Friday, August 31, 2007


The Prime Minister's spanking new residence and diplomatic centre was handed over under the cover of darkness on Wednesday night.
To Media Watch this was the biggest news of the day, considering all the controversy surrounding the structure. But who handled it best?

Well the first hint (and we really mean hint) of things having gone wrong came from IETV in their 6-30 newscast. The anchor Miss Maharaj began her story (covered with file footage of the house under construction) saying the handing over ceremony was underway and guests were being serenaded by the Lydian Singers. Then in passing she mentioned that the electricity supply to the building had been cut during the ceremony. Didn't the producer see the potential bacchanal that this bit of information would cause?
Next she launched into a lengthy interview with architect Brian Lewis on the merits and demerits of the building's design.

Next up was CNC 3 with a live telephone report from Neil Beekhee in the 7 o'clock newscast. That's when it became apparent that this was a major brouhaha. He was at the ceremony and adequately filled in the missing details that Miss Maharaj failed to provide. But if by all accounts the lights first went out at about 6-10, why didn't Neil attempt to get that first tape back to his office in time for the newscast, and still do the telephone interview?

TV6 almost completely missed the mark. They began (perhaps as planned) with the Prime Minister's apology in Parliament over the Andre Monteil file. There was no mention of the blackout at all during the first 55 minutes of the 7 o'clock newscast. Then there was a short script read by Cherise D'Abadie with some video from the function. Where was the telephone interview from Charlene Stuart who attended the event (and which should have come high up in the newscast)? Did your producer also fail to recognize the significance?

CNMG also began with the day's original natural lead of the PM's apology. No mention of the blackout in the first 15 minutes.
The major stations attempted to make up for the missed opportunity in their later newscasts.

And if it was not clear that this was a big deal, then the newspapers the next day left us in no doubt.
"OOPS!" shouted the Guardian, with a front page picture of Mr and Mrs Manning outside the mansion prior to the blackout, followed by a page 5 story. The Express had two photos of the mansion on the front page, along with Mr Manning and his wife, with the full story on page 7. But the larger headline was "MANNING MOVES ON MONTEIL". And the Newsday seemed to miss the mark, with its main headline screaming "PM TELLS HOUSE: I'M SORRY", with a much smaller headline above the prime minister's head about the blackout, and a full story on page three.

It's interesting that in her story for the Express, Anna Ramdass wrote that the residence "became engulfed with darkness" and that "a large choir started singing a gospel song". You wouldn't perhaps be referring to the world famous Lydian Singers?
Your colleague from the Guardian, Corey Connelly put it this way: "The Lydian Singers, whose powerful musical interludes had punctuated an otherwise smooth-flowing programme, also maintained their professionalism, rendering a stirring performance of the Hallelujah Chorus."