ONLY HUMAN: News reflects today’s Barbados
Thee seems very little good these days to cheer about in Barbados as reflected in the news on our pages. If it isn’t more uncertainty about the economy, business closures and job losses, then crime and violence dominate or people being disadvantaged in some way.
Of course, the news of the day reflects the reality of our lives at that given time – it is what it is. And an independent media house’s responsibility is to reflect the condition of the population as it happens, as against projecting an interpretation of the situation from the perspective of interest groups.
For this reason an independent media house like THE NATION can never fully satisfy everyone. For in pursuing our mandate to present the truth, it becomes uncomfortable for those involved and we are often criticized and our motives questioned. When we highlight some aspect, we are often accused of not going far enough especially when one group’s agenda suffers at the expense of its rivals.
And, of course, we are often castigated for not providing more “positive news”. Those who say this are usually attached to an organization which often wants its programmes highlighted, and have ignored similar events contained in the same package they denounced as negative. They frequently ignore, too, the bright spots – if only one – we feature in each publication daily.
These thoughts came to mind when I sat down to write this article, and not wanting to return to my remit of primarily dealing with local politics, I looked at our Monday package for something different. That’s when the pervasiveness of disconcerting news of late struck me even more.
On the Front Page was QEH Cut Off – relating how six pharmaceutical suppliers who are owed nearly $20 million by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) have stopped supplying 57 different drugs pending payment of outstanding monies. On the back, ATMs Robbed – where two men were being questioned about breaching the ATM security of three banks in Wildey. On Page 3, Violence Rocks Ivy; on Page 4, Drugs Crunch; on Page 5, Police, Govt ‘Not Doing Enough’; and on Page 7, Cubana Justice ‘Must Come’.
However, on Pages 4 and 6 we carried pictures and stories of the good happening in our society. The former related how hundreds joined the cause against breast cancer by participating in the National Walk/Run For Breast Cancer Awareness 2013, and the latter dealt with the praises heaped on the University of the West Indies for its contribution to this country.
Then I reflected on my brief conversation with a Cabinet minister earlier that night. Here was an individual I always got along with and whom I respected for his tenacity, but who was abrupt and had no time for me. It seems I am now the enemy because I dare highlight the uncomfortable truth.
Clearly, he and most of his colleagues do not understand or could not care less for the watchdog role of an independent media. They fail to appreciate we are not cheerleaders, only here to promote their interests and sugar-coat the unpalatable aspects of daily life. Our job is to evaluate and analyze what is happening in society without fear or favour.
So if people are fearing the loss of their jobs and possibly their homes; business people expressing a lack of confidence in the economy and calling for implementation of long promised measures to get it going; and so on, we have to report this.
We have to report too how taxpayers are questioning why Government is spending over $6 million on constituency councils and on a football tournament this year when buses can’t get spare parts and commuters are having to wait two or more hours to get to work on mornings, and get home at night.
Politicians seem not to appreciate that when the situation in a country has reached the level where people are concerned at the direction in which it is going, the independent media cannot bury its head in the sand.
Of course, this minister’s attitude and that of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) Government is no different from that of their main opponents in the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), and wannabe politicians or activists. They all want you to sing in tune with their choir, and to question any aspect of what they do is to be against them.
One of my mentors likens this situation to seeing a small termite trail in a house that is otherwise in pristine condition. However, if that trail is ignored and allowed to quietly grow, it will eventually overrun the house and make it uninhabitable.
The media can’t wait for things to happen to start talking. We are proactive. The Government needs to take a leaf out of our books.
• Sanka Price is a NATION editor.
This will be my last column for some time. Thank you for reading.