Media bowled over by their own spin
“When in doubt, leave out”.
This used to be one of the basic tenets of good journalism and, in my time, was disregarded only at the risk of severe reprimand, or worse, by one’s editorial boss. But in this era of mediocrity that seems to have afflicted our professions and institutions alike, it would appear that no one is being called to account for the monumental error committed by the mainstream media in categorically describing the outcome of the recent local government elections as the lowest poll ever for such elections.
The turn-out at the polls was generally touted on the front pages to be 26 per cent, with one newspaper even going as low as 20 per cent.
The analyses both in editorials by the newspapers themselves and by the political analysts who have the uncanny ability to pronounce on any and every event under the sun, were all based on this low poll. People are fed up with the politics and the politicians. There was too much mud-slinging and filth on the hustings. The issues were not discussed. These were some of the main arguments accounting for the so-called “low poll”.
I therefore do not blame TV6 Morning Edition host Fazeer Mohammed for himself getting caught by the spin. Hence, I was not surprised when one of the early questions he posed to Dr Rowley on the morning following the elections alluded to a hollow victory for the PNM.
How, Fazeer asked, could the PNM be proud of victory in an election where only 26 per cent of the electorate voted and where the PNM accumulated less votes than it did in the local government elections of 2010.
When the response came from Dr Rowley it was as if poor Fazeer had been bowled out by a “googly” for which he had no earthly answer.
According to the figures he had obtained, Dr. Rowley said, the turn-out at the polls was in excess of 43 per cent, making 2013 one of the highest voter responses in local government elections in this country. Further, he said, the PNM amassed in excess of 180,000 votes, way in excess of the 130,000 it got in 2010.
So, Dr Rowley asked, where did the media get its figures?
It is a question that is yet to be answered. Especially in view of the fact that the EBC has since confirmed Dr Rowley’s position.
When in doubt, leave out: a tenet that would have saved the media from a lot of egg on its face and from the assumption that in this age of mediocrity and “anything goes”, credibility is no longer a major criterion upon which the growth and survival of our local media may have for so long relied.
And speaking of mediocrity, one is no longer alarmed at the plethora of “green verbs” that are spewed by newscasters and commentators alike on both our radio and television stations. But when these aberrations start to afflict even the editorials in our newspapers, it is cause for concern.
The Express editorial of Wednesday, 23rd October, 2013 with the heading “EBC rises to the challenge” contains the following paragraph:
“It may therefore be the special circumstances of the present politics which has (sic) caused this apparent racial regress.”I do not think it is too late to, as they say, start taking stock.
Errol S Pilgrim