Media Sell out? – Is the Express an Objective Newspaper?
Open letter to Express editor
Dear Editor-in-Chief Ms. Omatie Lutchman Lyder,
As a newspaper which claims to be “national,” the Express should be truthful and objective in its coverage of national events in Trinidad and Tobago (T&T).
Readers have been observing that you have practically never published any news on the University of Trinidad and Tobago’s (UTT) restructuring exercise (downsizing) and its treatment (retrenchment) of employees (lecturers).
The Express chose not report on the recent news that a UTT Professor was prevented from entering the graduation ceremony on Thursday. See https://newsday.co.tt/2018/11/16/utt-professor-barred-from-graduation/
The newspaper also refused to carry the news that UTT confessed that it did not complete a restructuring report before it retrenched 59 lecturers on May 11, 2018. See https://newsday.co.tt/2018/11/19/utt-restructuring-still-on-hold/
FOIA investigations by social activist Devant Maharaj, through attorney Chelsea Stewart, revealed that the Express has been receiving the most advertising revenue from UTT over and above that of the two other dailies, the Guardian and the Newsday.
Between September 2017 and August 2018, the Express cashed TT$1,253,763 in advertising revenue from UTT. The Guardian received $701,283 and Newsday got $846,601.
The Express cashed the most money (45%) from UTT compared to the Newsday (30%) and the Guardian (25%). The Express collected almost half of UTT’s budget spent on the three daily newspapers.
Last Sunday (November 18, 2018), the Express was rewarded with a whopping EIGHT (8) pages of advertisements highlighting UTT’s graduation – eight full pages in full colour!!! The total advertising revenue for one day for one edition only was about $72,000. This excessive abuse of taxpayers’ money is being spent by UTT’s President Sarim Al Zubaidy mainly to promote himself in many of the photos!! The Guardian and Newsday received not a single page of advertisement from UTT last Sunday.
Based on the foregoing data, the Express is clearly favourable to one of its big corporate clients by not reporting the turbulence that is taking place within the walls of the only national university in T&T.
The Newsday and Guardian should be highly commended and patronised for reporting news on UTT from May 11, 2018 when 59 lecturers were retrenched. See, for example http://www4.guardian.co.tt/news/2018-05-17/utt-boss-gets-ultimatum-dismissed-workers-ready-cou
A series of placard protests followed in front of UTT’s O’Meara and Valsayn campuses, the Ministry of Education, the Office of the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister’s Residence & Diplomatic Centre – none of which was covered by the Express.
Florens Focke, Alexandra Niessen-Ruenzi and Stefan Ruenzi of the University of Mannheim in Germany published a relevant research paper in 2015 entitled “A Friendly Turn: Advertising Bias in the News Media.”
They wrote: “Independence of the news press is one of the pillars of a functioning democracy. Ideally, newspapers and other media outlets should report truthfully and objectively about news items of interest to their readers, thus allowing them to make rational and unbiased decisions based on the information reported.”
The Express editor seems to be clearly sacrificing important news items of interest in order to please a big corporate client. Readers must now ask, “For whom else is the Express sacrificing objectivity for a million dollars?”
Dr Kumar Mahabir, Retrenched Assistant Professor
University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT)