– Irresponsible journalism

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Oswald Brown Writes

Oswald Brown

By OSWALD T. BROWN

A story was published in The Freeport News on Saturday, December 8, under the headline “Urban Renewal staff working to rule,” that is one of the most egregious examples of irresponsible journalism that I’ve seen in my many years as a journalist.

Written by Lededra Marche, “news editor” of The Freeport News, the article made this claim: “With morale reportedly low and tensions high at Urban Renewal 2.0 centers in Grand Bahama, employees are expected to go on work-to-rule today, for at least the next two weeks.

“Workers at least three of the six centers are expected to participate in the industrial move, which is being orchestrated by center managers, The Freeport News has learned.

“According to an employee, there is a quiet storm brewing between the center managers and coordinators which is spilling over to the workers and affecting the program…”

Readers of the article were later informed that the source from which Mrs. Marche obtained this information was “an unnamed employee,” who was quoted as saying, “The workers are angry and we are not pleased with the leadership,” adding that there needs to be some intervention soon.

Mrs. Marche has been a journalist for almost 20 years and actually I think I hired her to work at The Freeport News during my first stint as editor of The Freeport News in the early 1990s shortly after I returned to The Bahamas from living in Washington, D.C. Clearly, this “senior journalist” totally disregarded one of the first lessons taught to journalism interns, and that is to verify and substantiate information before including it in a story.

The fact that Mrs. Marche made “serious allegations” about the Urban Renewal program on the basis of information provided by “an unnamed employee” makes it appear that she either has a personal agenda to discredit the Urban Renewal program, for whatever reason, or has forgotten or never learned one of the fundamental rules of writing a story for publication.

Urban Renewal 2.0 is an excellent initiative instituted by the new Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) government shortly after it won the May 7 general election as one of its weapons in the war on crime and to focus on some of the pressing social issues in communities throughout the country.

From the very onset of its introduction, it came under assault by operatives of the defeated Free National Movement (FNM) because the new PLP government rightly chose to not renew the contracts of employees of a program that had been functioning in a similar capacity, although not with a strong emphasis on crime reduction. The unfounded outcry of victimization was very loud as supporters of the opposition FNM accused the PLP government of being uncaring, among other things.

Whether Mrs. Marche has personal reasons for abrogating her duty as a responsible journalist only she really can answer, but certainly she has left the door open for the conclusion to be reached that she may have political reasons for writing such an irresponsible story.

All she needed to do was place a call to Michelle Reckley, the Grand Bahama-based deputy director of Urban Renewal 2.0, and ask for a comment on the information she had received from “an unnamed employee.” Better still, she should have visited any one of the Urban Renewal centres and interviewed the employees to verify if the information she received was correct.

But Mrs. Marche is not the only person at fault here. The Freeport News has a new British editor, John Fleet, and given the fact that the British are known to produce some of the best journalists in the world, Mr. Fleet should never have allowed that article to be publish; that is unless he too has a personal agenda dictated by his bosses at The Tribune, where he once worked.

In fact, Mr. Fleet was brought into the country by The Tribune, supposedly on a work permit, but was subsequently transferred to The Freeport News under an arrangement made three years ago between the management of The Tribune and The Nassau Guardian, whose parent company AF Holdings owns both The Nassau Guardian and The Freeport News. This raises another question as to whether or not it is proper to “transfer” work permits in the manner.

Nevertheless, Mr. Fleet should be more careful in monitoring stories published in The Freeport News because an irresponsible story like the one written by Mrs. Marche reflects just as negatively on him as it does her.