CCN’s Anthony Wilson missed an opportunity to cover himself in media glory on Saturday.
Responding to a question from the Express Business editor, Prime Minister Dr Keith Christopher Rowley asked rhetorically: “Yuh want somebody to blame? Blame me.”
People knowledgeable about boxing might call that leading with your chin. But Wilson missed his chance to deliver a telling combination; he did not even land so much as a jab.
Undergraduate students doing Fundamentals of Reporting are all told clearly and unequivocally the importance of preparing questions for interviews and/or media conferences. But it is emphasised that the success of an interview is determined as much by the quality of the prepared questions as by the quality of the interviewer’s responses to the interviewee’s responses.
You simply have to be able to spot the shortest route to get at what you don’t yet know. Or at what you think you know but have not been able to confirm.
On that score, Wilson’s newsroom colleagues and his Journalism lecturer would have been bitterly disappointed.
“Actually,” a really sharp professional might have bobbed and weaved, “I am completely familiar with the doctrine of collective responsibility and the primus inter pares principle, so I need not be told whom to blame.”
Every ear in the room has pricked up, including, perhaps most of all, the PM’s.
Waving vaguely in the direction of the other media people in the room, Wilson might have added, “I have no doubt the competition is completely satisfied with that response. However, my job is in no way simply to find someone to blame; it is to find out who is responsible for the cock-ups, Wednesday’s and continuing.
“So, can you help?”
The sound you would have heard was a pin dropping.
Rowley good fuh heself, eh; he could handle heself. But he woulda know that he eh dealing with no minor league in the Queen’s Park Savannah; WCQ, brother, no less! In the Stadium!
And we woulda know the media in Trinidad and Tobago does get serious sometimes. Saturday, however, clearly was not one of those times.
Another reporter deemed the occasion ideal for raising—completely out of left field—an issue of food cards in Tobago. Dr Rowley immediately took a sideswipe at some unnamed people who had been known, he claimed, to be handing out food cards from a car trunk during an election.
And then declared that he was completely unaware of the issue the reporter was citing. He was, he said, in no position to respond.
Amazingly, Mr Reporter did not whip out a notebook or a cell phone or some documentation in soft or hard copy to provide dates and times and names and dotted i’s and crossed t’s. In his introduction, he had used the word ‘allegations’. Not for nothing!
And he, presumably a self-respecting journalist, had put the prime minister on the stand before the court of public opinion on the basis of ‘allegations’.
How low have the once mighty media fallen!
The weekend media conference was interesting for another reason.
Did anyone else get the impression that all is not well between the PM and his health minister? I mean, is it standing practice to tell your minister with the country listening that ‘I think you are making a mistake and throwing the baby out with the bath water’?
How else are we to interpret the order to ‘keep the appointments system’ because there was nothing fundamentally wrong with it? Had that not been discussed between the two betwixt Wednesday’s debacle and Saturday’s media conference? Indeed, had anything been discussed between the two in the intervening three days?
Also, not once or twice, Dr Rowley went out of his way to point out some omission, major or minor, on the part of Minister Deyalsingh. And on at least one occasion, he quite pointedly sought confirmation from the CMO of some piece of information which the minister had publicly offered him.
I think Wilson was right on the ball when he asked whether the minister still enjoyed the PM’s confidence. And if he the minister happens to be a football fan, the prime minister’s response is likely to have sent a shudder up or down him spine.
“If I did not have confidence in the minister,” he asked, “would he be sitting here?”
And that was that! No full-throated vote of confidence, no reminder of his stewardship so far, no summary of his achievements/milestones along the way, no focus on the positives.
He is here now so he has not been fired. Ten words, ten dirty words because everyone nears the unspoken eleventh one: YET!
Football people call it the kiss of death.
Whisper it. Quietly.
One word: reshuffle.