MEDIA MONITOR: Who will safeguard the media vs the Guardian? And the CJ vs the Express?

More or less 20%. That is the share of the newspaper market that the Guardian has enjoyed (if that is the right verb) for several years now.  It is also the figure that, according to a former Guardian editor of fairly recent vintage, is more than adequate provided that that 20% contains a substantial proportion of the business market.

Photo: You’re fired.
(Courtesy Eremedia)

Well, make what you will of that, mindful that that person is no longer the Guardian editor. To me, that suggests that (s)he was no more able to persuade the Guardian principals of the soundness of that position than (s)he was able to get her/his charges to believe it.

The Express, enjoying something in the region of 50% over the same period, doh bizness; they are consistently giving the people what the people want, crime, bacchanal scandal. This week’s Sunday Express, for instance, led with an “EXCLUSIVE MFO SURVEY” purporting to show that the “majority of people want Chief Justice to apologise […] but (readers/respondents are) divided on if he should stay.”

And on Page 15, there’s an interesting letter headlined “CONFIDENCE IN THE JUDICIARY DECLINING.” It says that, “Only a public opinion survey can definitely answer…” the question of whether “the latest imbroglio involving the JLSC’s mishandling of the Marcia Ayers-Caesar application […] would actually diminish trust in judges.” The letter bears the signature of Kevin Baldeosingh.

So we shall come back to the Express in due course but for now I want to stick with the Guardian’s recent axing of the controversial columnist, for which, it has already been suggested, the fecklessness of the paper’s editors was arguably responsible. I want to stick my neck out and say that what brought about KB’s crucifixion might be three little words: bad for business.

I think of the atheist KB spreadeagled on a made-in-the-Guardian cross with BFB as his INRI. What wonderful irony!

Photo: Fired Trinidad Guardian columnist Kevin Baldeosingh.

Business first, all else afterwards; that really is the Guardian’s way. Ask BC Pires, whose parting shot when he was given his Guardian pink slip is a media masterpiece that would have caused any self-respecting media manager to recall him immediately. Or run and hide his face.

The Guardian’s Grenfell Kissoon did neither; AnsaMcAl have Standards in Port-of-Spain, San Fernando and elsewhere but nowadays you would be hard-pressed, it seems to me, to find serious standards anywhere in Guardian media, certainly not in St Vincent Street and/or on Rodney Road in Chaguanas.

Everything suggests that the “bad for business” guideline trumps all “good for journalism” standards. Don’t take my word for it. Since nothing tells you more about a paper’s real standards than its editorial and its editorial page, it is useful to take a quick look at that section of two or three issues of the paper from the end of last month.

“WOES, WASTE AND WAITING FOR WORD” was the headline of the Guardian’s 27 May editorial. One sentence says that the Prime Minister’s “tone was measured and publicly frowning on some of the missteps of his ministers and was a step in the right direction.”  That second “and” is clearly surplus to requirements and might, under different circumstances, be overlooked by any but the most scrupulous of readers.

But that sentence was also extracted and placed just below the headline as the pull quote. Without the necessary deletion being made.

Photo: Eats, Shoots and Leaves, the essential guide to punctuation which, along with dictionaries and thesauruses, should be made available to all writers, including writers of editorials,

On 21 May, the editorial, headlined “ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS,” identified those five words as “an idiom with ancient roots.” Maybe it’s just me but I fail to see how “Actions speak louder than words” qualifies as, according to the ODE, “a group of words […] having a meaning not deductible from those of the individual words.”

The editorial of 26 May, headlined “DON’T BE FOOLISH, PORT AUTHORITY, begins by telling us that “…the Government always has to be careful about not being penny wise and pound foolish.” It then tells us that those five words also constitute a “traditional British idiom.”

Doesn’t the Guardian editorial writer have access to an ODE, a traditional British English dictionary? Or do accurate meanings of words not matter?

Like the subject of the 20 May editorial, the subject of that 26 May editorial was the sea bridge woes. It may not be a stretch to say that the media are being directly affected by that situation. Page 10 of the Guardian of Monday 29 May carries an Yvonne Baboolal story about the Sport Minister’s $92,000 Tobago junket. The story’s headline, SPORTS HOTEL FEES REALISTIC, doesn’t lead you to expect much. And, indeed, it doesn’t disappoint; it is precisely what the story says.

