To err is human. As a consequence I make mistakes.

Just yesterday while attending Bruce Golding’s Town Hall meeting in Brooklyn, where I was live-blogging on my cellphone via Twitter, I blogged that Lorna Golding is in the house — though not on stage. Unfortunately at the moment I was making that statement Lorna Golding was 1 of only 3 people on stage.

Can you tell who the woman at right is?
Can you tell who the woman at right is?

Now in my defense it wasn’t clear that she was Bruce Golding’s wife. I don’t recall Mrs. Golding waving when Jamaica’s Consul General to New York, Genevieve Brown-Metzger, announced a welcome to the Prime Minister and Mrs. Golding. But the reason I got it wrong the first time is only marginally important. The retraction when I realized I was in error, even on this small point, was what mattered most.

Another recent mistake I made was when I misstated the name of Edmond Campbell, a Gleaner journalist I criticized; I originally indicated that Mr. Campbell’s surname was “White.” Again I retracted via Twitter and even considered whether a separate post was appropriate for the correction — which I declined to do in the end as it wasn’t a material error.

But to err is human. I err, but then you err too! Readers of this blog told me and other readers via the non-scientific poll posted here that Peter Phillips would win. Seeing as how your readership of this blog is a clear indication of your above average intelligence I believed the results. It is a small poll, with a very low participation rate, but the result indicated overwhelming that Peter Phillips would win. Readers here were wrong. But there is nothing wrong with simply being “wrong” — if you venture a guess and your analysis didn’t pan out. To err is human.

Poll results from PNP presidency poll
Poll results from PNP presidency poll

The Gleaner and Observer frequently make mistakes, though some are larger than others. For example on Tuesday Sept. 16 I read, with some surprise, the exclusive allegation of a raped police constable. My surprise was not that a policewoman was allegedly raped, but rather that the Gleaner was reporting the allegation of rape, and the lack of official zeal in objectively investigating that alleged rape, prior an arrest having taken place. This is what journalism looks like! This story in a Jamaican context is actually award-winning simply because of general editorial unwillingness to step out and take a risk like this. Mark Titus, the author of this piece, has written other articles on transportation infrastructure which were held up here as being excellent examples of journalism. Thus, I was so impressed by the publication of this story that I had to restraint myself from taking to the blog to gush about it immediately. Primarily I wanted to see if/how the story would develop — this story had legs and opportunities for follow-up were legion. Almost too good to be true, the Gleaner actually had follow-up where we learned that Supt. Ionie Ramsay-Nelson, who heads the Constabulary Communications Network, was herself “inappropriately approached” early in her career. This item wasn’t delved into properly, in my opinion, but it was included. Some other story ideas which need publication are questions of what process the JCF has in place for both men and women to report sexual assault; the frequency of such reports; and any special steps women in the general population should use to report being raped by a police-officer. But you can’t get everything you want, and frankly this story is so close to where the press in Jamaica should be, compared to where they are, that I was willing to overlook the follow-up the Gleaner hasn’t yet done.

But then on that Friday the Gleaner had to acknowledge a crucial mistake. They had changed certain details of the story to protect the identity of the alleged victim, but failed to disclose that to their readers. The practice of changing details of a story about sexual assault to protect the identity of the alleged victim is common-place the world over; but the failure to report it to the reader is a major breakdown in the editorial process. I can be mean and say perhaps the Gleaner’s editors were still so busy seeking new ways to malign Portia Simpson-Miller that they failed to properly re-validate the story prior to publication. But to be fair to the Gleaner they acknowledged their error in a conspicuous and straight-forward way. The error detracts from the impact of the story, but I would still contend this is an award winning story.

New York Times Maureen Dowd
New York Times' Maureen Dowd

Which leads me to Mr. Mark Wignall. I read in lieu of watching TV, so I READ Mark Wignall the same way some people watch their favorite TV shows. So like another blogger, Gordon Swaby, who eagerly awaited the new episode of the TV series “Heroes;” I have eagerly awaited Wignall’s columns — especially when he had a tease to take on this or that issue “this coming Thursday.” The list of columnists who garner that kind of attentiveness from me is small and exclusive: including Maureen Dowd at the NY Times, Nat Hentoff at the Village Voice, and Peggy Noonan at the Wall St. Journal. This attention is an honor that I give to a few people who write consistently-compelling-commentary© whether I agree with them or not.

Further, for about two years or so Mark Wignall has been at the absolute top of my list of Jamaican columnists. I don’t have an actual notebook with rankings, but suffice to say John Maxwell and Barbara Gloudon each have Emeritus status as commentators. They’re normally followed by Mark Wignall who both breaks news stories and writes revealing opinion commentary and therefore garnered number 1 status. And Mark Wignall in turn would be followed the Gleaner’s Ian Boyne who writes a cogent and coherent column which exposes Jamaicans to modern schools of thought on important issues.

