In the UK, I was used to a certain style of journalism that, so far, I have not found in Jamaica. No doubt, Jamaican journalists have a streak of bravery and freedom of expression that is not common throughout the world. They lack a certain willingness to go too deep into stories, and part of that may come from the many links that exist in small communities, where offence can easily rebound when one finds that a relative, no matter how distant, is involved. That strikes me as a weak reason, but it does exist. We also have the real conflicts of interest that come from people’s partisanship. In Jamaica, where we gladly talk about ‘tribalism’ in the context of politics, it’s not a trivial point that a journalist may not feel he or she can go full bore on a topic when his or her party of choice is deep in the mire.
But, those high standard points of journalism are not really what bother me. What we seem to lack is the willingness to poke some serious fun (an oxymoron?) and to put it pun them.
The UK newspapers love word play. They were so exhausted with it that recently one paper, The Sun (famous for its tits, if not its titters), outsourced it and left it to readers on Twitter to come up with the pun-ishing headlines. We’re not short of topics of likely victims.
We’ve a finance minister named Peter Phillips. What’s so hard to work with those names? He’s trying to boost the economy, and it shows the weakest signs of life. Can’t we write “Peter gives another fillip to the economy”? It’s weak, but it works. Or, “Economy falters as growth peters out”?
Our prime minister, Portia Simpson Miller, is a strong-willed woman, but known to be easily ruffled with any charges against the propriety of her character, judging by some of her exchanges in Parliament. Couldn’t our journalists work in a few “Miller grinds out another debate…”?
But, it may simply be that the UK has a different sense of its sense of humour. It’s press is known to press on with April Fool jokes when other English-speaking media seem to have gone into some deep, dark, corner.
Recently, one of Jamaica’s noted religious figures, Fr. Ho-Lung, tried to poke out the eyes of our minister of youth and culture, Lisa Hanna, over her ‘disappointing’ decision to publish a photo of her, taken by her son, walking on a beach in a bikini. I know that the rest of the world has already gone to sleep over the non-newsworthiness of the incident, but in Jamaica, we love being afraid of shadows. Why couldn’t The Gleaner, who made the dubious decision to publish the article written by the priest, give us a headline like “Ho Lung must must our morals be laid bare”, or something like it? Or “Robed minister shows his naked dislike for unclothed minister” It’s not a strain, or is it?
Could it be that the newspaper editors don’t like a good joke or belly laugh? I don’t know any of them well enough to say. But, Jamaicans love a joke and a laugh. Ask AJ Nicholson, who tried to run one in the Senate, but got run out of the house. Ask Easton Douglas, who oversees an organization that should house the poor, but seems intent on getting into the theme park business. The Outameni fiasco-in-the-making got a little mileage with ‘out of money’ or ‘out of many’ remarks, but mostly in the grey world of online commentary.
Maybe, that’s it. Old, print media may have lost its vim and vigour and needs to be scrubbed out of the picture. New, online media, with its faster and more inclusive voice may be from where this will have to originate.
Our papers couldn’t pretend to be a little irked with The Donald, and write “Trump plays his cards and our Kaci’s closed out”?
I call them lame. If I could issue the pun equivalent of the ice bucket challenge, then it would be done now.