Too soon for battle cry

I had long ago given up on being surprised at the content of the editorials in the Cayman Net News.

But I was surprised, and somewhat amused, with their Editorial on 20 October headed ‘A battle is brewing.’

I suppose that the Net News Editor realises that he has made as much hay (or strife) as he could on the rollover issue, and is now seeking to grease the wheels for what he termed ‘a new battleground – one that our Ministers would be ill-advised to create’

So what is the heinous sin that the Net News editor has forewarned the Cabinet Ministers to avoid? Well it seems that Cabinet is considering recording and broadcasting the weekly press conference so that the public can see and hear what information is being given. Oh yes, and the press conference, which I gather can last two-plus hours, will apparently be edited before broadcast on local TV.

Admittedly, this seems sensible to me. The result could be a TV programme of a fairly reasonable length, and hopefully covering the poignant topics, so as to be of sufficient interest that it will not bore the audience. If done correctly the edited press conference might encourage Caymanians and residents to watch and be better informed on what their Government is doing. This, coupled with the items as reported by the press, might assist in a better informed public.

So what is the problem for the Net News? The skeptic in me would wonder whether the Net News editor realises that this TV broadcast will make it harder for him to try to define the political agenda by misquoting what has been said, or equally bad, to ignore the real work of the Government by reporting only what he wishes?

But I will give the Net News the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they do have a real concern that this editing will be used to somehow twist the facts?

If that is the case then surely the media present would have no problem easily exposing any such deception? So I would humbly ask the Net News to await the results and to be less hasty in creating battlefields where they do not yet exist. I realise that in this new pre-emptive strike world that battles can easily be started using very little fact. But this approach, no matter how well meaning, does the public no good.

Confrontation for confrontation sake is not the purpose of the media.

Freedom of the press is hugely important to democracy; but with freedom comes responsibility. So I humbly ask the Net News to be responsible; to show some patience and wait till the facts are in; til editing is done; and judgment made on the results before donning war paint and hurling the battle cry.

But the skeptic in me would counter with – “I guess war headlines sell newspapers”.

I am trying to give the benefit of the doubt to the editor of the Net News, but when he says: ‘The end product of televising edited versions of Government sessions with the media will not solely be about presenting what the Administration wants people to hear – it will be about frustrating, and ultimately limiting the media.’

I have to wonder how on earth he connects the dots that he does. Every day the newspapers provide written edited versions of what some Government Minister has said. The TV stations provide snippets and sound-bites; the radio does the same thing. In all cases we rely on these edited versions to hopefully tell the full story. But as the Net News has recently shown, it is not unusual to get the story wrong; whether in error or intentionally.

I say to the Net News editor, I truly cannot see how the media will be limited and frustrated by these broadcasts, edited or otherwise. What I do believe is that these broadcasts will allow residents to be less reliant on the Net News’ version of the story, as they can watch, listen, and judge for themselves what has been said.

In closing I note that in their editorial the Net News quoted from the late great news reporter Edward R. Morrow – I ask that they also take note of the following from the great newsman:

‘To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we must be truthful.’

‘We cannot make good news out of bad practice.’

I pray that the Net News returns to reporting all the real true news that is fit to print; and I urge their editor to avoid the bad practice of creating battlefields (and news stories) where they do not yet exist.

Roy Tatum

Comments are closed.