“THIS interview must, of earnest duty, begin with a solemn warning. Those who don’t wish, or can’t afford to be completely mesmerised, would do well to avoid being in the prolonged presence of Portia Simpson Miller. Like all those tapped by fate for greatness in this life, she is possessed of endless charisma, an enchanting personality and a bewitching aura that have been enriched by 40 years of tramping back and forth across Jamaica’s gruelling political campaign trail.”
I alert you again today to another example of Jamaica’s journalism. This is the lead from a story that graced the front page of the Jamaica Observer yesterday. I was on my way to work and caught a quick glimpse of the cover and was struck by disbelief. But the day got busy and I did not have a chance to read it until today. And my disbelief is now just confusion.
The Observer is apparently beginning a series on PM PSM on the 40th anniversary of her entry into public service. Fair enough, Mrs. Simpson Miller has indeed had some remarkable achievements in an environment that is not welcoming to female politicians. But there is no way that this article is balanced or fair or critical. Check out their editorial here.
Another factor at play is the fact that the Observer is typically supportive of PM PSM’s party, the People’s National Party. While the Gleaner tends towards the opposition, which is the Jamaica Labour Party. This is nothing new- across the world, most national newspapers have a political leaning, but this Observer story goes too far.
I can’t even imagine this type of writing in an autobiography. Take another read: “The Portia Simpson Miller story is compelling and awe-inspiring. It is not for the fast-food reader. It is for the hungry soul grasping at every last detail of the heroism gifted to the Jamaican woman, and with which this daughter of destiny is so richly endowed. But they know it can’t all be told in the finite pages of a 21-year-old newspaper, happy though it is to be just the chosen vessel. Once again, the interviewer is sorely challenged to rise to magnum opus status, but feels… infuriatingly… deficient.”
That is just embarrassing.
For some independent context, I will leave you now with the Pew Center’s Principles of Journalism:
4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover
Independence is an underlying requirement of journalism, a cornerstone of its reliability. Independence of spirit and mind, rather than neutrality, is the principle journalists must keep in focus. While editorialists and commentators are not neutral, the source of their credibility is still their accuracy, intellectual fairness and ability to inform–not their devotion to a certain group or outcome. In our independence, however, we must avoid any tendency to stray into arrogance, elitism, isolation or nihilism.
5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power
Journalism has an unusual capacity to serve as watchdog over those whose power and position most affect citizens. The Founders recognized this to be a rampart against despotism when they ensured an independent press; courts have affirmed it; citizens rely on it. As journalists, we have an obligation to protect this watchdog freedom by not demeaning it in frivolous use or exploiting it for commercial gain.