A literary journey assisted by so many
“Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel.”
This was a saying taught to me by the late W.A. “Toppy” Cowen. This lesson came after I had made comments about the local traditional media via social media in 2012.
Essentially, his point was that it is near impossible for anyone to win a war against the media.
A point that came back to me a few weeks ago when some barbs were traded between the daily newspaper and a few politicians.
The media and political rulers have been at constant war with each other for about a few thousand years.
Unfortunately, it is the nature of the game for politicians to fight media claims that they are anything less than accessible and accountable, and for the media to fight right back with their own claims.
Using age-old traditions, there are certain fundamental rules that all journalists must follow to remain credible.
• Do your research
• Check multiple sources
• Verify information gathered
• Use illustrations if possible
• Present your information in a non-offensive manner
These lessons were taught to me over the years by a host of local and international journalists who took their time to groom me in the centuries-old profession of writing columns and other forms of media presentation.
Today I would like to take a few moments to recognise them and their contributions to bringing forth the news and issues that have shaped Bermudians social and political lenses.
In the mid-1990s, long before I ever dreamt of writing columns, I used to read endless local and international columnists on a daily and weekly basis. Writers such as:
• Cheryl Pooley-Alves
• John Barritt
• Julian Hall
• Larry Burchall
• LaVerne Furbert
• Rolfe Commissiong
• Tom Vesey
• John Burchall
These persons served to introduce me to the power of a columnist to shape the narrative that Bermuda was on the verge of needed social and political change. They inspired many to not only see that a “New Bermuda” was not just a campaign slogan but a new way that citizens had to view each other, our changing economy and the advent of the information age.
With that information age, came the advent of websites and the eventual demise of three notable printed publications — the Bermuda Times, the Mid-Ocean News and the Bermuda Sun.
I was blessed to be able to cut my teeth in print media in October 2012 when a certain Liverpudlian by the name of Tony McWilliam offered me a spot to have my own column in the Bermuda Sun.
In retrospect, I questioned whether I was able to even remotely measure up to the works of those persons previously mentioned. I had no degree in writing, nor did I have any personal relationship with any of them to call on them for mentorship.
Over the course of my two years with the Bermuda Sun, most of them reached out to me in one way or the other to offer support or to give constructive advice. I don’t recall any of them ever attempting to tell me what to write. The overall message was to ensure that my facts were correct and to strive to be informative rather than combative.
With the unfortunate departure of the Bermuda Sun, I was faced with a moral dilemma.
Option A: Cease writing in print.
Option B: Commence writing for The Royal Gazette.
In speaking with the consulting editor at the time, Tim Hodgson, I recall stating that if I did write in The Royal Gazette my political views will not be altered. His reply was simply that I ensure whatever I submit be backed with facts.
When the editor’s baton was handed over to Dexter Smith, a small shift in expectation of all columnists was clearly laid out in no uncertain terms. With most of the issues that weekly writers pointed out, they were to present possible solutions to these challenges.
What that served to do is raise the bar of presentation to the public by my fellow columnists such as:
• Al Seymour
• Bryant Trew
• Eron Hill
• Khalid Wasi
I write this to say that I carry those fundamental rules and expectations of a columnist/journalist into my role as a sitting Member of Parliament. Before getting up to speak on any subject, I go over my media-minded checklist:
• Do my research
• Check multiple sources
• Verify information gathered
• Present my points in an informative manner
• Present options for each challenge presented
There may never be peace between the media and politicians. What I will say is that the media have to ensure that what they put forward about governments is well researched.
To those editors and columnists listed, I wish to take this time to thank you for grooming me over the years. And most importantly, for keeping us politicians on our toes.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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