In Trinidad and Tobago, my late brother Lloyd Best used to say repeatedly to the handful of brave souls who read his columns regularly, people walk about with their heads empty. Given that he left us more than eight years before the Rowley Government came to power in September of 2015, one might marvel at his perspicacity.
Certainly, both the politicians and several of the media personnel in the public eye these days seem to add petrol to the fire of the empty heads perception.
For example, the Prime Minister yesterday treated us to a virtual peroration before eventually telling us that he has “no ailments, (…) no symptoms which can prevent me at this time from conducting my duties to which I have been assigned.”
“…conducting my duties”? There are those who may conclude from the form if not the content of just those 20-odd words that there are clear symptoms of something deeper. But for the moment let us let that pass.
No such easy passage for the TV6 ace political reporter. I’m not 100% certain but I thought I heard him twice in his report talk about the PM’s “prostrate.” Attempts to confirm that on tv6tnt.com suggested I was wrong.
“Unless,” someone in the know suggested, “it was re-voiced, which is not hard to do.”
If I am right, it is something the channel’s editors should not take lying down!
On, then, to a paragraph in yesterday’s lead story which has the crosshead, “Disappointed with the Express.”
It reports the prime minister as being unhappy with the paper’s reporting on its front page, “rumour about my health and throat cancer, coming from somebody who knows absolutely nothing about me, a person who is not a doctor, a person who is clearly using and speculating on the worst…”
You would hope that the #1 paper would be in a position to categorically refute any such claim; the refutation, however, is not categorical.
“Contrary to what the Prime Minister said, the Express did not report any rumour on his health,” the story ends, “on its front page.”
In those last four words, perhaps, are to be found the seeds of the problem that ails, in my view, the media in T&T: there is no real unshakeable commitment to the highest standards of journalism.
But the people to whom Lloyd referred weren’t just politicians and media personnel in general; I would like to point fingers especially at the people who report sport.
Here are a few reasons. On the midday news on i95.5FM on Thursday, Head of News Dale Enoch informed listeners that with his first throw in the Open Javelin Event at the Rio Olympics on the previous night, T&T’s defending champion Keshorn Walcott had managed to throw the spear “88.68 seconds”.
Having hesitated briefly, presumably to give himself time to think about it, he came up with “seconds”.
Now that is arguably a forgivable mistake—even for a man who readily admits that he is not a sports fan. But he is a news editor so what is not forgivable, in my view, is for the error, made right at the start of the news report, to be left uncorrected full 15 minutes later when the news report ended.
Speaking of uncorrected, there’s an error that’s been running on TV6 for at least a year now, probably much more. It’s in the ticker tape that runs below the news presenter every night boasting that there’s “NO POLITICAL INTEFERENCE.”
Look again. In English, “interference” has—or should have—two r’s, not one (just to be clear, that’s one after the first ‘e’ and one after the second ‘e’).
And there’s a second long-running error that annoys me intensely because it is played repeatedly on the several radio stations owned by the proprietor of Mr Chow on Tragarete Road. Hour after hour, day after day, week after week, the ad invites us to come and get “ribs falling off the bone.” No joke!
But my real focus today is the second-rate sports presenters whose loose use of language so often offends the score of us who still care about these things. Throughout the football season, for instance, i95.5’s Don—hearing him say it, one can be forgiven for thinking it’s “Dawn”—Lee, for instance, treats us to numerous servings of “David dee Gear,” the Man. U. custodian.
And he presents poor Michelle-Lee Ahye over and over as “Ahhee.”
Enoch, by the way, either ignored the hyphen in her name, moved it or doesn’t know what it means since, in the same midday broadcast, he called her “Lee-Ahye.”
On the TV6 7pm news the previous night after Kyle Greaux failed to get past the first round of the 400m in Rio, the Cup of Woe presenter, who apparently doesn’t think accuracy is really important, treated us to the news that “Kyle Giroux” had been eliminated.
I suppose a cook has to be comfortable with butchering animals. But people’s names? Please, no, eh!
And then of course, there is the Rio reporting, more accurately, the headlines selected for the reports. There’s a lot of talk on social media and on the airwaves about how “ungrateful” and “harsh” the citizenry has been in its dissing of the athletes representing us in Rio. Well, no one can accuse the Express of that.
When gymnast Marisa Dick flopped on the bars in Rio, the #1 paper relegated her fall to the back page, highlighting on its front page that she had delivered a “new move on Olympic stage.”
As an exemplar of positivity, the paper is indisputably way ahead of the field.
But here is a warning for the Express: superlatives are to be used sparingly.
In his early days as a sports reporter, a former prominent news reader, now promoted to sports organizer, used to style almost everything of note that happened “excellent”. As his stay in the profession grew longer and longer, he found he had to begin to use more and more the absurd descriptor “very excellent.”
And the Express?
Young “Record-breaker” Dylan Carter was “dynamic” in swimming and rower Felice Chow “fantastic,” both athletes having done their best but not quite made the grade. So when Ahye finished sixth in the 100m and followed that up with a similar placing in the 200m, the Express could not but up the ante and the sprinter earned “awesome.”
Former record holder Ian Morris supplied “superb” for Machel Cedenio, fourth in the 400m final.
With Keshorn Walcott in position to reclaim his gold medal in the javelin finals last night, I wondered whether the empty heads syndrome would prevail or would the creative juices in the newsroom be flowing freely enough to make a damblaying of one of the superlatives unnecessary?
Frankly, I wasn’t optimistic; my money was on “Wonderful Walcott.”
The 23-year-old from Toco contrived to give the country its only medal of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad. But that bronze earned him neither adjective nor epithet.
When I wanted to express my extreme dissatisfaction with the way the newspapers in particular were responding to the crippling crisis in West Indies cricket, I penned a piece which I headlined, “And the media just keep on mediaing.”
Thanks to the spellcheck, that became, tellingly but not unsurprisingly, “And the media just keep on mediating.” And in the #1 paper, the “correction” went uncorrected.,
So, not me and the conventional media, dearie!
I’m truly disappointed with the anti-progressive use in Raucous in Rio of Black Friday to describe a day when things didn’t go well. But I’m sticking with Wired868.
Having seen Lasana’s comprehensive, superlative reporting on the Thema Williams/Marisa Dick kangkatang, I have adapted the old Latin guideline for educators “Healthy minds in healthy bodies” to Mens Lasana in corpore sano and adopted it as the motto for all my journalism classes.