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THE ‘NETTE EFFECT: Media workers get abused too

Antoinette Connell

THE ‘NETTE EFFECT: Media workers get abused too

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One night some years ago, I was packing up to head home when one of those calls came into the newsroom.
The initial report suggested that there had been a murder/suicide somewhere on the border of St George and St Michael. As I looked around the scarce newsroom, I knew the awful task would fall on me to investigate, so off I went with the photographer.
As we got nearer the destination, we stopped at a village shop for a more exact location. As fate would have it, the man exiting the shop said he was a relative and would take us to the house.
He was curious as to how The Nation knew so soon. He reasoned that given the time it took us to reach the location, we must have known before him since he had just heard the news.
Initially, he did not seem too perturbed by that fact. He speedily walked ahead while we followed in a vehicle. It didn’t take long to identify the location as a huge crowd had gathered outside and inside the house.
“We here. Come, come with me, reporter,” he said, as he hurried towards the house while looking over his shoulder to ensure that the photographer and I were keeping up.
Demeanour changed
From the moment we entered the house, something came over the man. I do not know for sure but I believe it must have been the sight of his relative’s body and a throng of people chatting away without consideration for the family that caused his demeanour to change.
He shouted for everyone to get. “Out,” he screamed, along with a barrage of expletives that seemed to catch everyone off guard.
Immediately, the crowd on the inside disappeared and the crowd on the outside swelled. Of course, I, being invited in, didn’t move.
Suddenly, the man turned his attention to me and in his most colourful language said to me to “get out”, “leave”. I did as I was ordered much to the delight of the crowd.
“De Nation getting put out, look de Nation getting put out,” someone in the crowd yelled, and a roar went up from the crowd.
I was beginning to regret pulling the proverbial short stick that night, but still, duty called.
Tragic circumstances
Knowing the tragic circumstances which had just confronted this man, I could not even form the notion of getting angry with him. Instead, I looked for another avenue for information to complete that which would be coming from the police.
My search wasn’t long. The man returned much calmer. He told me about his relative, what type of person he was, what probably caused him to act in that manner and something about his movement that day. Fortunately, the second victim in the matter eventually recovered.
That man’s name and description I can no longer recall, but to this day, I am not offended by his action, after all, I did intrude on his grief.  
But there are other accounts from my colleagues that no matter how you try the abuse cannot be as lightly dismissed. It comes from so-called leaders [pastors, politicians, business people, lawyers, and so on], under less severe circumstances. They will especially relish in the moment if there is an audience.
Journalists often have to negotiate treacherous waters in attempting to get information out to the public. If you are above board, there is nothing to fear in talking to the media.
There are times, I concede, when we make mistakes under pressure.
Is there anyone out there who has not made a mistake in their profession? Doctors face malpractice suits, judges’ and magistrates’ decisions are appealed and accountants miscalculate.
The difference is that the mistakes of others may be corrected without several thousands realizing it.
It is not the same with a mistake in print or over the air waves.
•Antoinette Connell is Daily Nation Editor. Email antoinetteconnell