Bloody St James Jamaica's newsmaker of 2017
With a record-breaking 320-plus murders last year, St James beat sprinting sensation Usain Bolt to become Jamaica’s top newsmaker of 2017.
That is according to media practitioners, who have described last year as a dynamic one for news in Jamaica.
Head of the Press Association of Jamaica, veteran journalist Dionne Jackson Miller, said that the crime wave in St James and its impact on children there was heartbreaking.
“I lived in Montego Bay for 10 years at a time when it was called the ‘Friendly City’. I still can’t wrap my mind around what’s happening there,” said Jackson Miller as she noted the several killings in front of basic schools, bus parks, and other public spaces.
“The killings in Montego Bay have become so open and brazen. I have done interviews, with people speaking about the impact on them, about the impact on children, and it just breaks your heart when you think of what people are going through,” added Jackson Miller.
She pointed to the recent flooding in Montego Bay and the impact of heavy rains on several other areas as among the other major newsmakers of the year, with the impact of hurricanes on countries in the region also getting a mention.
“Many Caribbean countries were devastated by natural disasters. I can’t divorce that from Jamaica because that is a regional issue. With a slightly different path, that could have been us,” said Jackson Miller.
Cordel Green, executive director of the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica, agreed that the violence in St James, which continued with two more murders on Saturday, was the biggest newsmaker of 2017.
“Montego Bay has the moniker as the ‘Friendly City’. That is what it was meant to represent,” said Green, who described Bolt’s graciousness in defeat in London as one of the other big news events in 2017.
“Montego Bay was meant to be somewhere in Jamaica where you should be able to go and you are going to find love and harmony irrespective of demographics, race, creed, whether you’re dealing with poor or rich people,” said Green as he described his childhood marked by love in the city.
“I can’t say that now for children in Montego Bay, and I can’t say it for the elderly in Montego Bay. That is of great concern to me,” added Green.
Veteran journalist and broadcaster Fae Ellington listed Bolt’s retirement, the church/pastors sex scandal, and the exorbitant phone bills of some Government ministers as the items that competed for the newsmaker of the year for 2017.
“Bolt is the high point for me because of the local, regional, and global impact. I’m talking about how he led and how he performed, not just as a record-breaker, but you couldn’t find anything negative about drugs on him,” said Ellington.
“Even when he did not win at the games in England, he was very courteous in how he dealt with the person who won. There were many lessons there – how to lose with dignity, how to be professional,” added Ellington.
For media manager Marcia Forbes, the sex scandal that surrounded members of the local Christian community was the news story of the year.
“For me, the newsmaker of the year would be the Tambourine Army because it caused such a substantial stir, and next to them would be the ZOSO (zone of special operations),” said Forbes.
“ The ZOSO was so controversial. One side felt it was going to solve all our problems, while the other side felt it would be of no import. The reality fell somewhere in the middle,” added Forbes.