I was jolted by the headline: ‘PPP considered taking up arms against gov’t after Walter Rodney’s death – Rohee.’ This can revisited in the Feb 10, Stabroek News edition, which gave coverage of the Walter Rodney Commis-sion of Inquiry, dealing with the assassination of Dr Walter Rodney.
I boldly declare that Stabroek News, with the use of this caption, is guilty of that which is not merely misleading, but also quite reprehensible. As soon as that title is met with the eye, the impression one is likely to get is that the People’s Progressive Party was at time, one with an aggressive and even violent intent. As a matter of fact, I was riled on reading it in the SN, and was moved to examine its content.
However, the title was most misleading, as the actual content of the article did not lend support to what the title promised. This classic case of sensationalising is typical of so many media houses. It is suggestive of inherent mischief by those who subscribe to this kind of reportage.
Reading the entire lengthy presentation, it can be noted that the theme was really about the nature and intent of the then ruling People’s National Congress, under Forbes Burnham, and certainly not about any kind of hostile attitude of the PPP. As a matter of fact, during the hearing , the major thrust was about a murderous regime during the late ’70s.
I am horrified by this brand of journalism; the desire to besmirch the good name of the PPP overwhelmed the editor to the point that a very basic tenet of good writing was dispensed with. I presume the editor knows that the title is a story’s first impression and dominant motif. The article in question is over 1,600 words, and just a sixth of it deals with the headline.
I am cognisant too that the editor self-debunked, even in that small portion which it was tried to naughtily and puerilely use. The report ended up acknowledging that the late Dr Cheddi Jagan, Founder (and Leader at the time) of the PPP, was a man of exceptional quality. It was admitted that he never tolerated hostile measures, and that he was most peaceful, during the height of physical violence thrown at those who were opposing the PNC at the time.
I inform you that stories make the first impression with their titles. So I think titles are extremely important, and should be carefully used. Titles also build anticipation and expectation, and should live up to their intimations. It is so patently easy to spot SN’s nefarious purpose; it doesn’t have a hidden agenda; its intentions are crystal clear but don’t achieve much.