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    December 17

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RON IN COMMON: Where is the association for Barbadian journalists?

ERIC SMITH, ericsmith@nationnews.com

Added 24 December 2016

bloc-ronincommon

ALMOST EVERY DAY this year, some organisation has been celebrating some achievement or highlighting an event of significance, it seems.

None of this has included journalism or journalists as a whole. In fact, a review of the past five years came up blank as well. No one is to blame but the journalists themselves. This is not about pity.

This lack of introspection by local journalists is worrisome given the arrival and growth of new media and its journalists, promoters of the non-traditional. It is also happening at a time when journalism has been going through rapid changes around the world.

In this era of 140 characters, the public is demanding more from the news media. Admittedly, much more information is available even if on occasions it is totally inaccurate. To make a bad situation frightening, fake news has become an influencing factor in the United States and some people who have been exponents of this new trend are defending it. Just listen to some of the supporters of president-elect Donald Trump.

Perhaps the biggest game changer has been social media – from Facebook to Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. In the meantime, the traditional media is focusing heavily on the bottom line, trying to get the best returns on investment for shareholders, but struggling in the new normal.

Yes, the media still want to inform and educate and entertain, while being on the side of truth and accuracy, and holding those in authority to account.

There is a lot for journalists to come together to discuss, be it attrition in the traditional media, the impact of social media or the impact of the power elites. Journalists as news professionals need to meet, even if infrequently, to hear from people in various sectors on issues which can only enlighten the journalists and help them to do a better job. The avalanche of current affairs issues confronting society daily begs for informed debate and discussion and enhanced reporting.

The journalists must also come together to lobby for things which are important to them as professionals, such as freedom of information and whistleblower legislation.

These things are important if journalists are to do a better job on behalf of the public and to help enhance transparency and accountability to ensure greater integrity in society, whether in the public or private sphere.

Given that there is no local equivalent of Transparency International, given that many of the leading voices on the island are aligned and associated in one way or the other with the people in Roebuck Street or George Street, the role of an independent and unfettered media is critical.

The role of the journalists and that of journalism is key in this society; just imagine one day without access to local news – on radio, television, the Internet or in newspapers. Many people would be confused and even worried.

But the journalists must recognise their role and unite in the interest of what is right and for the good of Barbados.

Perhaps the Association of Caribbean Media Workers, the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago or even the Press Association of Jamaica may be able to show Barbadian journalists the way forward in terms of getting an association going once again. This should be a clear objective before celebration of World Press Freedom Day next May 3, or Impact Journalism day a month later.

Even in a changing environment, journalists and journalism still have a lot to offer this society.

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