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Virgin Islands media: friend or foe – part 2

The following story is the second of three articles. It states that media exposure of issues that need to be made public knowledge is good for Virgin Islands politics, economy, and society, whether negative or positive
Dickson Igwe. Photo: VINO/File
By Dickson Igwe

A section of the Virgin Islands establishment appears weary of the media. This weariness is especially so with the online blogs. However, in this Old Boy’s opinion, it is good politics to allow the media free reign, within the acceptable social and legal parameters.

The ex Governor recently refused to sign a certain bill into law that could have put members of the media in legal danger. This unearthed an establishment mindset. A mindset some could argue is anti free speech and anti freedom of expression.

This Observer will not go to that extreme. However, he will assert that there is a great degree of sensitivity by the establishment when certain matters are commented on, or discussed, by the media.

OK. Was that move to muzzle Jack the Journalist by powerful men and women a justifiable reaction to a media beast that exists to put questions to the powers that be? The media is tasked especially with asking questions of a ticklish and uncomfortable nature.

Is the claim that the reason for recently attempting to shackle the media, ‘‘is to protect the country’s secrets,’’ a justifiable excuse for muzzling the mouth of the press?

Is the warning, that the media is harming the community at home and abroad, made by certain establishment figures justifiable? Or is the claim an establishment fear of the power of the media to ask the type of question that can expose aspects of governance that generate public heat and even anger? Is this a fear that the media can affect public opinion to such an extent that it can bring the swift judgment of the public in the polling booth? Even changes in public policy?
Or are these assertions by the ruling political class noble, and based on what is in the public interest?

Now, the very nature of news, and what is demanded by the reading and listening public, puts negative stories in greater demand, than those articles that paint a rosy picture of society. That is the simple reality of the modern media beast.

Reporters, and that includes opinion journalists like this Old Boy, tend to do one of 3 things in their writing task. First, the commentator can commend. That means he or she lauds, praises, and compliments. This is the time when the writer extols the virtues of the subject. The idea of journalistic commendation is to ensure that a good work, great deed, or positive attribute, does not go unheralded. Commendation is a rare thing in modern journalism, however.

Second, the journalist can simply report. This is the most common task in journalism. The idea is to give the daily news as observed, without addition or subtraction. In reporting the news, objectivity and accuracy are considered great assets. However, even in basic reporting, most of the news that sells is negative. And even with simple reporting, the biases of the reporter can be very evident, and hard to bury. That is the nature of the press animal, sadly. The press is composed of very human beings.

Thirdly, the commentator or journalist criticizes. Journalistic criticism is the most common feature of opinion pieces and editorials. Investigating and exposing matters that would otherwise lie dormant is the most critical task of the 4th Estate. The press or media acts as a watchdog for the public. The journalist as social critique, especially the opinion writer, is overwhelmingly the task in which media opinion writers engage.

For example, this Writer has been highlighting in his weekly column the terrible internet services haunting this country. These stories have some way to go yet. He is unsure whether the scope and depth of the problem of poor customer services in telecoms would have been sufficiently stated if left alone by Virgin Islands opinion writers.

Insufficiently stated in the public forum, the problem of a poor telecoms service could have gone on indefinitely, to the great detriment of these Virgin Islands.

Again, that is just his opinion.

To be continued

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