By Gordon Robinson
Apologies seem in vogue. People are apologising who don't need to apologise. Others are apologising sincerely because they should. Still more are apologising insincerely because they must.
"If I told a lie, if I made you cry
when I said goodbye, I'm sorry.
From the bottom of my heart, dear,
The latest round of apologies was brought to public attention in a PAJ release:
"Representatives of the PAJ met with Mr Milton Samuda and his team on Saturday, August 31, 2013 ...
Both the PAJ and Mr Samuda have acknowledged that errors were made by the journalists and Mr Samuda.
The PAJ reported that the journalists had apologised to their newsrooms and the journalism body for their actions and this was accepted.
Mr Samuda's apology at the meeting yesterday was also accepted by the PAJ."
Any of these apologies sound sincere to you? Any sound insincere?
"If I've caused you pain, I know I'm to blame.
Must have been insane, believe me.
From the bottom of my heart, dear,
My award for 2013's most astonishing apology goes to Super Chairman who threw off his alter ego as Mild Mannered Attorney to issue a cryptic apology in a private August 31 meeting with the PAJ. But, on August 30, he had issued the following to all media houses:
"2. ... I did not select the journalists ...
3. There definitively was an agreement by the journalists to pre-conditions for the interview in that there was an agreement by the journalists to restrict their questioning... If in accordance with their tenets of journalism they could not participate ..., I would have expected them to say so ... it would have been understood and accepted. If the [PAJ's] journalistic principles are applied to these journalists, then they had the option to decline the interview, not to attend, or to leave at any point ...
14. In response to PAJ assertions that I stood in conflict with the media house of which I am Chairman ..., I reiterated the importance of my duty to protect my clients ...
15. That at all times I acted ... as counsel. The interview was held at my law office... the journalists... knew the capacity in which I acted.
The meeting, in my view, made considerable progress in tackling issues such as the interpretation of public interest, journalistic integrity, ethics and training ...
During the meeting, the question of payola influence was also raised by the PAJ and should be ventilated."
Permit me to translate. Less than 24 hours before, he's reported to have issued an unspecified apology in a private meeting, Super Chairman publicly asserted in the clearest possible terms that:
1. The entire episode was the journalists' fault. They breached pre-agreed restrictions on questioning and misunderstood his handover request as coming from Super Chairman when in fact he put on neither cape nor mask at the meeting;
2. Neither Super Chairman nor Mild Mannered Attorney did anything wrong;
3. "Journalistic integrity" may have been at stake here and "payola" was a relevant issue the PAJ should be ventilating.
These allegations were made publicly and in great detail. Public recoil seems to have forced him to request a hurried follow-up meeting at which it's said he apologised. For what? For his part in the original pre-conditions fiasco? For the capture and erasure of tapes? For the imposition of external editorial supervision upon working journalists? For insisting there's nothing wrong with pre-scripted interviews? For persistently maintaining his disconnect from wrong-doing in the entire affair? For trying to shift blame on to the working journalists? Or for an unfair and unnecessary swipe at working journalists by implying payola might be involved?
"I realise I've been unfair to you.
Please let me make amends
Don't say that you forgot the love we knew.
After all, we were more than friends."
William Clarence (Billy) Eckstine, a legendary balladeer, knew how to apologise and he proved it in 1951 with his seminal interpretation of Al Hoffman, Al Goodhart, and Ed Nelson's 1931 creation "I Apologise". The PAJ may have accepted this private apology but I most definitely do not. Super Chairman needs to come clean with the public, including regular RJR and TVJ listeners/viewers. Exactly what's he apologising about? What does he admit he did wrong? Most importantly, will he unconditionally retract that offensive public statement with the cruel potential to implicate working journalists in the most despicable of journalistic crimes?
If not, what'll RJR and TVJ do? Will they prove consistently credible or persistently perverse?
Peace and love.
Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to email@example.com.