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July 18, 2017
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July 18, 2017

Turned off of ‘de bacchanal news’

Believe it or not, I hardly look at local news on television, much to the chagrin of my mother and sister, avid ‘news watchers’. This admission will probably also be frowned upon by many who may be reading this article now. Some will admonish, ‘How could she not watch d’ news?’ ‘You cyar be living here and not know what going on…’

Given my profession as an economist I might even be cast into the category of ‘Dem so…’ I will take all the ‘boofs’ but will also try to explain my sound reasons for not being an avid ‘news watcher’.

On those few occasions when I dare to turn on the TV at 7 p.m. I’m quickly reminded why I get irritated looking at local news – on any of the available channels. A few weeks ago while looking at news, I made a conscious effort not to become overly irritated by what I was witnessing as ‘news’ but rather looked at the experience as indicative of what our society has, tragically, become.

The selection of questions meant to engage the population included the following:

  • Should we pay more for market produce at this time following the passage of Tropical Storm Bret?
  • Should we pay property tax?
  • Do you think the police are doing enough to solve crime?
  • Do you think we’re getting adequate health care?
  • Do you think that the actions of citizens are responsible for the recent spate of flooding in the country?
  • Do you think Government is responsive enough in the aftermath of Bret?
  • Which of these emotions/moods best describe how you feel about events in T&T?
  • Do you agree with the decision to reappoint Marlene McDonald as a cabinet minister?

I winced and thought of a good friend, a veteran journalist whom I hold in high regard, and who as editor of one of the daily papers once told me that the objective is to sell papers. In this case the objective was the same – to capture viewing audience. I made a mental note of my answers to the questions – “Yes. Yes. No. No. Yes. No. Steups. Steups.”

A letter to the editor published in the Trinidad Guardian in 2011 noted that “…If media did what it was intended for, it will be a great force in building the nation but, at present, media has become a money-making sector. Instead of giving important information and educational programmes, all there is on television, is sensational depictions of new stories; their only goal is to get television rating points …” I couldn’t agree more.

In a speech given in 2011, former British Foreign Office Minister, Jeremy Browne, commented “….how central the media is … to social and political development and economic opportunity, both in developing countries … and developed countries …. In democracies, the media is fundamental to political life…. It provides facts to allow us to be better informed about the issues that matter to us… It provides criticism and debate to ensure that that information is tested and examined from all points of view… And it provides investigation and examination to ensure that power is checked and decision-makers are held accountable…This flow of information and ideas will then lead to debate and discussion, crucial in any society if it is to grow and flourish, both socially and economically….”

I don’t get the sense that our media, either print or electronic, fully appreciate the significant impact they have on shaping the way our society sees itself and in developing the collective mindset.

In watching the ‘bacchanal news’, I was reminded of a quote from our first Prime Minister, Dr Eric Williams. Not quite sure of the original date but the message read in part, “…Strive for excellence in character in the great virtues of truthfulness, obedience and honesty so that under God, our nation will produce worthy citizens…”    The real punchline for me was when Williams said, “Bacchanal and confusion cannot be the foundation of an orderly society.”

We all lament the ills in our society, including the unsavoury bacchanal displayed in parliament; crime, and the seeming general lack of morals and values, to name a few. But with these lamentations come, sometimes inadvertently, a wanton public appetite for what is negative and scandalous in our society. It is not uncommon to see gory pictures from the latest murder, rape or fatal accident, being circulated faster than the speed of light on social media.

My take is that if we want to see a country that is more developed and orderly then we must hold those who seek to influence us to higher standards. We must signal the changes we want to see in this beloved country of ours and abstain from the bacchanal and confusion. That’s just my point of view!





 

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