Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Annie Paul | No protocols observed

Published:Wednesday | May 25, 2016 | 5:00 AM
Annie Paul

Juliet @julietcuthbert

I want the day when no Jamaican have to go to the river to wash clothes or bathe in a pan.

#weareworthit

Grindacologist @Grindacologist

lol..me live uptown...have 3 bathroom & @NWCjam still have me a bathe outta pan...

It is not an exaggeration to say we live in a new era today. These are times when the interactivity and immediacy of social media has undone the stranglehold traditional media once had on the public sphere, on those who were allowed to speak or comment publicly about matters that affect us all. Today, Twitter allows us to respond in real time to the statements of public officials, as shown in the two tweets quoted above.

Juliet Cuthbert once aimed at Olympic gold, but now she trots along with other politicians and parliamentarians, sharing with us on Twitter her hopes and dreams for the Jamaican people. She wants the day to come when no Jamaican has to go to the river to wash clothes or 'bathe in a pan'. LOL (cyberspeak meaning laugh out loud) lobs back @Grindacologist, one of local Twitter's resident wits: Despite living uptown and owning three bathrooms, the National Water Commission still has him bathing out of a pan.

With savage humour, @Grindacologist undoes @Juliet's stated hope, exposing its feebleness in the face of a fickle water supply that seems to take its cue from the infamous 'trickle-down theory'. Politicians and public officials, especially those in the new Government, are finally learning to deal with the back and forth of social media, ditching their former tight-lipped, 'no information' modes for more user-friendly avatars on the Internet. It's a lesson some journalists need to learn too, judging by the following unpleasant encounter that was retailed on Facebook a few days ago.

A well-known cultural investor described the scene. In the midst of a community-based mural-painting project, a car drives up and someone alights, camera in hand and without so much as a hello or by your leave, starts taking photos of the artist and the mural. Feeling uncomfortable at being documented without their consent, the cultural entrepreneur and others present asked the photographer who he was and what he wanted.

"We don't need to answer that question just look at our car, it speaks for itself," answered the photographer gesturing at the vehicle, which carried the Jamaica Observer logo. Refusing to answer their follow-up questions, he continued snapping photos. The participants in the painting project then approached the individuals seated in the car, one of whom was a reporter. The artistic director introduced herself, asking what she had in mind and if she was familiar with the project and what the mural was about. Shockingly, the reporter replied that she had no idea what the project was about, what the mural signified, or even what community she was in that very moment. Nor did she seem interested to find out.

The artistic director tried to follow up, but to no avail. She expressed her discomfort and disapproval to her Facebook friends:

 

RUDENESS AND ARROGANCE

 

"I gave the reporter my email and telephone number letting her know she should contact me and that I'm happy to give her information but that I'd like her to acknowledge the artist involved, the community and the project. I'm still waiting for her to contact me.

"It doesn't bother me that people are taking pictures, but the rudeness and arrogance from what is meant to be one of the most important newspapers in JA and the complete lack of interest in the subject they are photographing is a major turn-off. This is not proper journalism. A good journalist is curious and asks questions."

There are so many things wrong about this sequence of events that it raises several questions. First of all, do these journalists realise that despite their inflated image of themselves and the medium they work for, there are some basic professional courtesies that apply when covering a story? How dare they take photos without obtaining permission? Are these trained journalists? If so, where were they trained? I hope not CARIMAC.

As I said at the beginning of this article, it is finally dawning on local politicians and public officials that the 'my lips are zipped' attitude is not going to get them very far. How long must we wait for local media personnel to catch up? As the cultural entrepreneur in question said:

"I think these journalists need to know they can't get away with that attitude and that they don't have sole authority, especially nowadays where social media has kind of taken over traditional media so they aren't the only source of 'news' and 'images'."

Sigh. The Press Association of Jamaica has its work cut out for it.

- Annie Paul is a writer and critic based at the University of the West Indies and author of the blog, Active Voice (anniepaul.net). Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com or tweet @anniepaul.