Frankly Speaking:Using Guyana’s Newspapers

– On Real Heroes and Martyrs

It would be noted that I chose the word “using”, instead of merely “reading” in my easily-proven contention that our newspapers are more than just read.  The publishers, editors, contributors and (some section of their) readership utilize the print medium in various ways to do specific things.

These days newspapers are never merely about news. Those of us who bother, realize that newspapers here – and elsewhere – advertise products, services, events and even personalities. Today’s newspapers propagandise, editorialise and attempt to persuade.

Ironically, newspapers around the world are under threat! The electronic media, in their most modern manifestations are giving the poor traditional newspapers hell to survive!  To make money! But in most societies, it is the over-50 population/readership who cling stubbornly to the printed, permanent word.  As friendly, black-and-white evidence, without the electronic/digital device(s) which produced it.

And there is more irony in a place like our Guyana, with respect to the survival, existence and dubious longevity of newspapers.  (My old, conventional public relations/communication principles apply!).

Publishers and writers assume that the majority or even a sizeable  proportion of the population buy newspapers; that they can actually read and understand what they read, if, of course, the newspapers are available and accessible in the first case.

In my limited “communication” career, I’ve been exposed to the loftier principles and fundamentals of journalism, though I can’t claim to grasp or practise them. I have read a few of the international agreements, protocols and conventions; the role, responsibilities and status of the “press” – in this case, the print media, principally newspapers. As usual, not being academic, I’ll eschew the principles and present my layman’s perspectives of how our existing Guyana newspapers are used and by whom.
Persons, sensation, politics

Loosely put, by persons, I refer to the persons’ personalities, status and class interests and the politically-motivated who have utilized newspaper pages effectively and still seek to do so.

Our own history reveals after the very first ‘papers here (1793 and 1796), the European colonizers, their representatives and upper classes “used” the Royal Gazette and the Colonist to air their issues and views. It is recorded that later the earliest Chronicle and Argosy reflected contentious debates between “government” planters and other colonists.

Even the colonizers quarrelled and used the newspapers of the day to prosecute, persecute and defend!

After a governor had the Chronicle Editor charged for libel, the government later passed legislation to “regulate” the print media (Nov. 1839). Still later after Emancipation (1839) ‘papers like Freeman’s Sentinel, Indian Opinion and Working Man attempted to reflect the situation and views of the colony’s non-whites. One, can guess, nay analyse how the content of Guyana’s early newspapers reflected the positions and desires of the publishers, their interest-groups and the ethnic “flavour” of that society. Politics, of course, always gained prominence, versus the then very few murders, accidents and fires.

Not much has changed these days, fundamentally and Frankly Speaking.

Look how certain person pitchfork their personalities, views and ambitions – photographs and all – onto the consciousness of the relatively few who still buy newspapers in this society.

Nearly twenty five years ago, in the post – Burnham era, this Stabroek News allowed freedom of expression in its earliest editions. My Lord! Letters to the Press abounded as freedom returned. Today there seems to be professional, full-time letter-writers, some profound, analytical, banal, abusive, amusing but of no cost to editors. To me, on the whole, it is healthy for what remains democratic.

The State-friendly ‘paper uses no names, fictitious names and official spokesmen to propagate government positions. Other ‘papers produce columns, features and cartoon to counter. All the while, personalities bask in the spotlight of daily publicity. I often wonder just how some folks would spend their time without a newspaper. Even though they (we) are in a minority of the population.

Objectively and without any malice, it is my view that the ‘popular Kaieteur News introduced sensationalism into local newspapers with gusto – replete with the gore of severed heads and countless corpses on the front pages!

Rumour, scandal, gossip all found places of pride in this ‘papers early years. And how it seems to have paid off! Now, tempered with much complementary, more serious pieces, it is still the small man’s popular daily. Not necessarily the beacon of excellence, but who cares?

Politics? My Lord! Just check the letters, the columns and new “features”. As the Election months count down, you who bother with newspapers in this land prepare for the onslaught – snippets of manifestoes, campaign lines and content, party promoters and loyalists letters and ads. “Dirty-tricks” pieces in all guises, character assassination, contrived controversies, government papers, policies and progress reports, et al.

Some smaller parties (will actually) use our few newspapers to publish their programmes or manifestoes in some form.  They can’t stand the cost of printing, but wish to run for seats!

I’ll return to this later even as I regret about twice a year, that I’m still addicted to newspapers – for better or for worse.
Real heroes, real martyrs

My allotted space is running out here so I’ll skip the definitions of “hero” and “martyr”. Just to make you aware that you must be cautious when persons in history or in today’s world are held up as such. Whilst appreciating that all heroes and martyrs were/are subject to human frailties, one must also know that heroes don’t have to be saints and that martyrdom could be very accidental.

I must return to this some time but for now consider my national heroes to be Kofi, Accabreh, Critchlow, Rodney, Darke, Cheddi, the Early Burnham and … (?). The fellows who faced death to protect the ballot boxes on the Corentyne win my vote for being, indeed, Ballot Box Martyrs. Even moreso than the revered Enmore Five!

Should all slaves who died, and murdered strikers be deemed martyrs? Did not many Indo-sugar workers die in protest, long before Enmore? Discuss…
Consider, Relate…

When Cheddi Jagan protested to the Lusignan Estate Manager about his compound being dry whilst the sugar labourers’ logies were flooded, the manager rebuked Cheddi warning “Jagan, do you know you are trespassing”

As June 16 looms, there is a Cheddi Jagan reminiscence about the Colour Bar at Mc Kenzie in the early Demba days.

Upon his return to British Guiana in the (late) forties the Canadians allowed no dark-skinned locals into the Watooka exclusive zone. Cheddi and his American Caucasian Janet visited and could  not get back to Georgetown that evening. The Canadians didn’t sustain their dilemma. They accommodated Cheddi and Janet in a hospital room!

All could not be good about ACP Paul Slowe. He’s human. But the erudite, provocative Attorney-General has called Slowe a uniformed maverick and pointed out some legal transgressions. I love Ramson’s language, normally, but next round?

How are they going to remember Rodney over the next nine days? Emphasis on Harmony? Division. Let’s see – or contribute.

State of Affairs today? The criminal, cynical, comedic convicted courier asked the magistrate: “if y’all don’t want cocaine in de country, why press me ‘cause I tekking it out?”

Hail champ Shondell! Triumph of the GT Depressed Area over Toronto and L.A. California!

Congrats girl!

Til next week!

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