Thursday, 30 July 2020

Resetting Media and Information Literacy

Resetting Media and Information Literacy in the Present Media and Information Landscape – UNESCO, Jamaica October 25, 2017

Information and media literacy occupies a prominent position in the pecking order of media development indicators. This is particularly so since the media, particularly under conditions of strong self-regulation and pervasive respect for the profession of journalism, are viewed as an absolute necessity in the empowering of people and their communities.

There is also an expectation that media outputs reflect a diversity of views and interests and that civil society organisations accept responsibility, together with the state and the traditional media themselves, in promoting a notion of media literacy.

The indicators are also concerned with the accessibility of news and information to women and marginalised groups.

I dare say, though, that since the adoption of the media indicators, almost 10 years ago, there have been transformative circumstances which while maintaining initial aspirations, have tilted the balance of power and influence in mass media.

For one, the legacy or traditional mainstream media have clearly lost monopoly status in the industry of news, information and ideas.
Now, consider the implications of this. A previously unimaginable maze of relatively unmediated sources, channels, platforms and media competing for eyes, ears, hearts and souls.

Also consider the undeniable imperative of free expression and specific emphasis on freedom of the formal press.

In many senses this was always the case. Technology following media and media following technology. The steam engine eventually cranking the printing press, mobile telephony breaching the analogue fortress. Digital media challenging a way of viewing the world and the modalities for transporting ideas and aspirations.

It has in a sense marked the democratising of the very concept of democracy with new rules and new ways of doing things.  The immediacy of broadcast media now shares important space in the world of online content. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others are broadcasting and narrowcasting ‘live’ and way in excess of the reaches of broadcasting towers and cable connections.

At the helm of these new platforms is a cadre of ordinary people telling ordinary and often extraordinary stories – much of it ‘journalistic’ in nature, but this is not ‘journalism’ in its purest professional sense.

It is without doubt though that the current era has challenged both traditional media and the journalism they produce. This has been achieved through the undermining of previously impervious revenue streams that served as platforms for the practice of professional journalism and through a diversification of alternative, virtually unmediated sources and streams of data, information and opinion.

Yet, journalism remains steadfastly relevant and important. This is in part so because though the aggregating of news and information is now possible by way of app and algorithm this is incapable, on its own, of advancing knowledge to the point of understanding or providing meaning.

The transformational impact of the so-called ‘digital age’ on traditional, mainstream media is undeniable. As an industry, mainstream media have virtually lost monopoly status with respect to news, views and information that matter.

In many ways, this follows on a longstanding relationship between mass media and technology. Think of the value of the modern printing press to newspapers and the innovations in wireless communication to broadcast media. Print lost to radio what radio went on to lose, in part, to television. Yet, whatever their respective conditions, they endure to today.

The immediacy of broadcast media now shares important space in the world of online content. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others are broadcasting and narrowcasting ‘live’ and way in excess of the reaches of broadcasting towers and cable connections. At the helm of these new platforms is a cadre of ordinary people telling ordinary and often extraordinary stories – much of it ‘journalistic’ in nature, but this is not ‘journalism’ in its purest professional sense.

It might also be true that some online publications are already turning to “automated solutions to create basic stories” and in the process dramatically challenging the “modus operandi” of newsgathering and therefore some important pillars of traditional media practice.

This may eventually prove that the nature of what is broadly defined as “newsgathering” may evolve beyond current reliance on journalists as we know them (already there is the vexing question of so-called “citizen journalism”) and turn attention to the mechanical features of aggregating vast streams of data and information.

Yet, journalism remains at the core in so far as there continue to be the imperatives of verification, accountability and the nuanced voices of reporters on the ground, whatever their professional or vocational manifestation.

Hard news, verified by humans and reported by those bearing a professional obligation to be truthful and accurate will remain an important requirement of individual, community and social decision-making. Yes, I do contend, journalism matters and will continue to matter in the future.

Today’s journalists are reporting and editing, but also aggregating data and information from a much deeper and wider pool of resources. An awareness of Media and Information Literacy forces us to contemplate obligations on this subject that extend beyond the responsibilities of the press and more on what societies determine to be the true nature and extent of their own interventions to make sense of it all.

Friday, 8 May 2020

The Threat of Media Capture in the Caribbean

(Presented at the World Press Freedom Day Virtual Dialogue hosted by UNESCO, Caribbean on May 4, 2020)


Depending on where you begin the story and the definitions you apply, media capture – meaning a concentration of monolithic ownership and/or hegemonic control over content - as a feature of the Caribbean mass communication landscape can be said to have fairly durable characteristics spanning more than 300 years.

In this respect, we may choose to introduce the subject by looking at the role of independent print media - to be distinguished from official imperial communication – by noting the advent of the first indigenously-printed Caribbean newspaper the Weekly Jamaica Courant in 1718. It was a publication produced by one of the island’s first printers with a network of African slaves comprising its circulation department.

The rather belated arrival of printing presses to the Caribbean served to create in those early years a variety of newspapers and journals under the exclusive ownership and control of colonial elements, with ties to the motherland, and leading members of a largely homogenous expatriate business class.

Broadcast media followed a similar pattern, launched in the 1930s with programming provided largely from the studios of the BBC in the United Kingdom, but growing in numbers and reach through the work of the US Armed Forces Radio Service network (WVDI) based in Fort Reid, Chaguaramas, Trinidad.

Changes in the scope and nature of Caribbean broadcast media only came in any significant manner through the achievement of political independence beginning in 1962 with Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago leading the way.

Fast forward to the mid-1980s and the dismantling of state monopolies in the broadcast media and the expansion of private investments in broadcast media. There are grounds for the argument that state capture of broadcast media went into decline thereafter, as a more diverse commercial print media base had been established through both technological and socio-economic shifts.

Various manifestations of media capture as a function of the dominance and concentration of commercial influences were evident in the early evolution of private broadcast media and were also generally characteristic of a relatively less pluralistic print media environment.

The Current Reality

The onset of new players in large numbers, particularly in the broadcast media, has played a role in reducing the influence of both state and otherwise dominant commercial interests. Though, whatever the current, unfolding conditions, I do not subscribe to the view that a largely homogeneous group – expressed as either dominant ideological or commercial interests – currently exists to the extent that a capture of the mass media space by indigenous players is evident in the English-speaking Caribbean.

That said, declining economic fortunes and accompanying changes in media market structures, the subversive role of new media and global big tech on the traditional media environment, and the gradual re-entry of the state to bolster political uncertainty and instability in some jurisdictions exist as signals to be alert to the danger of historical relapse.

Latterly, in the face of undivided attention to state communication on COVID-19, the practice of independent enquiry is being marginalised by the power of information and data framed – justifiably or not - as critical to the public interest, all massing to present the biggest single-story of our lifetime.

All these factors can have the cumulative impact of promoting higher levels of self-censorship and the emergence of media taboos while imposing limitations on the ability of independent media to challenge existing commercial and political power structures.

There has been nothing, since the transformational impacts of the Industrial Revolution and the introduction of the printing press in the Caribbean and, later, the communications environment of a world at war, to match the current Caribbean media environment.

This also occurs at a time when real questions as to the disproportionate influence and power of the big tech operators such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft (GAFAM) is being critically scrutinised as an anomalous presence in the global and regional media landscape.


Today we confront a pandemic, the responses to which are serving to undermine the socio-economic status quo in ways not previously envisaged. Some sectors of our countries have already sustained considerable damage – some of it close to irreversible.

The brittle nature of regional economic stability is being challenged and with it the vulnerabilities of the private media sector. Already, advertising revenues are down by as much as 70% in some instances, and some media companies have already imposed wage cuts and reductions in production.

