Media Monitor: Oh mih Guardian! The Grandma of St Vincent St under an editorial spell?

As the Guardian last week marched into April, something seemed to have been taking place behind the scenes. My suspicion is that, with Shelly Dass now officially fired, someone from the CCN group who knows English has crossed the floor and taken up new responsibilities in the print section of the ANSA McAL media empire, including copy editing.

In the three weeks beginning Sunday 11 March and ending Saturday 31 March, readers have encountered an itinerant editorial page; it turned up once as page 24, four times as page 20, and eight times each as page 16 and 18. And in those 15 days, the editorial has only on six occasions been the conventional full editorial on a single subject and full 15 times a three-part editorial with three different headings, including one in patois and one in Italian.

Photo: The Trinidad Guardian logo.

“THROWDOWN IN COUVA,” blared last Saturday’s back page headline.

Throwdown? To the dictionary I went.

“A performance by or competition between DJs, rappers, or similar artistes,” says the Oxford Dictionary of English on Page 1840.

Some 200 pages earlier on Page 1637, I found “A final test or confrontation intended to settle a dispute,” which is what, I suspect, was happening in Couva where the TTFA was having its oft-postponed AGM that evening.

Walter Alibey’s story, on Page A54, was headlined, “Look Loy’s appointment in fray at question.” Uh? The problem not being lexical, I didn’t bother my trusted dictionary for that one; there are some things in the Guardian that just cannot be explained.

“SHIPWRECKED,” announced Thursday’s front page below four pictures of the craft that are supposed to be servicing the Tobago seabridge now and in the future. Three of them—the T&T Express and the T&T Spirit and the water taxi, the Trini Flash—have OUT OF ORDER printed above them and the fourth, the Galleons (sic) Passage, is stamped ON ITS WAY.

Are you there, trusty ODE?

“The destruction of a ship at sea by sinking or breaking up,” page 1631 defines ‘shipwreck,’ “for example in a storm or after striking a rock.”

Photo: A Trinidad Guardian headline on murdered child, Akeil Chambers.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

It must be that, like Dass and Orin Gordon and the dozens of other members of staff who were axed in the relatively recent Guardian load-shedding, dictionaries too are currently unemployed. Or, alternatively, someone has removed the relevant pages from all copies of any dictionaries that find themselves in the Guardian’s newsroom.

Thursday’s back page headline read, “Youth cricketers beat-up Bajans.” Let’s give the paper credit; they got three of the five words right. I conceded that it is possible that some dictionary somewhere does carry a hyphen between “beat” and “up,” thus creating the infinitive “to beat-up.” I, however, doubt it; I do not own a copy of Lise Winer’s T&T English/Creole dictionary but I couldn’t locate the verb in Cote ci Cote la.

I tried to get the Fearless One on the phone to check because he knows English but he must have been busy editing Friday’s edition. The front page caption tells us that “Sheldon “Crazy Catholic” Narine […] is attended by Archbishop Jason Gordon…”

And on Page A23, the second paragraph of Alvin Corneal’s column says, “The presence of a member of the appointed neutral witness could well have learnt more of what is transpiring within the corridors of the executive committee.”

And after pointing out something about “persons illegible to vote at these extraordinary meetings,” the writer treats us to this: “Meantime, there is that powerful whisper from tunnel vision folks, of the work been done around the Ato Boldon stadium controlled by the TTFA is well on the way for two training fields and a hotel.”

I swear. Go check for yourself. In fact, try reading any “Corneal comments” over the last year and satisfy yourself that am not making it up.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago right-back Alvin Jones (right) smashes a long-range free kick towards the USA goal during 2018 World Cup qualifying action at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 10 October, 2017. The goal gave T&T a 1-0 win but they still finished at the bottom of the six-team Hex table.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/CA-Images/Wired868)

This, for instance, comes from “Cameron’s prediction of ICC victory” on Friday 16 March: “Of Course, Mr. Cameron does not have the where it all in any area of their successful jaunts and by saying so I humbly whisper to him that money alone does not bring success.”

That piss poor quality is par for the course in that oh so durable column. It has been that way for a long, long time now. So long, indeed, that were it not so, I would probably have remained a French and Spanish teacher at QRC, still learning English. But some 25-plus years ago, I discovered that the Guardian was willing to pay good money for that kind of stuff and I decided I too could effortlessly feed at that trough—even without knowing English!

And Corneal’s “Our football is in ruins” of 23 March raced to this conclusion: “This quagmire has to stop and the clubs must make their presence felt in the midst of serious dialogue regarding the restructuring of all football in the country.  […] To return to a successful past is not unproductive, but rather more intelligent.”

That’s just Corneal, you say? Well, here is TTOC President Brian Lewis inviting us on 27 March on Page A27 to “talk sports law:”

“The future of our nation’s future minds, hearts and souls are in the schools. […] So much has happened and there is still nine months of the year still to come.”

Photo: TTOC president Brian Lewis (far left) poses with 4 x 400m World champions (from left) Lalonde Gordon, Machel Cedenio, Renny Quow and Jereem Richards during the TTOC 2017 Awards.
(Copyright TTOC)

It seems obvious that the paper’s editors are in the job but not on the job, employed but not working.

