“Allyuh publishin anything now?” asked a sarcastic commenter on a recent Wired868 story.
Wired868’s editor is not the person who spent two years performing autopsies on the two media dinosaurs in Port-of-Spain. But he is nonetheless acutely aware of the adage that enjoins entities to adapt or die. To the ‘anything’ question, his putative answer is: ‘Yes. Proudly.’
“You think Wired868 should refuse to publish comments from any coach or football supporters that are critical of the head coach?” he actually responded to another commenter. “We cater for an exchange of ideas here and encourage it.”
In other words, at the centre of his world is the reader. What’s the old line about giving voice to the voiceless?
Born in January 2012, Wired868 started life as a football site; perusing it today, you’d never guess that. It is manifestly a 21st Century media product.
In less than a decade, it has completely abandoned the niche market, first compelled by readership pressure to broaden its audience to all sports before throwing open its metaphorical doors to all comers, including poets and short story writers.
Most recently, they have embraced the audiophiles, Burdie and Barney adding podcasts to the fare on offer.
Wired868 is flexible and empathetic, at one and the same time responsibly committed to respect for the old journalistic principles and realistically responsive to the new trends—ergo, unapologetically evolving in tune with the rhythms of the age.
The Centenarian of St Vincent St and the quinquagenarian on Independence Square, however, continue to move with the rhythm of their age. Although meaningful survival is often premised on the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, old habits die hard.
We need look no further than last weekend for hard evidence of the rigidity in the conventional media destined imperceptibly to become rigor mortis…
By 6.30am on Sunday, Kyle Mayers and Rahkeem Cornwall had completed the risky 395th run and sealed the West Indies’ stunning, historic three-wicket win in the First Test in Bangladesh.
All day Sunday, T&T beat the story to a frazzle. And then we beat the frazzle.
In the Monday Express, there was just a back page blurb. But the detailed match report—with nary a new detail!—was on the run-over page, under the headline ‘Incredible’.
It was not, we should note, that the story was deemed frazzled. It was merely to make room for an Andrea Bharatt-related wrap-around, an issue to which we shall return.
‘Victory,’ Monday’s Guardian’s back page headline shouted. Below it, the same detailed match report as in the Express.
So ‘Incredible’ about sums it up. It’s not at all hard to believe the continuing level of contempt for the paying customer that behaviour betokens. But what if that is not all? What if it also bespeaks, in addition to the appalling lack of imagination and initiative, an unwillingness to recognise that the world has changed?
Or worse, an inability so to do?
It might be useful to look at how sport, Wired’s forte, has responded to the changes technology has brought.
In January 1993 when, like Mayers on Sunday night, Brian Lara murdered sleep with his 277 in Sydney, Tony Cozier’s presence in Sydney ensured that the stories in the two dailies were different. But I imagine that, had the permanent West Indies 12th man not been there for any reason, both papers would also have had the same wire story.
In those days, it was simply not acceptable to write a match report on a game at which you were not present. But how could you have sat up all night watching the Prince of Port-of-Spain—the moniker he earned for that unforgettable knock—in only his fifth Test, threaten Viv Richards’ epic 291 and have nothing to say about it?
Even then, almost 30 years ago, opinion pieces on sport were called for. Jack Warner, remember, had sold out the country in November three years earlier and Guardian sports editor Valentino Singh was still waging a campaign to have him brought to book.
Today, 30 years later, the Sunday Guardian does boast the ‘Pro Look’, perhaps the longest-running piece of irrelevancy in local journalism. But the paper sees little need for its own Sports Desk staff to share their opinions in any systematic, sustained way.
Or to put in place a reliable system that would produce interesting, topical opinion on sport in some sustained manner.
Garth Wattley’s ‘Different Spin’ column appears irregularly in the daily Express, which last year reduced Fazeer Mohammed’s sporting columns from weekly to fortnightly. And the Sunday edition has frequently been carrying Rudi Webster columns but the absence of a logo suggests that that is merely on an ad hoc rather than on a contract basis.
This in an age when virtually every sporting event of any importance can be viewed ‘live’ or ‘delayed’ with precious little effort. How useful are match reports some 24 hours later? And how useful are the timely locally produced ones if all they offer is scores and chronology?
Does the reader get much more out of the personality stories that frequently come with them, which are little more than near verbatim transcriptions of interviews?
Do the rules still forbid reportage without on-the-scene presence? Nobody told Wired868. Whose rules are those anyway? Can they reasonably still govern journalistic responses in the Age of the Internet?
Long before the pandemic raised awareness of the possibilities of virtuality, pushing back age-old boundaries, Wired868 had acknowledged the Internet and the television as essential journalistic allies.
Aware that readers had easy access to ‘live’ coverage, the site pioneered a kind of hybridisation, mixing reportage with comment so that the needs of both those with and without devices were met.
Meanwhile, over on St Vincent St and Independence Square, instead of recognising that social media were the competition and fashioning a product that might seriously compete, they have essentially put the paper paper online.
And done all they can to undercut what they still see as the competition.
So in T&T nowadays, the cut-throat stuff leads the media business.
And life is hard for those for whom the stress, emphatically, is primarily on the media rather than the business aspect.