It may have been the recent passing of former Guardian news editor George Harvey, who stands, to me, as one of the great contributors to local journalism.
It may also have been the media’s coverage of the performance of Gary Griffith as Police Commissioner, which, with the exception of Denyse Renne’s reporting, was in the main fawning, subservient and showed some in the media to be, at times, willing patsies in Griffith’s self-promotion game.
But, in the last few days, it was certainly the media’s reporting on which is deemed “the National Gas Company scandal”, which moved me.
First, I admit that I served briefly as External Affairs Adviser of Atlantic LNG, the company at the centre of the issue, and also behind me are years of experience and training in journalism.
But back to George Harvey, who stands in my memory, alongside the legendary George Radcliffe John, as one of the greats in what was once considered a profession.
As news editor, he presided over what those remaining journalists of that era recall as “the Golden years”, when “the lady of St Vincent Street” was a paper of record, and its masthead meant that its reporting was interpreted as unchallenged and of unquestioned integrity.
Those remaining journalists converse with lament, citing stories of inexcusably poor reporting, and little progress, a “profession” in regress. Those are conversations of sadness, because we knew when journalism was considered as “the chronicle of civilisation” and its practitioners were “sleepless watchmen”.
We ask who among its practitioners are familiar with the historical march of journalism to the present technological age. We have wondered whether Nathaniel Butter’s first publication in 1622, Milton’s Areopagitica or Joseph Pulitzer’s specifications, are commonly known among journalists.
We are saddened by parts, not all of print journalism. Listening to radio is a nightmare. Basic grammar is a foreign language to some talk show hosts, who, with few exceptions, are both ill and uninformed, unschooled in our institutions, and worst of all, discourteous to callers. And their newsrooms seem to be places where the hopeless and jobless go to reside.
The so-called NGC scandal throws another spotlight on journalism. The story is said to have originated with a whistle-blower, and consequently that gives it legitimacy. I can hear the late David Renwick, former Express editor-in-chief, questioning me: “Yes, Subero, but what was the whistle-blower’s motive?”
NGC is involved in sensitive negotiations with three multinational energy giants on the future of Atlantic LNG’s Train One. The question must be asked: Was that whistle-blower working individually, or on their collective behalf to undermine our national interest? Is he or she a disgruntled employee? In short, what was the source’s motive?
Confronted with that story, the insightful George John, who succeeded Renwick, would have grilled me rigorously, before going to print, reminding that every “source” or whistle-blower has one of three motives, and journalists are always at their sources’ mercy.
But this reporting does not appear to have been that scrupulous; instead, we sense the ready rush to print. Why? Because of the practice of “gotcha journalism” — a distrust of everyone in authority, and the unconscious belief that every transaction carries a hidden, self-serving agenda, hence the role of today’s journalist is to find that “gotcha” moment.
Over 20 years ago, Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow, then UNESCO director-general, appealed to journalists in developing countries to revise that model. First, school themselves in their country’s history, its socio-psycho-economic development processes and challenges, then locate their country in the wider world. He called it “development journalism”, which met with angry responses from the developed north, its lackeys in Trinbago, and some in the Third World.
With such an appreciation, the question would have been asked, before printing: “Who benefits from this story? My country, or the multinational corporations? Are we publishing to further a foreign agenda?”
Then I would not have “dissed”, but embraced the views of Gregory McGuire, a respected, local energy consultant, yet “cuddle” two disgruntled politicians, and two hazy senior counsel, too “chicken” to go on record.
The question of indemnification of board members makes the case for a new model -contextual journalism, because this topic is not thoroughly explored, and its antecedents explained.
Have readers been told that since 9/11 the commercial world considers Risk Management “a centre science”, ie, the risk of every transaction is evaluated? And that NGC’s former chairman, Prof Ken Julien and the e-TecK board were sued by the Kamla Persad-Bissessar government for a $30 million investment decision? Noel Garcia (NHA) and Malcolm Jones (Petrotrin) have also suffered the same fate. Where then is the contextual reporting on indemnification?
I know what George Harvey, David Renwick, George John, and those of “the golden era” would have said about this “scandal”.
The author, a veteran journalist, is Director, Communications at the
Office of the Prime Minister