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A THORNY ISSUE: Take commentary seriously


ANDI THORNHILL

A THORNY ISSUE: Take commentary seriously

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TOO MANY PEOPLE among us, I think, take the expectations of the public for granted when it comes to delivering quality in sports announcing especially at “live” events.

We have had a recent spate of such occurrences where the announcing devalued the status of the proceedings. It may have been done unwittingly but the reaction from the public showed that those involved need to clean up their act if they are going to do it in the future.

People are not prepared to tolerate it any longer.

Once you are entrusted with a microphone nothing less than professionalism will do. The dissemination of information at these events must reflect respect for spectators/viewers – most of whom might be seeking knowledge about the sportsmen and women they are not familiar with.

As slight as it may seem, it helps them to appreciate what is at stake and the possible outcome of a duel based on the information shared with them. People watching sports like to feel part of what is unfolding and relevant information strengthens that position.

Photo journalist Kenmore Bynoe was at pains to point out that most of the above, barring the presentations by Michael Jules, was glaringly absent from the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Athletic Championships.

Letter writer John Hollingsworth was unapologetic about his disgust for what was offered as commentary at the annual Terry Mayers Memorial Cricket Match staged in Eden Lodge.

He bemoaned the fact that it fell way below the standards Mayers was associated with and insult was added to injury because it was done in the presence of his family.

One of the salient points he made is that when he looked around there were much more credible announcers in the crowd who could have been asked to do the job.

But you know what? In all instances you can’t and shouldn’t blame the announcers who fall well below what is regarded as an acceptable standard. You have to blame the organisers who engaged their services.

Quite possibly, too, it is the organisers who start the disrespect for the entire process by taking their responsibilities lightly in this respect and I think especially in cases when outstanding individuals are being honoured, we have to be careful how we treat their achievements by bringing a level of decorum to the occasion that would be in concert with their standing.

I would go as far as saying that if some organisers cannot get trained professionals to do the job for them, they should make an effort well in advance of an event to get training for the unheralded announcers they are recruiting to do it. At least they could say they made an attempt to bring their people up to speed if they don’t live up to expectations.

Even then I’m not sure the public will find that as a credible reason because they are only interested in what is coming through the microphone. People are very picky when it comes to matters like these and don’t care about what circumstances brought the hosts to a level of mediocrity.

At points in my broadcasting career I have experienced such ridicule although, with all the tangible evidence provided, I tried in vain to explain that I wasn’t to blame for something perceived to be my fault. People are only interested in the story, not your story!

It seems that the biggest letdown was at the recent CARIFTA Games in St Kitts and Nevis where complaints were echoed from near and far about a team that appeared not to be prepared for the job they were assigned.

Chairman of the Camperdown Classic in Jamaica, Cynthia P. Cooke, possibly put the feelings of the majority about the quality of the announcing in a letter to the broadcasters.

She wrote: “I was really happy until I started listening. I became extremely frustrated at the announcer’s knowledge of track and field athletics. I think the worst comment was, “I think they must have combined the Under-18 and Under-20 girls.” That reference was to the girls 200 metres.

The former principal of Camperdown and secretary of Usain Bolt’s Racers Track Club continued: “That is the quote that defined the quality of the broadcast. I will not comment on the moments when I felt like reaching into the television and shaking the announcer in order to get some sense into him.”

Honestly, I don’t think it was Cooke’s intention to just “diss” the CARIFTA broadcasting team because she offered several suggestions how she believes the standard can be improved for next year’s games in Grenada.

Her critique also reinforces my original point that some people take their public announcing duties for granted and it can’t work for audiences who are exposed to all the major international radio and television networks and will compare and judge accordingly.

It is not a joke thing to those who take their sports seriously and even media practitioners must also be conscious and pay greater attention to how we cover events if we want to be seen as credible.

• Andi Thornhill is an experienced, award-winning sports journalist.

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