I have been a reporter for longer than most of the present crop has been alive. Veteran broadcaster Hugh Cholmondeley described me as a dinosaur at a forum that was designed to help improve the quality of journalism in Guyana.
Regardless of what people may say about Forbes Burnham, regardless of the paucity of newspapers, the quality of journalism in this country was second to none in the region. To this day, the people outside of Guyana still look to Guyana for quality media reports. Such is their demand that with the recent expansion of the media in Trinidad, the owners there turned to Guyana for reporters. They got the second and even third best, but don’t tell them that. They feel that they have secured the cream of the crop.
The media in Guyana in the days gone by would ferret out anything once it was there. The now dearly departed Andrew Morrison was a thorn in Forbes Burnham’s side. He was able to get even the wine list aboard the aircraft that Burnham would be traveling when he left on foreign engagements.
I was on the Central Executive Committee of the People’s National Congress then, and I can tell anyone who would listen that Burnham was at his wits’ end; that he desperately wanted to know how Fr Morrison got his information. He died never knowing and with Fr Morrison also dead, I suppose that secret has been confined to the grave.
Reporters got stories about the innermost working of the government, the police—anything that was there to be exposed.
Crime was not such a big thing so there had to be other things that would make the news. It was left to the reporters to maintain the interest of the public and they did. The other day CLICO came to the fore. There were some reporters who dug deep but they only stayed with the story for so long. It was not long before they moved on to other things but there was always something that caused them to return to the CLICO issue. One of them was the shooting of the Commissioner of Insurance, Maria van Beek.
Few people would accept that being shot at is par for the course and worse, if they feel that the shooting was linked to the work they do. When gunmen struck at a bar in Kitty where the then Director of Public Prosecutions, Denis Hanomansingh was, the effect on the DPP was such that he packed his bags and left the country for good.
Mr Hanomansingh did not wait around for explanations nor did he take the attack in stride. There was therefore a story in the wake of the shooting of Mrs van Beek. An enterprising reporter stayed with that story and found out that she was not going to be happy continuing as though everything was par for the course.
That reporter, Michael Jordan, learnt that Mrs van Beek was disposed to quitting the job. He came to me with the story and I asked him to check further. He came back with the same news.
When contacted Mrs van Beek let it be known that she did not want to be in the limelight anymore, that she did not want her name or photograph in the newspapers again. She never denied that she was leaving office and of course the bullet was uppermost in her mind.
To her credit, she never responded to the Kaieteur News headline but there were those who sought to respond on her behalf. The next thing I knew, the other media houses pounced on Kaieteur News for what they said was a misleading headline. None thought it fit to further investigate the story. Someone threw them a bone and they grabbed at it.
Perhaps their reaction was rooted in envy of the Kaieteur News and so anything that smacks of an attack of Kaieteur News would make the news.
Since that Kaieteur News headline, things have happened to vindicate the newspaper. The government has passed legislation that shifts the naked exposure that Mrs van Beek had, to a more powerful entity, the Central Bank.
Mrs van Beek is a strong person and a professional and I suspect that the move to have her responsibilities transferred to the Central Bank is more to protect her. It may be that she may be involved in the project as before, perhaps doing the same thing. The only change may be that she is not going to be in the forefront as she was.
The Central Bank most likely will be setting up a department in which Mrs van Beek will be integral to the operation, but within the confines of the Central Bank.
I note these things because there is still a story here and I would expect enterprising reporters to go after it.
The other day when President Bharrat Jagdeo described reporters as lazy there was a hue and cry. People felt that he was unduly harsh. This episode that saw the other media houses, Stabroek News, the Chronicle, NCN, Guyana Times, seeking to climb on the back of Kaieteur News underscores President Jagdeo’s comment.
Further I say not.
I also note that the politicians who just a few weeks called for Mrs van Beek’s resignation as Commissioner of Insurance have changed their tune. Suddenly they recognize that she has been doing a great job.
There is a television series entitled ‘As the world turns’. Ours is really turning.
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