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Media Monitor: A comment on communication, commas and a couple of clangers

Friends, Trinis, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come out not to bury our media but to improve them.

The Express of Thursday 28 November carried a headline that said, “STOP IT GARY.”

It drove me to the edge. I had made a solemn promise to myself that I was done with media mistakes. For one thing, TV6’s Joshua Seemungal did done buss de mark, telling Wired868 readers that I and media retirees like me only write because we ‘need to remain relevant’. And I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing he was right.

Photo: A satirical take on the relationship between the media and consumers.

After all, nowadays who but retirees cares about things such as punctuation and linguistic accuracy? Certainly not reporters and editors, it seems.

Besides, I had told myself, after all these years, the handful of such people in T&T surely do not need any more evidence of linguistic shortcomings in the media. The evidence already abounds.

But I did come, I swear, within a kn of getting on my computer and dashing off a quick column to call attention to yet another example of the editorial slackness that characterises the local media. I did not. I let that one pass. Reluctantly, I admit, Joshua, very reluctantly.

I had also ignored with a chuckle the PLEASENTVILLE headline that accompanied TV6’s report on Wednesday’s SSFL Girls Intercol final.

And before that the TV6 sports reporter’s extremely creative use of ‘airborne’ as a verb as in a batsman airborning (or airborneing. Who knows?) a drive before being caught.

And the scores of annoying misspellings and other mechanical errors in the nightly ticker tape.

Old habits, you see, die hard. So last night I was once more seated in front of my TV set watching the TV6 news. Albeit with no more than half an eye.

Photo: The Pleasantville Secondary U-20 Team celebrate with the National Intercol trophy after their 3-1 final win over Signal Hill Secondary at the Ato Boldon Stadium on 4 December 2019.
(Copyright Kerlon Orr/CA-images/Wired868)

Suddenly, Regrello not phased caught my half-eye. I was now all ears. And glued, wide-eyed, to the screen. Urvashi Tiwari-Roopnarine’s story did deal with the possibility that current San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello might lose his chain (loose his schains?). But I could find nothing in it to suggest that there was some way this could happen in stages.

What else, after all, could ‘not phased’ mean but ‘withdrawn from use in gradual stages?’ The only other definition the dictionary offers is applicable exclusively to Physics!

I fully expected to see the offending spelling erased in short order and replaced by ‘fazed’. But I waited in vain. If neither producer nor director was asleep, then I think it’s fair to conclude that neither knows the difference.

Which does not faze me in the least, Joshua. Not in this phase of my career. I dong here too long.

Yesterday also offered encouraging sports news. Although Virat Kohli’s India, at number 5 in the current ICC T20 rankings, racked up 170 runs, Kieron Pollard’s West Indies, ranked 10, won by eight wickets. We were never told, though, where in India the game was played. The lady reading the Sunday news once pronounced the late Brazilian football captain’s name, Socrates, as if it rhymed with Bill Gates. You did not really expect her to tell you the city’s name, did you? Thiruvananthapuram?

Photo: A satirical take on the media.

By the way, I’m not missing today’s 12.20pm sportscast on i95.5FM. If you’re looking for a laugh, try to catch the one next week Thursday. That’s the day after WI take on India in the second ODI at the Dr Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Stadium in Visakhapatnam.

Especially if the regular 12.20pm reader is back out to work. With so many ‘Vennies’ roaming the streets, maybe now he won’t pronounce Manchester United Spanish goalkeeper’s name the way Trinis pronounce the ting the driver does put een to move orf in a stick shift car.

The truth is that, if they had to depend on i95.5fm for their information, Kyle Greaux’s relatives would probably never discover how he has performed. If they exist, the relatives of Kyle Giroux and Kyle Giraud probably claim all the credit for the sprinter’s achievements.

And, of course, our leading woman sprinter is probably mortified to time and time again hear herself identified on that station as “Lee-Ahye.”

As if a hyphen can be moved left and right at will with any less effect than moving a decimal point.

The sloppiness knows no bounds. But it does not only occur on the radio.

The same 28 November issue of the paper features a front page photo showing Santa Claus holding up a crying infant. “Naughty Santa,” read the arguably tendentious slug. Would either “Naughty, Santa?” or “Naughty, Santa!” have been more or less so?

Photo: Wait… Wha?!
(Copyright Shuttershock)

Still in the same issue, page 46 is devoted to “A Tribute to Restorative Justice Visionary Wayne Chance.” The last sentence reads thus: The OCM Group remembers Wayne Brian Chance and extend our condolences to his wife, children and his community. (my emphasis)

In the same sentence, the OCM Group is both singular and plural? How many half-eyes vetted this piece of institutional production and adjudged it to have passed muster?

How many half-eyes vetted STOP IT GARY writ large on the front page and adjudged it to have passed muster? Were their owners absent when punctuation was being taught in school?

Didn’t they ever read Lynne Truss’ Eats, Shoots & Leaves? Did no one ever point out to them that in “Friends, Romans, countrymen,” there is a clear usage difference between the first two commas and the last? Did none ever write a letter beginning “Dear Sir,”? Did (s)he never stop for a second to wonder about the reason for that comma?

Is it not, Joshua, that they don’t know but that they just don’t care? It’s not relevant, is it?

Whatever your answer, dear reader, if you’re planning on sending a communication to the media, you would be well advised to adopt the KISS principle.

And to decide for yourself whether, when the four KISS letters are replaced by words, you need a comma.

And why.

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.

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3 comments

  1. Apologies if my criticism, on that occasion, was harsh. I was not in the best space, personally, at that time.
    I do see merit, however, in people, especially informed persons, holding the media to higher standards. The industry is certainly not beyond reproach, but the criticism ought to be constructive, in my opinion.
    I would be interested to have a conversation with you on the state of the industry. I have my own views, as it relates to shortcomings.
    My email address is jseem001@gmail.com

    • Earl Best

      If you’re putting yourself in the public space, you can’t be a shrinking violet.
      No apologies necessary. Honesty is still the best policy, as you will have repeatedly heard, I’m sure, from your grandfather.

  2. I’ve always been finicky about writing and punctuation. It does my heart good to see you sticking to the rules of English grammar, Earl.

    Note to the general public… it’s not that we are not allowed to make mistakes. It’s when those mistakes are repeated Ad Infinitum that we get the sloppiness and failure to learn that drives excellence to mediocrity and thereafter to idiocy.