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Jamaican Media “Won't Call a Spade a Spade”

Caribbean bloggers are often critical about the region's mainstream media and the way in which it sometimes covers important stories.

The latest news item to attract Jamaican blog Active Voice's ire is this report about a little girl who died and another who is seriously injured, both victims of a jet ski accident. The blogger, Annie Paul, liberally quotes from the article and comments:

What started out as a pleasant holiday trip to a beach in St Ann over the weekend was suddenly transformed into a nightmare for a 28-year-old father of two when a jet ski raced out of the water on to land and into his children, killing one and leaving another battling for life.

Richard Hyman’s six-year-old daughter, Tonoya, was killed by a deadly blow from the jet ski, while yesterday, it remained touch and go for her four-year-old sister, Remonique.

This story is typical of the farcical reporting that passes for journalism in Jamaica. It focuses completely on the victims and says nothing about the perpetrator of this killing. Instead it makes it sound as if a rogue jet ski emerged from the water and struck this poor family down. Jet skis do not propel themselves. Tell us who was riding it and at exactly what beach this ‘accident’ happened. As usual Jamaican media is more interested in protecting the name and reputation of the wealthy (the owner of the jet ski, its rider, the beach in question). Nowhere in this story is there a sense of the outrage this unnecessary death represents. Disgusted.

She also quotes the perspective of a prominent Jamaican writer, Marlon James, who posted on Facebook:

So you’ve been looking around for an example of Yellow Journalism. Look no further. How do you report on a act of manslaughter without implicating the possibly rich, influential or foreign person responsible? You recast it as a Stephen King Horror story (minus the talent) of a rogue jetski becoming suddenly animated with freak power then charging on its own into an unsuspecting family, killing a kid in the process. Who was the skier? Which beach? Who owned the jet skis? Private or a company? It’s called Journalism, Gleaner. You’re here to give us the news, not protect the interests of whoever’s reputation might be damaged because they slaughtered a child.

Paul makes the point that this type of “suss” reporting does not just happen at one newspaper – she cites another recent example from a different daily:

And its (sic) not just the Gleaner either. A few days ago, reporting on tensions in West Kingston the Observer carried this masterpiece of evasive, or is it defensive, reporting:

‘Police intelligence suggests that since the arrest and subsequent extradition of Christopher Coke, individuals said to be related to a prominent family that claimed to rule the community from the nineties to 2010, and others claiming to be relatives of a late well-known resident, who claimed to be a ‘Don’, and was said to be the leader of the community in the1980s have become involved in a deadly battle for control, a police statement Monday said.

She asks:

These families and Dons have no names? In the 21st century is this what passes for reportage? What’s the deal here? Why is it so hard to just say that the descendants of Claudie Massop, the Don who ruled Tivoli Gardens once and those of Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, are locked in a deadly power struggle?

Just what we need when the country seems to be going down the tube…a media that won’t call a spade a spade.

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