Give The Gleaner credit that's due
John Reader, Guest Columnist
Once again, veteran columnist Ian Boyne has presented an incomplete analysis of media fare in his In Focus column of Sunday, September 14.
In pointing to what has become a truism for the 'progressive Left', he pointed to The Gleaner's editorial stewardship under former Jamaica Labour Party official, Hector Wynter, as the raison d'etre for its anti-Manley bias in the 1970s.
He also acknowledged that the then Jamaica Broadcasting Corporation and the Jamaica Daily News, to a lesser extent, were firm allies of the People's National Party and Workers Party of Jamaica in the 1970s. That was not a point so easily conceded years ago. But, I guess we all must grow up.
More important, he has centred his analysis on the commentary section of the publication, failing to point out that The Gleaner also stood tall for its exemplary and courageous news reporting, especially on matters to do with the security forces - issues which still dog the populace today. Indeed, although the Press Association of Jamaica was also firmly in the grip of the progressive Left, The Gleaner still managed, year after year, to cop awards for outstanding investigative journalism.
Students of journalism and history would do well to visit the National Library at the Institute of Jamaica and compare the official police versions of what they reported on the 'shoot-out' that led to the slaying of West Kingston strongman Claudius Massop and a few others, and how the Sunday Gleaner team retraced the police's own statements and then visited the morgue to take pictures of corpses with bullet holes under their arms, suggesting they were killed with their hands in the air and demonstrated that the constabulary's version did not add up - certainly not in terms of time frame or logic.
It was a Sunday Gleaner exposé that brought to public attention, with assistance from another small band of courageous army officers, that the official version of the circumstances under which men - interestingly from the JLP stronghold of Southside, Central Kingston, being killed at Green Bay, did not 'go suh'. It was the news team that exposed the corruption at the State Trading Corporation and the involvement of high political officers.
But the columnists did not only analyse; they did a fair bit of reporting, too. What was it that turned John Hearne, an acknowledged People's National Party sympathiser of many years, to be so critical of the party? It was his witnessing the furniture of JLP supporters being tossed from high-rise buildings in Rema, under the watchful eye of public officials and the security forces.
It was Wilmot Perkins who first pointed out, in one of his Gleaner columns, that the circumstances in which PNP parliamentarian Roy McGann was killed and which the JBC was reporting as an assassination did not add up. He retraced the steps and asked pointed questions, which led to no less a person than Michael Manley telling a Half-Way Tree rally that the police were subsequently reporting that the bullet that killed McGann came from one of his own security detail. By the way, the JBC stopped saying 'assassination' immediately.
The point is, it is all too easy to anchor the strong anti-Manley coverage of the 1970s on partisan posturings. But The Gleaner's exemplary investigative journalism was also decidedly fact-based and in contrast makes a mockery of much of the stuff being lauded today.
The times have changed. Many of the actors have left the stage. But can we just get the analysis a bit closer to accuracy? The Gleaner owes it to posterity and its own institutional memory.
John Reader is a journalist and communications specialist. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.