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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Chuckling at the Mainstream Press on a Sunday Morning

People who know me know are aware of my views on the media, among my pet peeves being the wanton use of the word "alleged" to publish and broadcast scandal.  Indeed, in a number of cases, "responsible journalism" appears to have joined the ranks of "Police intelligence" and "Honourable Member of Parliament".

One would think that in the face of fairly regular media criticism that editorial staff would try to do what was necessary to make sure that media houses didn't end up in further disrepute or, at worst, sued.

I've had my own issues with one daily paper which I wrote about in 2006.  In those days, I'd written a commentary on the Keith Noel 136 Committee's death march.  Some goodly individual sent my piece to the Trinidad Express and managed to get published in the letter's section under their own name.  When I went to Express House myself - not to complain, but simply to ask questions about the press in general, the letters to the editor process, and editorial policy - I was turned around at the Security desk.  The officer spoke to "one of the editors" he'd said, and told me that they had said that the paper picks a few letters at random for publication, that they are not responsible for their content, and that there was no question of retraction.

At the time, I didn't have a leg to stand on but I knew it before I went to Express House.  I'd sent the piece to a few friends via email and it went viral.  In fact, it ended up in my own inbox seven or eight times over the course of the following forty-eight hours.  And it was another friend who advised that it had been published, but under another name.  If someone took my piece to the paper and said that it was theirs, there was nothing that I could really do about it.  I'd never published it myself.

However, I can chuckle when I see the same Trinidad Express print a letter to the editor whose content is almost a wholesale copy of a commentary published by one of their competitors nearly three weeks earlier.

Somehow, I doubt that Paolo Kernahan is using the pseudonym "Imran Daniel" to get his work printed in both newspapers.  And truth be told, if the editor who passed the letter had done as little as a Google search for "summitification", they would have picked up on a clear case of plagiarism; as of today, Paolo's piece is still the first item in the search results.

A case of rushing to press at the expense of quality?  It might be said that the Opinion section of the paper is one of the least critical, but I wonder what else might have been overlooked over time...

That said, may all have a blessed and holy Easter and a relaxing long weekend.

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