Furbert: What was the purpose of getting that number out there?
Business Development and Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert yesterday criticised The Royal Gazette for its front page story saying that the Islands murder rate was double the global average.
It should have been buried in the paper and good news given a higher profile, the Minister said.
In an unprepared statement at a hastily called press conference, Mr Furbert called for more understanding from this newspaper and argued that such publicity could endanger everyones livelihoods.
All Im asking the media is that when youre doing up the story consider the impact its having on our client base, he said.
Were not trying to tell you what to print or what not to print. What we are really saying is what was the purpose of getting that number out there?
The Minister said that he was working hard to attract tourists and business to the Island and such stories made his job harder when talking to journalists and tour operators.
What do I really say? Yes thats true, but you should come anyway? he asked. All Im saying is be considerate with the message youre really trying to put out.
The story could have been given a lower profile, while a story about Security Minister Wayne Perinchiefs efforts to contain the violence should have been on the front page, he said.
And he said the Islands small size ensured that any per capita statistic would be skewed.
Bermuda is probably the highest thing we can think of based on our population, he said. We have the most churches, the most women, the most trees in the world based on our population.
Mr Furbert noted that most readers would only read the headline, so a tourist comes and says where do I go? Where do I hide?
He continued: Im not saying The Royal Gazette is irresponsible, Im saying we have a responsibility.
And he said that while he understands the need to sell newspapers this doesnt help sell, it helps frighten people.
And he urged The Royal Gazette to consider that were in this boat together.
Yesterdays story was based on a recently released study from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime which reported that the world average per capita murder rate was 6.9 per 100,000 people.
Local statistics show that the island has a per capita murder rate so far this year of 12.5 murders per 100,000 people.
Bill Zuill, Editor of The Royal Gazette, said Mr Furbert was correct to urge caution with per capita statistics in relation to Bermuda.
But nothing can distort the fact that eight people have been murdered in Bermuda this year and that this is an unacceptably high rate by any measure. In that context, comparing Bermudas murder rate to other countries, large and small, is relevant and in context.
Nor can we bury the news. The fact is that is that this story is highly relevant to our readers and therefore worthy of prominent coverage.
To hide the story inside the newspaper would do our readers a disservice.
We do in fact carry many positive stories, on tourism and other subjects.
To that end, I intend to arrange a meeting with the Minister to discuss ways we can report the good news about tourism and the many incredible Bermudians who work in the sector.
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