by suc­cess, as he is, it must be dif­fi­cult to bear grudges. Like pro­fes­sional jour­nal­ists the world over he re­fuses to be­come emo­tion­ally em­broiled in that which he re­ports. Pro­fes­sional jour­nal­ists as­pire to­wards ob­jec­tiv­ity, can­dour, truth­ful­ness and rel­e­vance.

A jour­nal­ist must also demon­strate in­de­pen­dence. An ex­am­ple of the in­de­pen­dence and equa­nim­ity with which he ap­proaches his task is seen by the ease with which he was able to switch from per­sis­tently at­tack­ing the first prime min­is­ter of the is­land and later work­ing with him as Press Sec­re­tary. His for­mer boss had given him an ul­ti­ma­tum: cease the at­tacks, or else! His mes­sage to the for­mer boss, which he never dis­closed, seemed to have been: ‘You can stuff your job where the sun don’t shine. I’ll show you that I hold no an­i­mos­ity and work as press sec­re­tary to the Pre­mier.’ His new job as Press Sec­re­tary may well have paid more hand­somely than the pre­vi­ous one.

Here now is an ex­am­ple of his hu­man­ity and his will­ing­ness to for­give. A cer­tain politi­cian who had al­ways put him down for lack of for­mal aca­demics got into a po­ten­tially se­ri­ous mat­ter con­cern­ing fam­ily. He wished the jour­nal­ist to help him keep it out of the pub­lic do­main. He went capin-hand to the jour­nal­ist. The jour­nal­ist with the gen­tle heart im­me­di­ately re­lented and took his teeth off the meat of the po­ten­tially em­bar­rass­ing mat­ter. The les­son here is that bring­ing the truth to light, even by the most de­ter­mined and best, has its limit. In cases where young lives may be com­pro­mised, this is cru­cial. This is not to say that there are no ‘an­i­mals’ in jour­nal­ism who will in­vent fiction even it means hurt­ing friends, fam­ily as well as politi­cians they loathe.

To de­liver truth and fac­tual in­for­ma­tion one must rise above fake news and dis­in­for­ma­tion. To rise above lies and pet­ti­ness one must learn to demon­strate in­de­pen­dence of mind and thought, to dwell above medi­ocrity. Such in­de­pen­dence can­not be bought or com­pro­mised. In a so­ci­ety still strug­gling with poverty, ig­no­rance and po­lit­i­cal trib­al­ism a jour­nal­ist needs to rise above de­lib­er­ate lies, to chal­lenge au­toc­racy and pro­mote and up­hold free speech and truth. Such qual­i­ties in a jour­nal­ist are cru­cial to a free so­ci­ety.

For this rea­son we wel­come the re­turn of Rick Wayne and his weekly tele­vi­sion talk show. We pray that he con­tin­ues to il­lu­mi­nate the crooked and per­verse dark­ness of this dear land and that he finds the courage to point to a higher ideal and na­tional pur­pose. May he con­tinue to en­joy sound men­tal and phys­i­cal health and may the

STAR news­pa­per and his TALK show con­tinue to point, how­ever sub­tly, to the one who is the way, the truth and the life.

“In a so­ci­ety still strug­gling with poverty, ig­no­rance and po­lit­i­cal trib­al­ism a jour­nal­ist needs to rise above de­lib­er­ate lies, to chal­lenge au­toc­racy and pro­mote and up­hold free speech and truth. Such qual­i­ties in a jour­nal­ist are cru­cial to a free so­ci­ety.”

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