One study conducted by the International Federation of Journalists on the state of global journalism in the current COVID-19 era, polled 1300 frontline journalists in 77 countries and found the following:

1.    Nearly every freelance journalist has lost revenue or work opportunities
2.    More than half of all journalists are suffering from stress and anxiety
3.    More than a quarter lack essential equipment to enable them to work safely from home, while one in four lack any protective equipment to work in the field.
4.    Dozens of journalists have been arrested, faced lawsuits or been assaulted.
5.    More than a third of journalists have shifted their focus to covering Covid-19 related stories.

These findings are not unrelated to today’s discussions on the potential for media capture in this part of the world. For one, the downgrading of the financial pillars of media enterprises has been found to be a function of the weakening of general economic conditions with severe contractions in advertising revenue, leading to business shrinkage and, in some instances, commercial failure.

People have spoken about the employment privilege of journalists, but to use one term that’s becoming increasingly popular, media workers very much belong to the category of the job vulnerable.

The Future

The survival game of Caribbean mass media involves adaptability to a number of phenomena as a consequence of the challenges I have described. Among them is the opportunity weak financial positions present for the imposition of both state and private information agendas.

In situations where state media remain a feature of the landscape, state media spend is more likely than not to be extensively diverted in support of such entities. In some cases, with an increased share of state advertising expenditure on the market there is the risk of employment of such resources as a tool to reward compliant editorial behaviour and to punish recalcitrance.

In several instances, the private enterprises within a narrow band of sectors that have remained relatively intact and resilient during the current depressed condition have the potential to dominate unstable financial conditions and to impose pressures on the editorial integrity of media enterprises in return for the promise of advertising revenue.

As a backdrop to all of this is the disproportionate presence of the global technology companies that function as virtual competitors for advertising dollars and audience engagement. In a sense, if media capture is to be a concern anywhere it must include consideration of anomalous relations between these major players and domestic media.

The IFJ study, for example, notes that while the GAFAM entities earn as much as $900 billion worldwide, they pay absolutely no taxes in jurisdictions such as ours. Yet, the opportunities their platforms present include various possibilities for the monetising of journalism, and creative and other content in the face of the media revolution currently underway.

We are not the only region being encouraged to pay attention to this and it is perhaps time to form strategic alliances with people, organisations and institutions that have been paying greater attention to this issue.

In the meantime, there is a role for the state sector to ensure that the future of independent media is sustained. It may well prove to be a case of enlightened self-interest in the end. In the post-pandemic era, with rebuilding processes in train, development communication budgets can be diverted to independent media as they find their footing in situations of uncertainty.

There is also a role for a more focused research agenda to better understand the dynamics of the modern communication era and a regulatory environment that conduces to a vibrant, free and independent press. 

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

COVID-19 and the flattening of the curve

It’s still relatively early COVID-19 days for us in the Caribbean, but I think it’s time we start considering the ways the global impact of the pandemic is likely to change our lives forever – for better or for worse.

The peaks and troughs of outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics are frequently described as statistical growth curves to be “flattened” through interventions that avoid an otherwise unavoidable explosion.

The experience with even less extreme events is that a lasting flattening of multiple social, economic and political curves can accompany such episodes.

It is true that the medically more vulnerable, together with the poor and financially disadvantaged, are called to bear an equal but intrinsically inequitable share of the burden, but it is also a fact that the burden of a pandemic crosses the divides as effectively as natural disasters and the inevitability of death.

It is thus difficult not to make constant reference to what I have been referring to as the “legacy” issues that relate to the world of work, lifestyles, public healthcare delivery, the use of technology, and the general power dynamics of domestic and global politics.

As we speak, the mighty are being brought to their knees and a disassembling of the structures of power and influence is already in evidence. Who would have thought that through all its wealth and political power, Europe (as was the case 1500 years ago with the Bubonic Justinian Plague) would grind to the screeching halt we are now witnessing?

