Media marginalise Church and poor

Published: Thursday | January 10, 2013 Comments 0
A woman worships as she rings in the new year at the Power of Faith Ministries watchnight service on December 31. - Anthony Minott/Photographer
A woman worships as she rings in the new year at the Power of Faith Ministries watchnight service on December 31. - Anthony Minott/Photographer

By  Devon Dick

On Christmas Day, the TVJ 7 p.m. newscast carried items about persons who are poor and were given an annual meal. One would have expected that the newscast would explain the significance of Christmas Day, that is, as a celebration of God appearing as flesh in Jesus the Christ.

The CVM TV 8 p.m. newscast on Christmas Day was not much better. In addition, one would have expected that there would have been a scene from a church service, but alas, the wait was in vain. In a country which has so many Christian churches and the majority of its citizenry ascribing to the Christian faith, it was inappropriate and insensitive coverage.

Ten years ago, I wrote about The Gleaner's coverage of watchnight services vs New Year's Eve balls. Then, The Gleaner's front-page photograph depicted a scene from a New Year's Eve ball. In all, there were 11 pictures of New Year's Eve balls compared to one of a watchnight service. The Gleaner has improved, but the other media houses have become worse.

And worse was the way in which the Church was marginalised concerning its ministry towards persons who are living below the poverty line. The coverage on Christmas Day and during the Advent season was largely to highlight politicians, persons and organisations that made a one-off plate of food available to persons who were destitute.

One would have thought that the media would have concentrated on the Church and other organisations which, on a weekly basis, have been working to alleviate the conditions of the destitute. It was not until Boxing Day that I witnessed TVJ highlight an organisation in Montego Bay which was involved, on a continuous basis, in caring for those who are living on the margins.

BIAS OBVIOUS

There is no excuse for the poor coverage of the ministry of the Church during Christmas. The electronic media cannot claim that there was no time available because of more pressing news. In fact, there were repeats. The TVJ story concerning Roger Clarke, minister of agriculture, was a repeat clip about not talking too much about rust disease affecting coffee, while CVM repeated the issue related to a bus-fare increase.

Balls, parties and pop concerts get coverage which is highlighted as fun-filled and memorable, while the activities and ministry of the Church are portrayed as mundane and boring.

And even worse is how persons who are poor are treated by the Jamaican media. There are international studies about 'poor reporting' which tends to sensationalise the needs of the poor rather than focus on their possible empowerment.

Jamaican media are doing an injustice to the poor by interviewing them after they have received an annual plate of food and asking what they think of the generosity of these politicians and individuals. It comes across as an abuse of persons who are poor. It shows the gratefulness of these persons at the bottom of the ladder and the insensitivity of persons who are well fed. It should be an embarrassment that we have an economic system, policies and practices that have doomed almost 20 per cent of persons to live in poverty.

The treatment of the poor is unlike the treatment meted out to persons who are holders of capital. The stark difference in the amount of waivers given to the well oiled is demonstrative of this reality. Approximately seven per cent of GDP, or $92 billion annually, goes to waivers. But when a few million dollars are spent to provide relief for the less fortunate, it is usually classified in the media as pork barrel, unsustainable and 'bollo' work.

Indeed, the Church and the poor get shafted most times in the media.

The Rev Devon Dick is an author and Baptist pastor. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.

 



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