Panellist issues reminder: Not everyone is a journalist

File photo -
File photo -

NOT everyone is a journalist. This was the opinion expressed on Monday by Reports for America Corps Excellence vice-president Allison Bethel during a webinar to commemorate World Press Freedom Day.

She said a misconception has been created over time in the public's mind that "anybody with a phone and a camera is a journalist."

Bethel said traditional media needed to accept some of the blame for this: "We allowed that foolishness."

She explained that being a real journalist is about understanding and practising principles such as truth, transparency and accountability. Bethel said it also has to do with having a code of ethics and rigidly adhering to it.

Bethel said though there are many people who put information into the public through various communication channels and claim to be journalists, "They are not really journalists."

The discussion, on "Information as a Public Good," was screened by TT TV station WESN on Monday morning.

St Kitts and Nevis Information Service director-general Lesroy Williams agreed, "Today everybody is considering themselves a journalist."

But he argued, "Sometimes it is not all bad."

Williams said it was video posted on social media which played a major role in last month's conviction of former police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.

He suggested that sometimes certain kinds of news may not come out on traditional media because it is filtered in certain ways through such establishments.

Media Federation Group chairman Clive Bacchus said traditional media often have difficulty in attracting the best talent into their organisations because of the issues of very little pay and long working hours.

While some people criticise traditional media for falling standards of journalism and demand they do better, Bacchus asked, "Do more with what?"

He observed that in the region, 50 per cent of journalists in traditional media may do other jobs on the side because their income level at their regular job is not enough to sustain them. Bacchus said the latter is influenced by "who you work for and the space you work in."

Media Association of TT president Dr Sheila Rampersad said she has not seen evidence of any reputable sources of news in the digitial domain. While many people criticise traditional media for what they think are its failings, she said, what is presented by online entities as credible news is actually "digital versions of traditional media."

Political analyst Devaron Bruce observed that in some Caricom countries like Jamaica and Barbados, there are civil society groups which actively compete with the media to get information from official institutions. Referring to an earlier comment from Bacchus about funding challenges faced by traditional media organisations, Bruce suggested such entities seek to "monetise their influence on social media."


"Panellist issues reminder: Not everyone is a journalist"

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