There is one rule I learnt in journalism and I have used for the past thirty years and will never abandon it. Once I am writing, I will employ that approach. Academics have to factor into their analyses the peculiar nature of each country. The French have their own peculiarities, so too the Trinidadians, the Americans, and the Guyanese. Russian people definitely have graphic character differences with other nationalities around the world.
Once you understand these peculiarities, your analyses will be cognizant of these national features. Guyana is a country that damn if you do, damn if you don’t. Guyana is a nation where people carry around Naipaulian chagrin at the non-achievements of their country. They embody a deep cynicism and a growing disenchantment with moral values.
In those thirty years of media experience, people would come out to me and the cynicism would go something like this; “Ah come on, Freddie, you pulling one on us. Which prominent doctor witnessed the incident; you made that up.” Or I would have an expression like this; “Man, Freddie no big one from the hospital was there when it happened. You put that in to make the story credible.”
Believe me, I have had those kinds of expressions thrown at me (I suppose every other columnist and commentator) the past thirty years and they are still being pelted at me. So what have I done? I conform to journalistic standards and I keep my sources unnamed (you would not believe the sensitive things I am told almost every day) but I name names when there is no direct contact between me and the names because that is what reporting is all about.
There is no reason to hide open facts.
Here is the perfect, and I stress the word, perfect example. A policeman stopped a driver who is accused of going through amber, outside a famous restaurant. An argument ensues, he slaps the driver.
I witnessed the incident. One of the country’s leading lawyers and the owner of the store were looking on too. There is nothing journalistically improper if I am writing about that incident and I wrote, “Passersby were remonstrating with the police; restaurant owner, Paul Jones and prominent city lawyer, Joan Smith were there watching.”
In such a situation what was reported is factual. There was no contact made with Jones and Smith by the columnist, and there were no comments attributed to Jones and Smith. Their physical presence was there and that was what was reported. Where the columnist comes in is that he protects himself/herself from charges of invention and embellishment because his facts could be checked. The editor or a disbelieving Thomas can call his friend, the restaurant owner, and ask if the policeman did such a thing.
Here now is a real life situation that happened with me at the National Park yesterday. You name people because you cannot be accused of fictionalization. As I was about to drive out of the eastern gate on the park, a driver was stuck right in front the gate from the roadside. The fellow was steering the car all by himself and couldn’t manage effectively. I left my dog in my vehicle and went and pushed him off the road onto the side of the entrance.
He informed me that he was told by his friend Mark Archer of the Office of the President that he can find the Civil Defence Commission next to the park. He missed it and when he reversed, the car cut out. He asked me for the place; I didn’t know. I rang Adam Harris, didn’t get him, rang Leonard Gildarie, he told me it was near to Camp Ayanganna. The man rang his friend, Mark Archer, for confirmation of location.
The car was fixed and as we were leaving a driver drove out the park and stopped by us and exclaimed in the presence of Mark Archer’s friend, “Freddie, you are right to write about what takes place in this country. You should see the built up of traffic at the junction of Croal and Alexander Streets all because they blocked off the courts and didn’t put a sign informing drivers. Man Freddie you should see what’s going on there; keep writing man.”
If that man sees what I see often in our country, he would go insane. But then again, who is sane in Dante’s inferno also known as Guyana? Since the Las Vegas shooting, people have come up to me and say, “Freddie, dem Americans got problems, man.” And I would say; “We Guyanese got worse ones.”
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