Today I have to conspicuously reverse the order and demote Mark Wignall; Ian Boyne is now my gold standard for op-ed commentary in Jamaica. Ian Boyne has recently had a series of sterling critiques of the media and their how they fail the Jamaican people which for me raised his profile (no pun intended) as a commentator. Further, Boyne corrected predicted Portia’s victory, where few other commentators in Jamaica did. But the main reason is encapsulated by the following Mark Wignall paragraph:

“When scribes like myself leave the realm of pussyfooting and mealy-mouthed column-writing and in the process make known our political picks and then place beside those choices what we see as negatives and positives, in terms of the retardation or development of the political entities involved, we conveniently forget that in arriving at a political choice, voters tend to engage more of the visceral and less of the rational. It holds for party internal voting as much as it obtains for the national vote.”

Source: Mark Wignall, Jamaica Observer, Sept. 25, 2008

Mark Wignall blew through the stop-light of journalism (he is a journalist); and the stop-light of analytical commentary (which he does very well); and drove right off the cliff by making himself a partisan advocate in the recently concluded PNP presidential election. In the process, he misled his readers, he misled me. And in the paragraph above, instead of acknowledging the error and even apologizing for it, Wignall frames his error as some sort of {{insert profanity here}} heroism. Is he serious?

Mark pounded Portia Simpson-Miller every chance he got before this election, which is his right to do; but he also reported that she would lose in big way, and he even speculated whether she would cry or not. Mark Wignall climbed way out there on a limb, far from the trunk of the tree. And got it wrong, spectacularly wrong. Portia increased her margin of victory from the last time. Mark Wignall then responded to this by name-calling: saying the PNP delegates are irrational. Actually, Wignall was the irrational one.

Mark Wignall hasn’t placed one positive attribute beside Portia, that wasn’t rational. And frankly to claim Peter Phillip’s constituency is some sort of model for development in comparison to Portia’s? Really? Again, is he serious?

Something is happening to Mark Wignall when he writes about Portia, he becomes imbued with a sort of ‘irrational exuberance’ about the prospects of her challengers. Mark Wignall did the same thing prior to the general election in 2007, telling me (and his other readers) that Bruce was going to win in a wash-out. At that time Wignall had claimed his opinion was informed by his sources and his professional polling. What we got was a historically close margin of victory by the JLP. Still, as Wignall readily apologized for the disparity between what happened and what he predicted I didn’t dwell on it. Wignall even congratulated the pollster whose polls were closest to the final result and since Bruce did win, this error did nothing to diminish Wignall’s commentary in my view.

But this new PNP presidency election led Mark to an even more impassioned advocacy for Portia’s challenger. And Wignall was all wet on this one — so now he is claiming that he didn’t take delegates’ irrationality into account. Memo to Mark: if irrational, they were irrational before, and your analysis should have taken their irrationality into consideration in order to be accurate.

Even today, Sunday Sept. 28, Wignall is railing against Portia as “easily Jamaica’s most inept political leader,” oddly his sentence continues by acknowledging that she was elevated to the “pinnacle of party power.” Memo to Mark: people elevated to the pinnacle of party power are by definition adept at politics.

Further in today’s column Wignall calls Portia a despot. Here she wins another election, vanquishing a challenger for the second time, and her harshest critic responds by calling her a despot! Is he serious?

“It is my contention and sincere belief that Portia Simpson Miller, if given political power in this country again, will turn out to be Jamaica’s first true political despot. She displayed it in the 2007 election campaign and she has allowed a wide wedge to be driven into the heart of the PNP.”

Source: Mark Wignall, Jamaica Observer, Sept 28, 2008

Ironically this strategy of disparaging Portia through exaggeration is not working for Mark Wignall nor for any of Portia’s other detractors — but they refuse to yield their ground. Let me give you an example.

Listening to Portia’s victory speech I found something slightly strident about her tone. Before she even reached the stage I disliked the DJ’s selection of Mavado’s ‘Gully Side’ as one of the songs — too much of an exhortation to violence. Once on stage Portia failed to pay the obligatory platitudes to Peter Phillips’ “lifetime of PNP service,” and she failed to laud his supporters for “the hard work they did on behalf of their candidate.” Yet the lack of these things seemed only mildly inappropriate — for the most part her theme of renewal and unity made up for this slightly strident tone. When the Observer and Gleaner belatedly panned her victory speech as being overly inflammatory and excessively strident, I watched it again on YouTube, and moved from believing her speech was slightly strident to thinking it fairly conciliatory. The only thing that had changed was the irrational exaggeration of her enemies. So if I were to give advice to all her detractors I’d say you need to give Portia sincere and effusive praise when she gets things right. Your bias is so extreme that I’m beginning to feel like I’m a nominee for president of the Portia Simpson Miller Fan-Club when all I’ve been saying is that Portia is no-where near as bad as she’s made out to be. But if you fail to believe that effusive and sincere praise will only enhance your justifiable criticisms — you need to read this post again.

