Devon Dick: Twenty-five years ago
This month marks 25 years since I started to write as a columnist: First for the now defunct Daily News and later for The Gleaner. In addition, at The Gleaner I have had the privilege of coordinating its religion page and writing annual reviews on religion. It was a series of articles on the Church in nation building in 1999 that inspired me to write my first book, Rebellion to Riot: The Jamaican Church in Nation Building.
When I started to write there was no social media and online version of my columns. So feedback was limited to those letters published at the editor's discretion. Now a columnist can benefit from more insightful comments and many more perspectives on an issue. The downside is that too often comments are nasty, vicious personal attacks involving name-calling. These comments should be screened and deleted.
With the new and improved information technology, people monitor your articles and republish them once it affects their cause and interest. This allows for a wider world readership. On the other hand, it can lead to you being targeted.
I have learnt that the three hot-button issues are: Being critical of politicians; homosexuality; and Saturday Sabbath. Years ago, I remember, there was a Cabinet minister who was vexed with me over an article I wrote, only to find out that he had only read the captions. There was a time when people would say in polite conversation that one should avoid discussing politics and religion. In this age we will have to add sexual practices.
Many persons are intolerant of other persons' views and become irrational when it comes to their point of view. It is because of differences in and intolerance of views why I have received two death threats based on my writings. Even media practitioners can become a law unto themselves and cannot appreciate criticism. Take, for example, a media house claimed that a WHO study revealed that processed meats lead to cancer, when in fact the study showed the level of consumption of processed meats that would make one 18% more likely to get cancer. In fact, females get breast cancer with a higher probability because they are women and not men!
During these 25 years, one person has had her lawyer write to the editor. I had used information from a website, not realising that even what is in the public domain cannot be quoted in an article.
There have been great progress over these 25 years. There was a time when I had to physically deliver the article to the media house. Then came the facsimile machines and we thought this was the best thing that ever happened, until the advent of the email which saves time and money. It also allows for speedier response to current affairs.
It has surprised me the number of persons locally and overseas, who I do not know, and up to that point had never met, who read my columns. Then there are some friends who claim that I have stopped writing columns. I would tell them that I write every week but they have stopped reading. However, one lady told me she cuts out all my articles, and my brother framed an article I wrote about our mother and he has it prominently displayed.
My columns are evidence-based, solution-oriented, with my opinion. I am motivated by the equality of all and justice for all. I believe that God is interested and involved in the affairs of human-kind and has a lot to say in order for us to experience peace and prosperity. I also try to give a voice to the voiceless concerning bread-and-butter issues and I write about ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things.
Thanks to you, my loyal readers, for your feedback, criticism and encouragement. Happy Thanksgiving to all my USA readers.
- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to email@example.com.