Who would have guessed that the mighty USA would have found itself stuck on the crease, on the back foot, with a bouncer en route with pace to its unhelmeted head?

But all of this is not a new or original contemplation. Our planet has experienced life-changing pandemics in the past that have caused gigantic shifts comparable to the incidence of global warfare and accompanying dramatic changes in geo-political power and influence.

Europe’s 14th Century Bubonic disaster, which claimed up to two-thirds of the population of the continent is thought to have contributed to the eventual dissolution of the feudal state. There were also significant impacts, positive and negative, on farming practices and the process of urbanisation.

Could it be that COVID-19 has played a role in the carbon emissions discussions more than any global commitment of the past 20 years? Could it just be that the value of virtual workspaces has, by force, been finally established? Likewise, the unavailability of schools has not necessarily meant the absence of schooling.

It is also advisable, at this stage, to consider what happened when the HIV/AIDS pandemic peaked in the latter part of the 1900s and took the lives of tens of millions of people.

We have already had to address issues of social stereotyping, stigma and discrimination, harmful disinformation, and compliance with a reorienting of behaviours – “protection”, the role of clinical testing and other lasting features of our response to the virus.

It has also proven inadvisable to focus purely on fatality rates (as important as they are), especially now that current interventions at national levels, guided by the timely acquisition of knowledge are more likely than not to save countless lives and minimise suffering – providing people in the regular conduct of their lives take basic precautions.

There still are too many who do not accept that, at one level, it’s simply a matter of claiming adequate social space, washing your hands, and avoiding contact with eyes, nose and mouth - personal responsibility as the ultimate solution.

Beyond that, workers, employers, parents and citizens, are being called upon to make changes in the ways they have conceptualised their relationships with their natural and social environments.

Governments are now being forced to recalibrate revenue and expenditure estimates in the face of assured fiscal crises while addressing critical and otherwise under-served needs in the social services sector. Food import substitution remains a compelling option along with reduced reliance on imported consumer durables, even as aviation and shipping lanes close.

It might just be that we are all in a rendezvous with economic disaster, but maybe, just maybe, the flattening of the curve also brings with it a new dispensation in which hope can find space through which to shine more brightly than it has in recent times.

(Published in the T&T Guardian - March 18, 2020)

Saturday, 14 March 2020

Guyana – the agony of independent journalism

Today’s column is inspired by the agony of independent journalism in Guyana in the midst of the current post-election turmoil.

My interest in this extends beyond the fact that I have lived and worked there and have been a frequent visitor as a journalism trainer and journalist covering a wide variety of areas for a very long time. Up to last January I was there as part of a training team for journalistic coverage of the elections.

I have also served as editorial consultant for Insight – a public affairs magazine published in Guyana - and have worked alongside the people at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on the development and application of media guidelines for coverage of elections there.

That experience inspired inclusion of the now-abandoned GECOM Media Monitoring Unit and system of media refereeing as part of a media best practice chapter in an Elections Handbook for Caribbean journalists edited by Lennox Grant (a former media referee in Guyana) and myself in 2009.

I am saying all of this because people are entitled to raise questions about my personal credentials as a Trini on this issue. But I think I know about what I am speaking when I say that the challenges to independent journalism in Guyana represent a grossly magnified version of what we face in T&T and in most of the English-speaking Caribbean.

For example, the challenges confronting my colleagues in Guyana today result in part from deliberate campaigns to undermine the work of professional journalists over recent years and to insert in their stead regimes of social media led misinformation and disinformation, popularly known as “fake news.”

It is a modus operandi with which established, independent media all over the world are now very familiar. Set political and sectional partisans upon professional journalists – women journalists are particularly targeted – reduce their influence, contaminate their messages, and (hopefully) commandeer the public discourse.

We have seen it here in T&T and in my work up and down the Caribbean region I have witnessed it. In some instances, even the exigencies of industry competition serve the purpose of reducing the credibility of the free press. The fact that poor media practice is so often on display also does not help.