Until commentators start treating Portia fairly, she’ll be within her rights to let them know she “nuh gawn no-wey, dem lose again!” And through victory, she’ll have many more opportunities to do it.

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18 thoughts on “Errata

  1. Mark Wignall has been wrong on so many occasions its surprising that any one takes anything he says seriously any more. but that’s Jamdown for you, you don’t need to be competent to hold positions of importance. The leading pundits all got it wrong, Cliff Hughes, Mark Wignall, the editorial writers of the Gleaner and Observer, they all erred, yet they uphold Portia to such zealously high standards…ones they themselves fail to meet!

    completely agree with you about the Gleaner’s expose of the female cop’s rape by a colleague…kudos to them for carrying it, never mind all the excellent follow up stories they failed to provide. but the last thing i heard on Friday newscasts was that Titus was going to be sued by the Police for writing that story!!

  2. Mark Wignall is a hack. He cannot be used as a barometer to the true reflection of the socio-political scene in Jamaica. He was Mrs. Simpson Millers biggest cheerleader once to the point of irrationality……and inexplicably that changed.
    There are rumours that the goodly columnist’s opinions are dependent on his paymasters at the time…. nuff said..

  3. At last someone mentions Wignalls past sympathies. Given his acerbic writing on Ms. Simpson Miller I was beginning to think I was going senile for remembering his support for her in the first round of the PNP leadership “struggle” against Mr. Philipps

  4. Its not just in Jamaica where political pundits are wrong. Watch the talking heads and experts on cable tv and read their columns.

  5. The person ki’na resemble Lorna Golding. Ugly suit. If a she, how she coulda gone pon stage go siddung side a Bruce? Anybody elect she to no post or ask she fi har opinion? I well bex because Bruce gi’ her big-shot position fi run some early childhood education foundation, an’ all she an di res o di “JLP wives” dem a do a colleck money like dem a church! As far as me know, she no know nuttn bout education or how fi run foundation. Talk about corruption.

    Once bitten twice shy, right? Well, stop listen to Mark Wignall; him talk outta both side o’ him ass, especially when it comes to issues related to women and sexuality. When im deh pon dem deh topic deh, is like seh im figget seh im fi use im ‘ead to rahtid! Now, Ian Boyne, I can read and respectfully disagree with him, but Wignall? Steupppssssssss!!!

  6. The difference between Wignal and Boyne is that one is a journalist who emerged through the ranks of a hard-nosed reporter; the other is an opinion writer who is simply committed to foisting his unbalanced views on readers. There is a vast difference between the two. What strikes me as interesting though is that you at any time had Wignal at the top of your list of “bests”.

    On the issue of the incorrect call by so many bloggers on this site, that is not really surprising and just goes to show why we cant trust these types of microscopic ‘polling’ of readers. I certainly never understood why or how so many ‘rational’ folks had Portia as losing. But count me among those who were appalled by her absence of graciousness in her victory comments. It was not only what she said, but body language often reveals so much more. For the sake of her own party she could have done a whole lot better. To try and ‘white-wash’ (maybe ‘black-wash’ is more applicable here) her display by describing it as ‘mildly in appropriate’ is about as jaundiced a perspective as that of the Gleaner and Observer’s description.

  7. @ Goat Mouth:
    Does the PAJ have a Legal Defense Fund; or does the PAJ pay for an insurance policy for journalists being sued? if not, why not?

    @ Dutty Bwoy: Maybe Mark Wignall is Jamaica’s own Dick Morris? Now that you mention a pollster who consistently gets it wrong and stays in business,

    @ Clare: I’m mortified, shocked, and deeply offended that anyone would compare me to the Gleaner and Observer. That’s a low blow and I demand an apology! But seriously — I am accustomed to a more brutal type of politics in America where they lambaste their opponents with words. Never with violence. Portia’s demeanor and tone was not sufficiently gracious or generous as a winner must be — but in my humble opinion it was nowhere near as strident as people are making it out to be. An analogy would be that someone tells you a cup of tea is scalding hot; if you drink it and it’s only lukewarm you may say it was room temperature or cool due to the contrast of reality with their exaggeration.

