A free press and more challenges

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, December 03, 2012

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THE Press Association of Jamaica is celebrating Journalism Week, and as we get reports of the Internet going down in Syria, we must give thanks that we have a free and active press in Jamaica. One theory why Jamaica remains one of the happiest countries in the world is that the various talk shows help us to let off steam.

But seriously, we should be proud of our press – they have been exposing wrongs, educating, entertaining and encouraging compassion for the less fortunate. Last week after this column expressed outrage at the death of 16-year-old Vanessa Wint, Monsignor Gregory Ramkissoon called me in tears, saying: "We can't leave this alone! Vanessa is our little sister!" He certainly did not – he has brought on board Dr Wendel Abel and JFJ with the strong support of Archbishop Charles Dufour. Senator Sandrea Falconer responded promptly to a request to contact Mustard Seed, and Security Minister Peter Bunting called Father Greg early the next day. We look forward to the Monsignor's meeting with Minister of Youth and Culture Lisa Hanna tomorrow.

Kerlyn Brown's series on sick children on CVM-TV is also very touching, and we are amazed at the bravery of those young mothers who have dedicated their lives to the care of their children. Through TVJ's All Angles with Dionne Jackson- Miller, Cliff Hughes' Impact and Garfield Burford's Direct we get to dig deep into national issues.

We have a refreshing new talk show on CVM, The Naked Truth, with host Paula Kerr-Jarrett and panellists Barbara Ellington, Terri Salmon and Terry Ann Weeks, while Ian Boyne's Profile continues to have a big following.

The seamless relationship between media houses and social media takes vox pops off the streets and on to Facebook pages, and anyone can be a blogger. What a contrast to our early years in the communications business. I remember that sad day in the 80s when we had to send out a release telling the public that Reynolds was pulling out of Jamaica. We booked two motorcycle bearers, in addition to our team member, and had them leave together to handdeliver the release to Gleaner, RJR and JBC. That was the sum total of our main media. Now at the click of a mouse we reach over 30 media houses. Then we blog the release and tweet the link. Broadcast interviews are no longer fleeting – they are podcasts on a website and uploaded on YouTube.

With so much information at our fingertips, media now have an even more important role to separate the wheat from the chaff and to project what is true and most beneficial to their audience.

Ringtones of Opportunity

We attended the launch of a book last week, Ringtones of Opportunity, edited by Dr Hopeton Dunn who once headed the Mona Centre for ICT and Telecoms Policy and is now director of Carimac. Dr Dunn, a son of Trelawny, has had a sparkling academic career, as has his wife Dr Leith Dunn; they are excellent role models. His research has been hailed worldwide and the master's degree programme developed by the ICT Centre is internationally rated in the top 200 in engineering and management. He acknowledged the sponsorship of the Telecoms Policy Chair by Digicel in helping to make this possible.

It was an evening of hope as State Minister for Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Julian Robinson said that his government's vision is to develop ICT as a sector in its own right as it has the greatest potential for short-term growth. He noted that a company called Sutherland Global should be setting up operations on campus offering students hands-on ICT experience. This type of training is crucial for our students, many of whom have graduated and are still seeking employment.

UTech's on-campus hotel is another example of how such institutions are ensuring that their graduates are job-ready. As we consider the sacrifices being made by these students and their families to pay hefty tuition fees, our tertiary institutions should consider it a moral obligation to help their graduates make that important move from the lecture room to the workplace.

Business leaders honoured

Last evening, the Jamaica Observer honoured 15 leading Jamaican companies – Carib Cement, The Gleaner, GraceKennedy, The Hendrickson Group of Companies, Jamaica Broilers, Jamaica National, Jamaica Producers, Pan Jamaica Group, Red Stripe, Scotiabank, Victoria Mutual, WIHCON, Wisynco, Worthy Park and Wray & Nephew. These companies have remained stable through economic tremors and provide a livelihood for tens of thousands of Jamaicans. Lifetime awards were presented to two sterling Jamaicans, Carimed founder Glen Christian and Ambassador Derick Heaven.

Of course the Observer's sister company Sandals has copped multiple international awards and continues to be one of the strongest Jamaican brands in the world. In our over 30 years in business we have worked for several of these organisations. I believe the qualities that have kept them going are: courage, vision, perseverance, discipline, adaptability, altruism and integrity.

Our young entrepreneurs were recognised by the PSOJ last Thursday in the "50 Under 50" awards – they deserve special commendation for coming forward at a time when so many are fearful of the future.

STGC Hall of Famers

It was a special pleasure to be at the St George's College Hall of Fame Banquet the night before their big Manning Cup Day. Coach Neville "Bertis" Bell, who was inducted that evening stayed calm and introspective. Tennis ace and dedicated teacher Father Jim Hosie was also honoured. Those posthumously recognised were Professor Barry Chevannes, Carl Chang and Kenneth Noad and as we listened to their citations, we were moved by their phenomenal achievements. The inspiration continued to the next day when ecstatic Georgians lifted the Manning Cup for the 22nd time.


Jean Lowrie-Chin is the author of Souldance, a collection of poetry and commentary.




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