The public relations (PR) sector is an adjunct to journalism. The two work well together because the news media usually gets the information it is seeking and, in return, the organisation or individual gets access to the outlet needed for their news release.
Too often, however, people see PR as an opportunity for spin; in which they obfuscate the facts and try to pass off half-truths for information.
Some news releases are only fit for file 13 because they don't ring the light the public needs.
It would seem that the higher the stakes in a particular situation, the greater the propensity for passing out spin under the guise of PR. Genuine PR practitioners should not allow themselves to be used in this manner.
This is happening, to an extent, with how the information about Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL) and the brouhaha at the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) is being handled.
For the first few days after the SSL breaking news hit one could not tell what had really happened. One was left to wonder if the agencies which should be monitoring the respective entities were trying to cover their collective extremities.
For example, here's an excerpt from the Financial Services Commission (FSC) after word came that Mr Usain Bolt and others had been allegedly fleeced of their money at SSL:
"… The FSC has issued directions to SSL… The directions impose strict reporting requirements on the entity and prevent the entity from disposing of any assets... These directions are a supervisory tool to allow the FSC to engage an entity in a process of enhanced oversight.
"In the case of SSL, this enhanced oversight reflects the need for the FSC to have a full view of the integrity of the transactions being conducted, including the movement of funds, and of securities into and out of SSL."
No explanation of its own role in monitoring and pre-empting breaches at the entity.
For his part, Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke's press release expressed outrage when the public needed explanations: "Like all Jamaicans, I am in shock, and feel a profound level of anger and disgust at the alarming and evil fraud that has allegedly been committed at Stocks and Securities Limited…"
Similarly, in the matter of the CPFSA, Education and Youth Minister Fayval Williams was "shocked" and tamely asked the CPFSA head, Ms Rosalee Gage-Grey, if she could step aside while the investigation is ongoing. Is this the best the minister could do in such dire circumstances of alleged sexual abuse?
As the rights organisation Stand Up for Jamaica puts it: "[T]hose precious lives are already at risk as a result of not being blessed with stable homes and families and their development is already being impeded by the fact that they already came under abuse and had instability to start their fragile life."
Don't get us wrong, anger and shock are appropriate in these really tragic situations. But public officers owe much more to the populace than their emotional reactions. A great deal of people are now fretting about their hard-earned funds in financial institutions as a result of the SSL development. And all Jamaica is embarrassed about the abuse of children in State care.
There are times when the public must be taken into the confidence of these guardian agencies. More information is often better than less.