The confusion over professional credentials in the media also adds to the messy scenario. The Guyana Press Association is made to confront this on a daily basis and, in a sense, because of the highly formal nature of the process there, people pretty much know who are the part-timers and posers with absolutely no interest in the professional requirements of transparency, balance and accountability.

I recall my own queasiness over expanding the membership base of the Media Association here some years ago. But that’s another story. The fact is that the accreditation process in Guyana provides a useful starting point for uprooting potential malpractice and identifying the pretenders.

It is of course true that not all of us have been faithful to all tenets of the profession both here and in Guyana. You can usually spot them from a mile. But the problem, by and large, is exogenous in nature and driven by elements inspired by a need to subvert the work of mainstream media.

This is no idle conspiracy theory. It is something that is being monitored closely by press freedom and human rights organisations all over the world. We essentially concede the combined impacts of declining economic fortunes and the rise of “free” media, but at the same time recognise the debilitating effects of concerted campaigns to undermine journalists and the media for which they work.

In T&T, we are also witnessing the resurrection and introduction of social media operations purporting to be legitimate news operations that cleverly combine valid and fictitious “news” reports. All in time for election 2020. Be vigilant.

Similar operations did quite a job in Guyana, and there are prices being paid for that as we speak. Our neighbour’s house is on fire, folks. This is not the distant flicker of an offshore oil platform.

(First published in the T&T Guardian on March 11, 2020)

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Privacy, surveillance and free speech in T&T

The public alarms rather belatedly activated by Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower Christopher Wylie’s revelations about the company’s purported work in T&T several years ago offer an opportunity for anyone with a genuine interest in human rights and freedom of expression to nuance the discussion into a more informed one than is currently on offer.

I am initiating this modest start, because I have so far not seen much by way of informed public commentary on the implications of threats to privacy when it comes to other rights, and the degree to which we in T&T are already partially submerged in the resulting quagmire.

The fact of the matter is that, in a fundamental sense, attempts at gratuitous derogations of the right to privacy have long been active pursuits of political administrations across the aisle in T&T, and this part of the world.
Now, this is not to render anything disclosed in Wylie’s Mindf*ck or last year’s US Senate Judiciary Committee hearings or the earlier revelations of a UK Guardian investigation of lesser concern or interest, but just to say that the predisposition of our political parties and the people who support them have never sturdily equated privacy with other inalienable human rights.

The international body on whose Council I currently sit, IFEX, accommodates Privacy International alongside organisations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation which looks at digital privacy, free speech, and innovation, and journalism organisations such as the Association of Caribbean MediaWorkers, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and others.

This combination of specialised interests converges at the point where there is recognition of the inter-connectedness of human rights.

It is not inconsistent that the people involved in these organisations advocate for greater transparency on the part of officialdom while at the same time insist that breaches of personal and collective privacy can have the impact of undermining the ability to operate freely as citizens and as communities of interest.

This is among the reasons why it is entirely conceivable that journalists and their representative organisations can fuss over the current wave of data protection and cyber-crime laws in this part of the world which enjoy bipartisan support and can reduce the capacity of journalists and whistle-blowers to play active roles in delivering truth to power.

Mindf*ck is earning bestseller status in T&T, for instance, not long after the Media Association has had to less spectacularly argue (against strong resistance and passive opposition) that data protection legislation as conceptualised here stands in the way of the conduct of untrammeled information flows.

We are also in the throes of the imminent imposition of surveillance activities to regulate the online conduct of citizens (about which there are legitimate concerns and are perhaps already actionable under common law and existing statute) but through which a chilling effect on free expression is more than likely to prevail.

The problem with many of these ad hoc, knee-jerk measures is that they, at their core, refuse to recognise the nature of free expression as not only the right to disseminate information, entertainment, views and news, but also an entitlement to seek and to receive such content.

It is, in this context, always irksome to hear people talk about freedom of the press as a matter only concerned with the activities of the media, without regard for the fact that such a freedom intrinsically includes the rights of the consumers of mass communication.