    @ Longbench: You’re ysterical and hincorrigible. (Jamaican h’s throughout.)

  8. Well everyone makes mistakes. But who hears about Lona Golding anyway? the last time i saw her was in a clip of Brce’s swearing in ceremony!

    Longbench, that sound like corruption to me too.

  9. The flaying, excoriating and lambasting of columnist Mr. Mark Wignall is profligate and excessive.Indeed, Mr. Wignall has erred occassionally with respect to psephology — polling and the study of elections — in Jamaican politics as evidenced in the recent general elections of September 2007 and in his most recent announcements or proclamation regarding the presidency of the Peoples National Party, which saw Ms. Portia Simpson-Miller defeating Dr. Peter Phillips. Apparently, Mr. Wignall’s psephological skills are problematic, despite being a student of the master of psephology in Jamaica, the late Dr. Carl Stone. Notwithstanding, columnist and journalists do err, either wittingly or unwittingly.With that said, Mr.Wignall is one of the most interesting and thought provoking columnist writing in Jamaica today. Many of the stories, issues, and problems concerning Jamaican society —-including politics—-that/which many of our writers and columnists ignore and are reluctant to address for whatever reason or reasons, Mr. Wignall is one of the few to tackle, address and expose the relevant and germane issues to the Jamaican people. Interestingly, and subjectively,one finds Mr. Wignall’s writing in various and sundry fields or topics vis-a-vis Jamaica, including politics, extremely instructive, illuminating, edifying,and useful, despite attempts on the part of detractors to denigrate and disparage.Mr. Wignall, continue doing great work for Jamaica. Indeed, your psephological skills/acumen will improve over time. Even polls, as famous as GALLUP, and various prominent newspaper polls in metropolitan societies, at times do not call it right or correctly with all the sophisticated and futuristic computer technology available to them.Quite frankly,one wishes that Jamaica had more audacious columnists/writers like you, constantly pushing the envelope and raising the burning questions in the society.Nuff respect Mark!!

  10. @ Esteban:
    I’d love to address the meat of your remarks. But first I’d like to know where my criticism of Wignall is “excessive” and what you think the responsibility of a commentator is to his audience when he gets it wrong?

  11. Esteban,

    wow, you sure you’re not mark wignall masquerading under that wonderful pseudonym you use, the initials of which spell ‘EAR’?

    Wignall doesn’t hesitate to indulge in ‘ flaying, excoriating and lambasting’ various hapless people in his columns. why should he be exempted from the same if and when he is guilty as charged?

  12. Esteban — you mek me affi go fi’n dictionary to baxide – psephology – me MUS use dat deh wud somewhe’!

    Another take on the issue of the excessive criticism of, or as I see it, the spotlight on, Mark Wignall. I think we [this blog community, Jamaicans etc.] invest a lot, far too much perhaps, in the opinions of journalists like Mark Wignall precisely because we think he walks in the shoes of that other one we love to adore – Carl Stone. I know that media is a part of the political culture, and Mark Wignall certainly sees himself as a player, to the extent where he offers predictions that he thinks we should take seriously because HE said it, and that his opinion is worthy of debate.

    Well, yes, Mark does take up issues that are important to Jamaicans, but he does not provide nearly the kind of unbiased information and informed perspective that he should, especially given that he’s a journalist. I often cannot get through his columns because it is sometimes impossible to distinguish fact from his editorializing of those facts. He’s too busy sensationalizing some perspectives and his column to pass remarks an’ cuss an’ big up whoever ‘im agree wid. In that same column predicting Phillips’ win, he also makes it clear that he sides with Marcia Forbes on her appointment as Permanent Secretary. And so? Why should we care what he thinks? What does he know that we don’t already know/believe? On what basis does he offer this opinion – because he can? There are already several versions of what he offers in the Observer and Gleaner. His writing is better than most, but still definitely gets under my skin for sure. And I am quite quite unhappy that I just devoted all these words to talking about him.

  13. But, there’s another interesting thread here — when exactly did Wignall’s sentiments shift from Portia to Peter? I think he has aptly demonstrated that he is an unreconstructed sexist pig and, in my view, that helps explain the change.

  14. you’re right LB about how little the opinions of journalists matter…try telling them that! i thought it was touching how all these various wannabee opinion-makers dutifully trotted out their opinions thinking no doubt that it would tip the balance in favour of Phillips.

    will they learn from this? highly unlikely…the Arise and Renew campaign spent money on tv and radio ads, print ads, allegedly greased palms of supporters AND had the vocal support of well-placed journalists/commentators and STILL they lost–

    a little less pontificating and preachifying and a little more reasoned analysis would be greatly appreciated…

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