Sunday, July 27, 2008


Here's Mike's response.

"Thanks for clarifying the Nanton episode, which suggests a strong case for invasion of privacy.

"Regarding the NOTW case, I think the paper did what any paper in that situation believing the information to be in the public's interest would have done. Of course, I'm mindful of the fact that stirring up scandal is the NOTW's bread and butter. However, the paper did not allege that the Nazi references were criminal; they alleged that the Nazi references were in bad taste and called Mosley's judgment and politics into question. So there was no reason to go to the police before publishing. And even if the references were criminal, the paper had no obligation to reveal its information to the police. Had the paper been in possession of information related to, say, an imminent terrorist attack or other clear and present danger to national security, then they would be expected to share that information with the authorities. But in this case, there was no such requirement on their part.

"By the way, many media observers have viewed the Mosley win as a dangerous precedent for press freedom in the U.K. What's your take on that?

"You say: "The problem we have with the media in Trinidad is that everything is sensationalised before being fully fleshed out." You're absolutely right. But for things to be fleshed out, you need intelligent journalists who can think critically about the issues of the day. And therein lies the problem. You can't hire a bunch of 'A' and 'O' level students to go cover politics, business, media, society etc. They're ill-equipped intellectually to grapple with those topics. A university degree should be the minimum requirement for a job in journalism today. That's how it is abroad.

"Look at the staffs of many U.S. news organisations. Many of them are graduates of some of the top U.S. universities. Same thing in the UK, as you know. The BBC is a virtual Oxbridge enclave, as are the Guardian, the Times and the Financial Times. These people are smart, serious journalists, not kids with notepads and microphones 'trying a ting' as we say."


Our response:
Your "trying a ting" remark hit the nail on the head in reference to the Trinidad media.
Many of the young reporters are coming out of school with "O" and "A" levels and not much else. Others gravitate to the media from other professions such as teaching, banking, public relations, you name it, and because they either look good or sound good according to the station managers, they are given the job.
If you do a survey of how many people in the media today started in the profession with a journalism degree or got subsequent university-level training, you would see the true picture.

It all comes down to what media managers are willing to pay for the talent they are hiring. It's cheaper to pay someone as a trainee or junior reporter rather than as a senior reporter, so they hire from the bottom up and throw that unschooled person into the fray with minimal in house training to cover business, politics, entertainment, etc.
Then after a few years of that, that reporter of course gets to thinking they are the best at what they do, so they get promoted to the rank of senior reporter/broadcast journalist, but often times they never get any formal training. There are lots of people in newsrooms in Trinidad who can be pointed out - the young lady in the You Tube interview is one. She started out as a teacher then went to the Guardian as a trainee reporter. Now she is a senior multi media journalist at TV6. She does not have any media training aside from the few in-house courses her bosses may have sent her on.
Basic media training that would be expected from anyone who has a journalism degree is sorely lacking in the Trinidad media. But what's to be done?

On the issue of press freedom, it probably is sending a message that journalists, media managers, editors need to be careful. If they can prove their case then yes, by all means go out and print the story. But sometimes you have to wonder about their motives. Scandal is the bread and butter of NOTW, but would well-respected media houses like the BBC or ITN have run that same story before anyone else, just to say they scooped everyone else?
Perhaps it comes down to what should be sensationalised and what should not.