It is true that increasingly popular governance frameworks for the operators of online platforms can have the impact of restraining unbridled technological power, and there is a very sophisticated international discussion on this issue. But there is always a danger of over-emphasising the role of state power in the reining-in of such influence and even control.

For further illumination we may turn to the guidance of international conventions that prescribe a right to communicate privately without interference, except under the most limited circumstances.
How good it would be to have the most recent cohort of graduating attorneys pay attention to such matters. Senator Sophia Chote forgot about this in her wise counsel to them last weekend.

Anyone challenging or gloating over Wylie’s revelations must also embrace an introspective on how we truly feel about such matters. This is more than just PNM/UNC business.

(First published in the T&T Guardian in November 2019)

An antidote for fear and ignorance - the true COVID-19 challenge

There is absolutely no denying that the COVID-19 outbreak is among the more serious global challenges of its kind we have experienced in recent memory. Its spread has been rapid. It has already reached close to 60 countries and there is a 2% - 3% fatality rate, though more than 80% of its patients have suffered only “mild” effects.

It is only a matter of time before we begin confirming cases right here in T&T, maybe even before this column goes to press.

The virus is already nearby and because closing our borders and shutting down the country are not options, we need to focus on controlling its spread and impact when it arrives. 

There is no medication to “heal” it and, so far, no vaccine to guard against it. What’s required are proper diagnoses, together with adequate isolation and treatment regimes, and acute public awareness of all facets of the disease.
The experts have suggested that controlling its spread also requires a very high level of personal responsibility.

Unfortunately, this does mesh neatly with our collective predisposition on such matters. We have proven, sadly, not to be readily inclined to favour personal and communal obligation over mandatory official intervention.

For example, the minister of health was once ridiculed for suggesting that people’s health are their individual responsibility - the routine obligations of public institutions notwithstanding.

There are, certainly, legitimate concerns regarding vulnerable groups such as dialysis and cancer patients at public institutions who have raised questions about what happens should they contract the virus. The ministry needs to have clear protocols available to these people in plain language. Healthcare professionals should also be adequately equipped.

It is also not one of those issues for which a reward of cheap political points should be contemplated. I have been watching the various puerile stirrings. This is a matter for medical science, not politics, my friends. This is not going to earn anybody any new votes.

There is also no government ministry walking beside you 24/7. There’s just you and the people in your environment – at home, school, in the workplace and public spaces.

So, wash your hands properly. Do not touch your face. Cover your coughs and sneezes with tissue you dispose of properly. Avoid close contact with people who are ill. Stay at home if you are unwell. Regularly clean doorknobs and other frequently touched areas. The drill is pretty straightforward.

When it comes to overall management of the current challenge, the main enemies remain ignorance, superstition, conspiracy theories, xenophobia and racism, and general panic – treatments for which are always difficult to administer.

I am thus committed to ignoring politicians, religious folks, witch doctors and anonymous WhatsApp dispatches on this subject. Within this “infodemic” lie serious perils to be avoided. National, regional and international institutions are all releasing very useful advice and information. Stop saying there is no information. It’s there. Get it and share it.

Though social media reach in T&T is in the order of 62%, onward transmission of official data and information via the much more widely used WhatsApp has been conspicuously accelerated on this question – though some (not all) of it is rumour, misinformation and, in some cases, sheer mischief.

It is best to rely mainly on information disseminated by the Ministry of Health, CARPHA, PAHO and WHO – all of whom have released guidelines on the spread of the disease and measures for self-protection. Caricom has also activated a regional protocol establishing minimum standards for dealing with the virus.
Outside of the key official institutions, be sceptical about other sources of information that reach your phone, tablet or laptop.

Even so, official information now frequently contends with numerous conspiracy theories and other nonsenses that have not helped ease our tendency to panic and in the process ignore sensible, authoritative advice.

