Not so much tings to say right now

Portia in 2007
Portia in 2007

For weeks leading up to the actual event, the main daily papers in Jamaica had a field-day writing few revelatory hard news pieces but many editorials about the campaign for the PNP presidency. Yet having fallen just shy of an outright endorsement for Peter Phillips, the losing candidate in the PNP presidential campaign, both major national dailies have comparatively little to say about the recent internal election and future prospects of the People’s National Party. I find their behavior in this regard absolutely deplorable, bordering on depraved.

Admittedly the Jamaican news and comment cycle seems to be elongated in comparison to a British or American news and comment cycle. But is there any reason that today’s Sunday issue of both papers wouldn’t contain a full treatment and analysis of Portia Simpson-Millers’s victory yesterday? I hope that I am wrong and even as we speak reporters are writing trenchant pieces digging into the meaning of Portia’s victory and Phillips loss. Any worthwhile assignment editor should be busy managing an immense amount of traffic in the fallout of the election.

Yet I find it unlikely that the press in Jamaica will give Portia’s victory anywhere near the true depth of coverage that it deserves, which is an extreme injustice to Jamaicans relying on them to be informed voters. After all their high-minded, hypocritical talk about the PNP presidential election being “not just an internal matter;” the media in Jamaica have treated it as just an internal matter in the aftermath of a result they didn’t desire. This is not journalism, it is propaganda.

In fact the Jamaica Gleaner has continued its story line that only Portia’s supporters displayed hostility in this race by publishing an account of an incident which strikes me as exceptionally one-sided.

However, there were tense moments late in the afternoon when a man sporting a Team PNP T-shirt took a T-shirt with the picture of presidential challenger Peter Phillips and placed it in the road and began to tread on it. A supporter of Phillips quickly rushed to pick up the T-shirt and a stand-off ensued. However, tempers were cooled after the Arise and Renew supporter said: “I refuse to go down that road with them.”

Edmond Campbell, Sunday Gleaner, Sept. 21, 2008

I’m just going to say straight out I don’t believe this really happened, unless the ‘journalist’ is completely incompetent. If it did happen, how come Edmond Campbell didn’t approach the man tread-ding on the Arise and Renew shirt to seek comment about this man’s feelings and behavior? We have only an un-sourced, anonymous comment about the incident to go off as we determine what happened and why? I don’t believe it; it has never been my experience that one side in political contest, card game or soccer match is the epitome of boorish hooliganism and the other side is the very model of angelic behavior. This plotline that only Portia’s Team PNP people have displayed hostility strains credulity. If this event happened I expect the journalist to note the result of his attempt to solicit comment from the alleged Team PNP supporter acting in this way; I expect a name and a quote of the Arise and Renew supporter intervening; and I expect comments to be solicited from other onlookers about the behavior of this Team PNP supporter and about whether this incident was an anomaly or commonplace throughout the day. Unless there is video or more evidence I don’t believe it. The fact that we as readers are asked to believe only the journalist and take his word that this occurred is shitty journalism. What’s more, given the demonstrated news bias (not the editorial commentary bias) of the Jamaica Gleaner against Team PNP and Portia I find this description a little too fantastic to believe and say again either Edmond Campbell was being incompetent or dishonest.

It is also my opinion that the Jamaica Gleaner yesterday breached a line of propriety by publishing another editorial clearly endorsing Phillips and his candidacy on the day of the election. This is a game of inches, as they say about American football, and it is perhaps difficult to explain the gradation. But even when the Gleaner first made their endorsement they remained a spectator on the sidelines. The repeated endorsement on the day of the election in my view is something no-one should be doing except those partisans that are most enormously invested — and this is the appearance the Gleaner gave with it’s 11th hour re-assertion of their endorsement for Phillips. They moved, in my view, from merely stating their opinion to protesting too much; from simply offering a perspective to what resembles a public-speaker feverishly pounding the lectern to support a point. They became an arm of the Arise and Renew campaign — and to their embarrassment! How weak is your influence, how toothless your power, when the challenger you back so loudly and publicly loses by such a wide margin? Clearly the Jamaica Gleaner miscalculated the extent of their influence, and I dare speculate that the hard sell they pursued probably caused Phillips to lose some votes he previously had as nothing as good and renewing as he was made out to be needs to be sold so hard and aggressively.

Thankfully the Sunday Herald is here to save the day, and needs to be applauded for such. Today they look at

Peter Phillips in parliament
Peter Phillips in parliament

what Phillips loss means. Either they did what a great newspaper does and pre-wrote the piece about Phillips loss by planning for both possible outcomes; or they stayed up late and only put the issue to bed after the results came out last night. Either way, cheers to them.

I must repeat how tragic it is to consider when reading today’s Jamaica Observer, Gleaner and even the Herald that there is a derth of full, robust coverage of this event. We all knew this day was coming for weeks and that either of the two possible results would have crucial significance to the Jamaican state and ultimately the Jamaican people. And the print media in Jamaica has to date utterly failed to plan and execute coverage that reflects that reality.

I don’t know much about some of the new VP’s, what’s their full bio?  I don’t know all the reasons why delegates many have switched their support from Phillips to Portia or vice-versa, what was their thought process? What will Maxine Henry-Wilson make as a next move? And on, and on the questions go. I am not the only one with these questions; everyone in Linstead and Falmouth is not apprised of the answers. To date the print press answers none of these, despite having the ability to plan this news event for months. This is incongruous with a free press in a democratic society. This is not journalism, it’s what propaganda looks like.

Update on Tues. Sept 23 @ 9:20am to reflect correct name of incompetent Gleaner reporter.

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4 thoughts on “Not so much tings to say right now

  1. D – You and these expectations of fairness, accuracy, and balance – you don’t get that such an approach is simply not our way. Crappy reportage is in our national DNA! In some journalism textbook somewhere there is a section on “Journalism – Jamaican styleee!” If not, you ought to write it.

    Seriously though, some of that “political education” that Phillips was going on about needs to come from us upstarts and meddlers who can/should be doing the work of providing the answers to these questions. That information is certainly NOT going to come from media houses that cannot distinguish between good journalism and propaganda, nor can they disguise their disgust and partisan commentary in horribly contorted language.

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