A headline on Page A9 on March 28 says, “Man who survived gun attack, shot dead.”

And in the Wednesday 14 March edition, one finds in headlines these three additional examples of the linguistic sloppiness that characterises operations at the Old Lady of St Vincent Street, now based off the Uriah Butler Highway in Chaguanas: Ex soldier to hear PATT (Pg A5), Misuse of antibiotics trigger health woes (A7) and Rise in pedestrian deaths worry cops (A8).

“Afganistan blasts Windies,” says the back page of Friday 16 March, dropped aitches being very reminiscent of the fare to which we have become used on i95.5fm.

“Plucky Asians qualifies for 2019 Cricket World Cup,” reads the strap on Page A46 of Saturday 24 March.

Although the Guardian’s style rules require that teams be treated as singular, they arguably got it right two days later when the back page headline proclaimed: AFGHANS HUMBLE WINDIES AGAIN. But on page A44, the headline was “Athletics sweep 2017 awards.”

I suppose that, like politics, sports news is oh so very hard to edit.

Both in the Guardian and on i95.5fm.

Photo: Trinidad and Tobago sprinter Jereem Richards (right) prepares to glide past United States’ Ameer Webb (left) and Japan’s Abdul Hakim Sani-Brown in the 200m finals at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London on 10 August 2017. Richards ran away with bronze in a photo finish and was subsequently named Male Athlete of the Year.
(Copyright AFP 2017/Jewel Samad)
More from Wired868
Orin: Lineker scored, but the game for media integrity isn’t over

“[…] Gary Lineker, an accomplished former footballer for England, tweeted that the government set out an ‘immeasurably cruel policy being Read more

Media Monitor: Making amends for mystery of not calling SC’s name

As a part-time monitor of the media and a full-time anglophile, I sometimes come across stuff in the newspaper that Read more

Early Bird: When CNC3 “rolled” over the late Professor Gordon Rohlehr

Apoplectic, my fo’daymorning walk pardnah Bobby would later describe my state. In hindsight, I had to agree. Unapologetically apoplectic. Don’t Read more

Thompson: “He knew every inch of Territory QRC”—a man called Patrick White

I woke up one morning a few weeks ago to news that dulled the effulgence of the light that usually Read more

MATT offers condolences to families of Anthony Harris and Joel Nanton

“[…] Anthony Harris was a well-known and universally appreciated sports photographer who covered events with distinction across more than three Read more

Farewell Joel Nanton, I have never met a better person

Joel Nanton, the chair of the Department of Journalism and Media at COSTAATT, passed away yesterday at the age of Read more

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

Check Also

Orin: Lineker scored, but the game for media integrity isn’t over

“[…] Gary Lineker, an accomplished former footballer for England, tweeted that the government set out …


  1. Warning: Undefined variable $userid in /www/wired868_759/public/wp-content/plugins/user-photo/user-photo.php on line 114

    FYI. Lise Winer’s Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad and Tobago cites “beat up” to “Jerk; reel; thrash; stagger; move in an agitated manner; flap; usu. describing an animal being hit or killed, usu. on the ground”. Note there is no hyphen. Too much unfounded reliance on technology is reinforcing the necessity for the human touch – EDITORS – in journalism!

  2. Wasn’t the same Media House/Guardian that had an issue a few years ago and a number of reporters we either fired or resigned

  3. Ouch, ouch and auchorama on the Guardian follies, Mr Earl Best!
    I too have been an English teacher at QRC, plus a copy editor and journalist and opinion (leader) writer at the Trinidad Express, and journalist and sole leader writer for the Trinidad Guardian, Sunday Guardian and Evening News, and I have to say this is scary stuff. We didn’t have this kind of sloppiness in the Guardian in the old days, so I will have to play this one by air. You got that one, did you, play it by air, instead of play it by ear as the musicians say as opposed to playing it by written music sheet.
    I do remember we had serious copy editors, a night editor who knew his stuff, and an old bald headed English teacher who came in late at night and scrupulously checked every word on the boards before the paper went to bed. He had full authority to change any errors in spelling, grammar and acceptable current use, and if any bogeys got in the paper, he would take the bouncers the next day. He had a big fat dictionary for reference, and the Guardian library full of other reference books. In later years the Guardian had full access to the internet and to automatic spell checking as I have right now on this site. How come so many absolute boners are slipping into the Guardian’s pages? Do they have to go and dig up Lenn Chong Sing from the grave?
    Something is rotten in the state of the Guardian, I say. Or maybe they have just gone through the regular ritual of firing all the best people to save money, and handing even more of the market to the Express and even Newsday.
    It’s a good thing I don’t read the Guardian on the internet any more. They want you to pay for the privilege now, and I can’t see any reason I would want to give them my money. Newsday is free, and from all appearances, they still have some live copy editors there!

    • Earl Best

      Ram, as the Romans lamented just after the Guardiann came into being in 1917: ‘Oh more errors, oh temps’ hour!’

      As for the Guardian’s pay wall, that clearly is designed to keep people within a company that retrenches another grappe of workers every six months. It obviously is not necessary to keep anyone out; that’s where everyone with standards wants to be–as far away from the Guardiann as possible.

  4. Doh beat-up yuhself! Any fault is a fashion dese daze!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.