We also live in an environment in which rumour finds pervasively fertile terrain. Conducting a test for the virus does not constitute a confirmation.

The point of all of this today is that while the state has its undoubted share of obligations, stemming the spread of pandemic in the end falls to personal responsibility as a fairly effective safeguard, together with finding antidotes for prevailing ignorance and accompanying fear.

(First published in the T&T Guardian on March 4, 2020)

Friday, 18 October 2019

Reporting the Climate Crisis

For all the negative commentary on our work, many Caribbean journalists have been looking at the question of climate change long before it became fashionable to wave banners on the street, to have colourful demonstrations proclaiming its advent, and before the issue earned serious mention in our parliaments.

Predating the efforts of the Association of Caribbean MediaWorkers (ACM) which was established in 2001, was the work of the Caribbean Environmental Reporters Network (CERN) which, since 1993, had been focusing on broad environmental management issues and attempting to zero-in on some of the regional challenges the onset of changed climate conditions was capable of creating.

Then, in 2004, the ACM was invited to participate in the work of Caricom’s Mainstreaming Adaptation to Climate Change (MACC) Project to help produce a Climate Change Handbook for Caribbean Journalists. It was published in 2005.

My enthusiasm for the exercise, as a member of the editorial team, flowed seamlessly from the journalistic work I had been a part of, via CERN, to critically examine the potential sectoral impacts of climate change. We looked at agriculture, tourism, public infrastructure and insurance, among other areas of concern.

By the way, the T&T industry official I called for comment on the insurance angle was unclear what the hell I was talking about – even as Lloyds of London had already established a special programme to examine the future of risk assessment and implications for reinsurance rates. This is not to embarrass anybody or any institution, but to state a dry fact.

Last week, in Guyana, an ACM team assembled for part two in a series of journalistic consultations for production of a publication that considerably advances the narrative of the 2005 text and acknowledges a role in promoting better understanding of what I have proposed we describe as the current “climate crisis.” The first consultation was hosted in Antigua.

Our early work had attracted the attention of our colleagues in the South Pacific via the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) with which the ACM had signed a memorandum to collaborate on an issue we recognised as being of grave, common concern.

Today, Pacific journalists are present at the Conference of the Parties (COP) sessions of the United Nations Climate Change Conference and are among some of the issue’s most competent reporters.

There has been broad recognition of the fact that while the media industry stands, like every other commercial sector, to be affected by our changing circumstances, media practitioners have a very special role to play when it comes to truth-telling about climate change.

This means that greater attention needs to be paid not only to the sloganeering of politicians and the actions of “activists” but to an understanding of the climate science that has, so far, and largely got the story right.

Proceeding along this path has run very much against a Caribbean culture that relies heavily on intuition, a notion of selectively divine beneficence, and the view that, however weighted by fact and data, there are multiple sides to some stories that require equal hearing.

There is a raging debate in some circles on this point because, after all, shouldn’t all ideas contend? Well, there was a time when the flatness of the planet was being seriously debated (I have no time for modern-day flat-earth loonies) and there are conspiracy theories about things like the lunar landing and the causes of some diseases, that are just as easily dismissible.

This, of course, is a newspaper column and not a chapter in a science journal. So you need to go look up the available science on climate change, or read what is happening to those countries near and far that are experiencing the impacts of more frequent and more intense weather episodes, rising sea levels and threats to freshwater supplies.

I had asked in my introduction to the 2005 volume: “Why do journalists need this handbook?” and I answered myself by concluding that climate change had become “one of the most compelling stories of the 21st Century.”

In this season of the budget debate and upcoming local government elections, this is not an irrelevant assertion. I am following the budget debate and the election campaign to hear what our leaders have to say about this. I believe you should follow suit

First Published in the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian on October 16, 2019

Resetting Media and Information Literacy

Resetting Media and Information Literacy in the Present Media and Information Landscape – UNESCO, Jamaica October 25, 2017 Informatio...