Some years ago an advertisement for the fast food restaurant Wendy’s made the phrase “Where’s the beef?” part of American culture as a means of questioning the substance of something. Today as I read the Gleaner and Observer I found two articles that said pretty much nothing.
I will quote form them generously so their full context cannot be lost. The first one is among the LEAD STORIES in the Gleaner, titled “Trials of a teenage mother to be” by Nadisha Hunter.
The first paragraph reads:
A traumatised 15-year-old Annalie Campbellis still trying to cope after eight months of pregnancy and with her struggling mother being her only support.
Today, she is crying.
Tears flowed as she spoke about her babyfather, whom she says she has not heard from since the day she told him about her pregnancy.
“My babyfather don’t care,” she sobs, “I heard he said that he is afraid of the police, so him not coming to look for me.”
So we have the facts that 1) a 15 y.o. girl, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, is pregnant. 2) Can’t find the impregnator, and 3) is relying on her mother to survive right now. Remember this is a LEAD STORY, in a country where citizens are under siege by crime and criminals. This is a lead story in a country where the PM has disclaimed responsibility for a crime strategy against the same background of facts. So I was thinking to myself, clearly they are going to do a profile of the culture that accepts things like this as commonplace. Or maybe they’re about to do a survey of public resources/the lack of public resources available to support teenage girls that have made this mistake. Or maybe this will be a story ’bout how nuff big man a fool up di likkle girl dem and exploit dem. I was convinced I’d be reading the elucidating and informative article that surely was to follow, wondering how long before the Child Advocate turned up with an appropriate quote.
The rest of the story is as follows:
Her babyfather, who is 24 years old, is afraid of being charged with carnal abuse, so he fled the community.
Campbell says her mother, Verona, struggles to support her as there are already two smaller children in the home. Annalie’s father, who is angry that she got pregnant, does not speak to her.
Verona states that she was upset about the pregnancy at first, but can’t turn her back on her daughter. If she does, she states, Annalie will not have anyone.
Annalie’s problems sometimes get her down, but she cannot wait to give birth and start her life all over.
Her plans are to enrol in a HEART/NTA programme where she can learn a skill, get a job and support her child.
“The only problem is to finish buying up the things to take to the hospital,” she says, “because it’s next month I will be having baby.”
That’s it! The writer and the editor made this a lead when basically it says “Somewhere in Jamaica, a 15 y.o. girl you don’t know is pregnant by a 24 y.o. man you don’t know. And she is now estranged from the would-be father of her expected child while her situation has alienated her from her parents. She looks forward to having her baby and finding a way to support the child. The End” This is a LEAD STORY!
No analysis, no news on how common/uncommon this is, no statistics, no wider theme about the failure of a social agency. Just an anecdote.
The second story was in the Observer and was titled “PM questions recent crime upsurge.” Then in either a long sub-title or the lead paragraph the article goes on to say:
PRIME Minister Bruce Golding said yesterday that intelligence reports from the security forces on the current crime wave show similarities, which raise questions about the source of some killings.
Okay, so what are these similarities? Surely they Observer is about to to list a few of the similarities and analyze if they are likely coincidences or evidence of a conspiracy. Maybe the similarities are evidence of political motivation behind the crimes in a year when a general election might be called. We will not know today. The article goes on to say:
The prime minister said that in identifying the areas where the upsurge is most pronounced, the intelligence reports showed that these areas have ‘something in common’.
No mention is ever made of exactly what is the ‘something in common.’ No wonder the article has no byline, Someone could have been reasonably ashamed of attaching their name to this thrash. Where’s the beef?