ACCUSING media houses and reporters of sensationalizing issues has been a constant chorus of politicians from both sides of the political divide.
The pattern is familiar — too familiar if you asked me. For instance, the politicians mostly guilty of that are always the ones on the governing side of the government, therefore it came as no surprise when Guy Joseph and Sarah Flood Beaubrun, in responding to questions from reporters last week Tuesday, accused the media of sensationalizing media coverage of certain news items.
While I admit this accusation is as old as the mountains – government ministers accusing media personnel of sensationalizing news items – it is an accusation that should be shot down each and every time it surfaces for to not do so would present, albeit in the minds of the henchmen of those politicians, something akin to gospel.
To clarify, this is not gospel. Whenever a politician accuses a media house or a reporter of sensationalizing an issue bet your bottom dollar that news report is either uncomfortable to the politician or to his or her government.
If one is alert to the times such accusations are made, he/she will recall that during these times the politician/s does not really accuse the media house or reporter of inaccuracies in their reporting of that particular news item they label sensational. The politician/s annoyance is in the “sensationalism” aspect of the news item.
Minister Joseph had problems with the news item of media houses that featured the La Clery Housing situation and the evictions that occurred there especially that of the last tenant – the Charlemagne family. He just did not like the focus on government’s eviction of that family.
Government may very well be in its right to evict the family after holding dialogue with them, providing them with start-up money for a new home, waiting months on end, sometimes years for the family to move out of the area, going through the right channels and crossing all their t’s and dotting all their I’s so as to be fair and just in the eyes of the public for whatever government had to do to clear the land, etc., etc.
The hard fact remains in that however justified government may have been in getting the Charlemagne family off the land, and in the news article highlighting all the facts surrounding that justification, a headline screaming “Government Evicts Family Off Land….” does not look good for the Housing Minister, a portfolio Joseph holds, and by extension the government. So therefore to save face, accusations of sensationalism will always be hurled at reporters and media houses by the politician or politicians to be hurt most by those stories.
Beaubrun was asked why no female Member of Parliament had spoken out about the Ubaldus Raymond issue that saw him facing off against two young ladies in a blackmail case. Although she challenged the reporters to get the tapes of her statements on the issue, she brushed their curiosity off by stating “it is really important that we don’t just focus on sensationalism.”
The Oxford American Dictionary explains ‘sensationalism’ thus: use of subject matter or words or style etc. (in a book, newspaper, film etc.) in order to produce excessive emotional excitement in people.
I submit that it is not the reporter or the media house that use their own words in a news article to produce excessive emotional excitement in people. What does that are the news items themselves. For example, should a newspaper headline states ‘Government Evicts Family’ that in itself is sensational. A media house carrying such a headline is not sensationalizing the situation at all but reporting truthfully that government evicted a family. It is up to the government, when asked to comment on the eviction to present all the facts surrounding its side of the story. The nub of the story is that government evicted a family and that’s what a headline usually captures.
Should media houses not publish that story, the story would still be sensational and that’s what Ministers Joseph, Beaubrun and the rest of the political gang and their henchmen do not get. A government evicting families living on government land for over 30 years will always create excessive emotional excitement in some people, whether there is no media coverage of the eviction and irrespective of the reason/s given by the government.
Another news item creating excessive emotional excitement in people right now is the shooting death of Kimberly Williams de Leon. The fact that the woman was shot dead in her home and her husband, a police officer of rank, became a ‘person of interest’ to investigators, is and of itself, sensational.
Am I making this sensational by reporting the above fact?
So for Ministers Joseph, Beaubrun and other politicians and their henchmen, who believe they could accuse people like me of sensationalizing news coming out of their mouths and ministries which, on their own – without input from a reporter or a media house – are able to create excessive emotional excitement in people I say to them to stop their accusations. Truth be told, they are the ones creating the sensationalism they so deeply abhor.