Jan 06, 2012 Letters
In Guyana, we have a Press Association and a Media Owners Association. I hope by the publication of this letter, both organizations would seek to address some of the thorny issues in Guyana’s journalism. This correspondence is about the abuse of journalism by one of its longest serving servants, Adam Harris. I have become a recent victim of this abuse.
During the long time I have been a columnist with the Kaieteur News, there have been many occasions in which I have had to remonstrate with KN’s editor Adam Harris about inserting his opinions into my opinion pieces when editing my stuff. I have conceded to KN that an editor has a right to correct wrong dates and incorrect facts and to remove libelous and scurrilous paragraphs.
Disagreements are bound to occur when an editor and a columnist have a long association with a media house as Adam and I have at KN. So I just would mention my grievances to Harris and our relation goes on.
I am sure all of Guyana knows that in April last year there was a public blow up between me and Mr. Glenn Lall, KN’s publisher. Mr. Lall has on several occasions accused me of bad journalism and abuse of my columnist’s right at KN.
I would say that Mr. Harris is guilty of the same accusation and in this missive I am asking Mr. Lall to address the role of an editor at KN and by extension I am asking the Guyana Press Association and the Media Owners Association to offer some guidance to the journalistic community.
I took umbrage with Harris when he edited a column on September 26 last year by someone named Ralph Seeram. The caption was; “Freddie Kissoon is a jackass.” I doubt any editor in the history of mainstream newspapers would approve of such a caption. Mr. Harris seems to be of the type that does not care about his standing in the journalistic community.
In that article by Seeram I was referred to as “This piece of excrement.” These are not descriptions, an editor should allow. Harris would not tolerate that kind of language in my essays.
I raised this type of egregious editing with Adam but he never answered why he allowed the nasty caption and the scatological description. Harris has exceeded his unacceptable form of editing in an editor’s note to my December 15 article.
I am asking Mr. Lall as the publisher to raise this low descent into journalism by Harris because I am extremely annoyed at what Harris did.
In that editor’s note, Adam Harris transmitted the feelings of Ron Sanders about a column I wrote on Sanders. In his editor’s note Harris let readers now that I misquoted Sanders on two occasions in the particular column.
Harris then wrote, “Freddie Kissoon exceeded the freedom accorded to him by this newspaper wrongfully stating Sir Ron Sanders …” At the end of the note, Mr. Harris let readers know that I only write for a Guyanese audience while Sanders “commentaries are syndicated throughout the world.”
What was the relevance of that? There was none.
It was an abuse of the editor’s freedom that KN allowed Harris.
I confronted Harris on his obnoxious editorial note. My main complaint was why Sanders was not advised to reply either in his column or in a letter. Why Harris took on that job for Sanders?
Editors only pen notes as part of their defence of the paper’s policies. I know it is not the policy of KN for editors to write on behalf of people who have a grievance with what is published by a columnist or a hard news report. The international standard is to let the person reply to what he/she has objected to.
I got the distinct impression after speaking with Adam (I may be wrong) that Mr. Lall had directed the composition of the note.
I approached Mr. Lall. He was furious and in pellucid language told me he had absolutely no input in the editorial note and didn’t know of its drafting. He then contacted Adam and I requested not to be part of the exchange. I felt that the publisher and editor should trash that out privately.
By this public letter, I would like some editor’s guidelines to be followed by Adam as should be with every other editor. First, no editor should inject his opinion into another. If I chose not to mention Tendulkar as one of the great cricketers of the world, an editor cannot insert a few words telling my readers that Tendulkar has 99 international hundreds.
It is my right to recognize or derecognize any great person I want to. An editor cannot usurp the function of an opinion-maker.
Secondly, Mr. Harris should permanently desist in doing what he did with the Ron Sanders piece. As it turned out I did not misquote Sanders. Harris rushed too quickly to judgement without consulting me. I admit he was a bit apologetic telling me that he didn’t go back the parts in that particular column that Sanders was peeved with. Sanders made himself out to be petty when he ranted and raved (through Adam) about my use of the word reclaim when he, Sanders meant “acquire.” That is really splitting hairs
I will conclude with the trenchant judgement that Adam Harris’s note was an abuse of the editor’s right and I hope I have seen the last of it when it comes to my columns
Editor’s note: The fact that Mr Kissoon is asking the Guyana Press Association to censure me must be the most bizarre. No member of the public anywhere in the world can get any entity to censure the editor of a paper.
However, Mr Kissoon’s pique is rooted in the fact that I have repeatedly implored him to write about issues rather than people. My pleas have fallen on deaf ears.
The column by Ralph Seeram did contain some harsh language as do some of Mr Kissoon’s columns but not in as elegant language as Mr Kissoon’s. I considered the publication par for the course set by Mr Kissoon.
I hasten to add that Kaieteur News is the only newspaper in the world where one columnist attacks another. That this is allowed is testimony to the open policy of the paper.
Mr Kissoon and I did discuss the Editor’s note appended to his column attacking Sir Ron Sanders and he admitted that nowhere in his writings did he correctly quote Sir Ron. He then said that he paraphrased and that any objection to his conclusion was semantic. I did not agree, hence his frustration. It is wrong for him to insist that he did not quote Sir Ron.
Finally, this penchant for Mr Kissoon to go public with every disagreement must be telling. It smacks of someone desperate for the limelight and I shall not allow Mr Kissoon to take me down that path.
As the song says, “What happens in the party stays in the party” but for Mr Kissoon and his complaints.
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