VERIFICATION is widely seen as essential and core to a journalist’s work. A time-honoured guide is that reporters should always aim to remain objective, fair and measured in their questioning and refrain from over-indulging and over-emotionalizing.
“Gotcha Journalism” might excite political sentiment and evince interest in certain circles, but it will also most certainly continue to chip away at media credibility that is already at an all-time low.
The job of a good journalist is not to be a jingoistic cheerleader, but to ask and report — calmly and accurately — not wave a flag of rumour or, indeed, speak up for the government.
On that note, the conduct of Miguel Fevrier at a press briefing in the PM’s office on Monday should worry all journalists; indeed, the portends for the future of professional and responsible journalism do not look good and the institutionalized predation of the Labour Party, as well as the shifting motives of Richard Frederick, aren’t helping at all.
From the perspective of any high-ranking government official, the conventional wisdom about rumours is to take the high road and not respond. On that note, Hon. Dominic Fedee did the right thing by calling out the reporter, knowing the media’s tendency to dwell on unsubstantiated reports and even politicize them. Just imagine if those who hold power have to respond to every false report made by journalists: the result would be operational paralysis in government.
By not responding to rumours, Minister Fedee (one of the most progressive and accessible ministers in the Allen Chastanet administration) has actually upheld a good tenet of journalism that speaks to the role and integrity of a good journalist, i.e., not dominating the message and that easily checkable facts need to be checked (Mr. Fevrier could have called the Customs Department or checked the Gazette) and grey assertions need to be either qualified or presented in referenced and factual context. Importantly, if a factual basis for informational engagement doesn’t exist, the world is in a hell of a pickle.
Besides, what is the basis for all those trumped-up biased allegations? The SLP (itself no paragon of democratic press virtue) has admitted there’s nothing wrong with providing concessions to hotels. Sandals has categorically rejected the spurious and specious allegation that the Minister is still on its payroll. The Cabinet document circulating on social media makes mention of four vehicles, not seventy or ninety-seven as the Labour Party — the local media’s true nemesis (the UWP meets the press every single week) — has claimed. I know that we’re in an age of “Fake News”, but still journalists are entitled to their own opinions, not their own facts. They are entitled to their own positions, not their own standards.
There’s no point in being a journalist if you’re going to ask crude and naked questions, and not relay accurate, factual information to the public. There is such a thing as the “lack of integrity of a question” which can sometimes translate into predatory motives — often mean-spirited in tone and designed to embarrass.
The ideal that reporters are to be unbiased, and try to find and serve objective truth, will always be extremely difficult to achieve. However, objective truth cannot be served by asking crude and premeditated questions with the goal of catching an official off-guard and making him look bad. It’s pretty clear that the question asked to the Minister was accusatory by inference and was meant to cut at his professional character.
Democracy doesn’t only depend on a free press, but also on good journalistic ethics and practices. Too often, reporters use freedom of speech as a front to cloak their sinister intentions.
— O. T. Charles