The blogmaster tuned into the Brasstacks show on Voice of Barbados yesterday because the topic was about press freedom. It is a ‘large topic’ and one that could not be fairly discussed in 2 hours. The moderator Dr. Kristina Hinds gave it her best effort supported by panellists David Ellis, Carol Martindale (journalists) and Michelle Russell (lawyer).
A few observations from the show:
The traditional media must accept that citizen journalism is a permanent feature how the public consumes and distributes information. Opinion blogs and other social media outlets do not need validation from traditional media to continue to define the information landscape.
The traditional media must manage convergence of traditional and social media tools to maintain competitiveness to deliver on its mandate. This has nothing to do with acceptance and penetration of non traditional media players. The traditional media must ponder why there has been the explosion of citizen journalism activity. The reason is simple. Traditional media has fallen woefully short of playing the watchdog and advocacy role required in a well functioning democracy and can be cited for contributing to some of the challenges we currently face. The blogmaster will be fair to admit we have some unsavoury and dishonourable characters who resort to social media platforms under the cloak of anonymity to pursue mischief. Here is the rub, some of these unsavoury and dishonourable characters occupy honourable positions in the society when wearing other hats.
Panellists freely admitted local journalists are not adequately paid therefore a reasonable conclusion to make is that there is roomto question the quality of work by the traditional media. How ironic the Nation newspaper selected Senator Caswell Franklyn as the news personality of the year after he was sacked as a columnist with his appointment to the Senate in 2018.
The explosion of non traditional media means it significantly acts as an influencer; opinion shaper. Smart governments, best in class organizations understand the importance of leveraging its power. Does it explain why the Mia Mottley led government established the Department of Public Affairs? Of course it does.
If the traditional media was doing its job the blogmaster suspects the government and vested NGO agencies would be forced to add a more coherent and strident voice to issues of the day. It is unsatisfactory for the media practioners to say, we cover this story and that story offered on the program yesterday. It is how the story is covered to ensure resonance with the target audience.
- With the National Insurance Scheme severely compromised and government’s inability to make public up-to-date audited financials, why is this not a priority item for traditional media? Does it have to do with the lack of financial expertise in traditional media rank?
- With the hire of boutique firm White Oak Advisory to assist government with renegotiating contracts with local and foreign creditors, why the veil of secrecy concerning the current status of the relationship? A respected media should have been qualified to ferret out this information to serve the public it has a mandate to serve.
- What is the status of the Cahill Agreement and how much money are taxpayers liable?
- Since the 70s going back to late prime minister Tom Adams successive governments have tagged team to frustrate the proclamation and operationalizing of Transparency Legislation. Governance is not a sexy topic BUT the traditional media with its resources can do a better job to keep this important issue front and centre, that is, to report and at the same time distil its importance required by a well functioning democracy. Many of the problems we currently face are rooted in a crumbling governance structure.
- How was the Eager 11 case settled after several members took to the Court to defend their honour?
- What has happened to Senator Lucille Moe?
At the risk of generating a 2000 word prolix, let us agree there is a vacuum created by a poorly performing traditional media, this has given rise to a strident citizen journalism voice – the interference from deep pockets, the tentacles of interfering governments and members of the political class, the inability/unwillingness of local journalist/media houses to coalesce around shared objectives and strategies to deliver on the mandate of a high performing media…
Long live alternative media sources Carl Moore!