But the $92,000 question is this: WTH does how realistic the hotel fees are have to do with anything? How could any serious reporter so completely miss the boat?

The $64,000 answer? It’s a Tobago issue; blame the unreliable sea bridge, of course!

Photo: The MV Superfast Galicia.
(Copyright Trasemeships)

And the Express too had earlier had its sails trimmed. How else can one explain that, in a week following the one in which the name of the fast ferry Galicia appeared multiple times in the first five pages of all the dailies, a sub-editor, a proof reader, someone with responsibility for the copy allowed the name Galacia to appear eight times without correction in Raffique Shah’s column?

Okay, so Shah may have got it wrong; that happens. But how can the newspaper staff miss all eight instances of Galacia, all eight duly italicised and therefore demanding upstream from the editor—and downstream from the reader—a little extra attention?

That would be more understandable in the Guardian, whose staffers, I think, still qualify for an automatic Standards discount.

But it’s not all negative in the Guardian. Without that paper, I would never have suspected the extent of the linguistic mastery of the bevy (thank you, Dale Enoch) of lawyers that are calling for the Chief Justice’s resignation.

On the front page of its Friday 2 June issue, the paper carried a story about the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago’s (LATT) session on the previous evening to discuss, inter alia, a vote of no confidence in the CJ.

A photograph of Ivor Archie is superimposed on a copy of the ballot paper used for the vote. Resolutions 2, 3 and 4 listed on the paper begin as follows: “To resolve that the LATT do express its loss of confidence in…”

Photo: Dr Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool performs “Learn from Arithmetic” at the Calypso Monarch final on 26 February 2017 at the Queen’s Park Savannah.
Chalkdust copped the crown for a record ninth time.
(Courtesy Wired868)

That “do” is a Hudsonphillipsesque subjunctive and its use is quite deliberate, perhaps even Machiavellian.  The symbolism of the juxtaposition of that apparent plural and an unequivocal singular (“its”) is, as Mr Manning might have said, pellucid.

But it won’t work; nor will the leaking of the possibly-ex-Chief Magistrate’s letter to the President. The CJ’s self-confidence is as solid, as unshakeable as the Rock of Gibraltar. And he has royal support.

Writing in the Express of Tuesday 6 June, one Hollis Liverpool, has this warning for “The Law Association, Martin Daly, Israel Khan, Gerald Ramdeen, Anand Ramlogan, Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the editor of the Express newspaper.” (No Wayne Sturge, Devant Maharaj or Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, Chalkie?)

“…no one has given (you) ultimate power or power over the JLSC. While (you) have the freedom and right to speak, it is only the People of Trinidad and Tobago standing together as a legislative group that has that power, and the voice of the People is greater than the people in power.”

Even without that resounding declaration of unequivocal public support for the beleaguered CJ by the reigning CK or the correction of the Sunday Express‘ survey, Mr Archie could have been expected to react as he has.

Unimpressed, the learned Chief Justice—he of the “they won’t stop me from flying!” retort—would continue to turn up his nose and treat the would-be ultimatum from the LATT with complete and utter contempt even if the bevy of disaffected lawyers were so learned as to be able to bray continuously in Latin.

Photo: Chief Justice and JLSC chairman Ivor Archie.
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  1. “How could any serious reporter so completely miss the boat?” No serious reporter could.

    • Seems our media are literally just there to convey info (at Times not very accurately, either), rather than ‘report’ on the news, which sometimes begs for clarity.
      I thought who, what, when, where, why were the basics of journalism?

  2. i have long said people including the media (print and electronic) the ,Guardian, the Express, Newsday, and CNC 3, TV 6 have long showed their political hands.and their chosen sides. As citizens we have to deduce what is not being said to have an informed opinion. I have long wondered if they hire editors at all for their respective dailies given the nonsense we hear, see and read. if you don’t do as i say, the big bully will fire you. Its fake news , no longer have journalistic integrity. Its about business and the big bucks. Whaaaaaaaaat?

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