The Guardian fiasco took on an additional dimension yesterday when former public affairs editor Dr Sheila Rampersad, in a closed-circuit Facebook posting, expressed her disappointment with editor-in-chief Judy Raymond’s failure to resign.
Rampersad, along with investigative reporters Denyse Renne and Anika Gumbs-Sandiford, has resigned, citing “external pressure on the editorial processes and product in the newsroom”. The management of Guardian Media Ltd has denied any political interference in the Guardian newsroom, as well as the Government.
Many have noted that while the three journalists have gone out on a limb, Raymond remains at the Guardian.
The first post was by Raymond, who said, “I don’t want to sound stupid and naive but I feel I want to give it one last try.”
Rampersad replied: “Really Judy, starting to feel betrayed now. I am standing up for journalism.”
Raymond countered that she was standing up for journalism, too. She told Rampersad the team had put too much work into the paper, and she felt she owed it to the staff to give it another go.
Information was leaked about the exchange between the two journalists to the Express.
Raymond said yesterday while she had not yet decided what she was doing, she was “a little more cautiously optimistic that the situation can be resolved in a way which would be to the benefit of everyone”.
Raymond said with respect to comments on Facebook and elsewhere: “This is a very, very stressful and upsetting and generally horrible situation. We are people who care passionately about what we do and how we do it. And feelings are running high and sometimes, people express those feelings. Sometimes, they say things and sometimes take them back and sometimes, we discover afterwards it was based on a misunderstanding. Sometimes, the situation is explained so they realise it was unnecessary in the first place”.
She stressed that Rampersad and herself were on cordial terms. “I replied to that comment and Sheila was one of the several people who “liked” my reply, she said.
Raymond added she and Rampersad had been in communication since then as she had with Renne. “Our professional relationship is unchanged. I trust them, they trust me,” she said.
The posting was on a space where members of the Guardian newsroom discuss issues of professional interest.
Asked whether it said something about the state of the newsroom that an exchange to which there was limited access could be leaked, Raymond said journalists were people whose professional lives consist of spreading information as widely as possible. “It is hardly surprising that in a group that has dozens and dozens of members, sometimes, things get out. So I am not troubled by it,” she said.
Rampersad told the Express: “This is an extremely distressing time and an extremely stressful time for people who feel that they are under threat and the freedom that they have chosen to exercise (press freedom) is under threat. It is a harrowing time. At different times, we all feel different things.”
Rampersad noted the Facebook page was a closed group of Guardian newsroom people and people who write for the Guardian only where “lots of things are discussed informally in the “safety” of that forum. “Whatever was said there, I remain very good friends with Judy. We have been on friendly terms for 20 years or more and that continues. We continue to be in touch and to be in solidarity with one another in defence of journalism and our freedom to practise journalism,” she said.
She said both herself and Raymond were “big people” who know how to express disagreement and how to express their feelings (for the positions taken by each other) without becoming offensive. “We know how to dialogue,” Rampersad said, adding as far as she was aware, theirs has been a candid relationship.
“I know that different people use different strategies in their struggle, and no one is to determine what is the better strategy for any one person. Judy would use whatever strategies are most comfortable and effective for her, and I would use whatever strategies are most comfortable and effective for me. And I respect that,” Rampersad said.
Asked whether she regretted her decision to resign, Rampersad said she had “absolutely no second thoughts on her decision. I stood on principle and I continue to stand on principle”.
Rampersad’s Facebook comments were removed yesterday afternoon.