(Photo courtesy of Jamaica Observer)
I am continuing to work with 18 Degrees North, an investigative journalism outlet based here in Kingston. Yesterday the Jamaica Observer ran a feature on its founder, Zahra Burton. It could have been worse, yet it could have been better. There was not much substance or critical thinking, which can probably be attributed to the venue or demographic it serves.
But it did discuss the challenges Zahra has faced as an independent journalist during a time of drastic changes to the industry, as well as in a country that is incredibly partisan. In fact, as the person responsible for the social media accounts for 18DN, many of the questions we get during interactions with “followers” center around the funding source or 18DN. People want to know where the money comes from; is Zahra an independent journalist? Implicit amongst these questions is the assumption that she is tied to a political party or a large company, I think. These questions are natural, but seem more urgent here in JA.
I can state for the record that 18DN is fiercely independent. Funding is hard to come by and does come from the private sector. But it is a difficult journey. People hunger for quality journalism yet nobody wants to provide the funds it takes to pay the researchers, writers and producers, who work long hours to uncover information, verify it, interview, find footage, and put it all together.
So congratulations to Zahra, who continues to work hard to bring investigative journalism to the Caribbean.