A voice from the Diaspora: Will the real journalists please stand up?

Many years ago, trained journalists Ross Shiel, Petulia Clarke and yours truly spearheaded the online revolution of the Jamaican media landscape through the offices of the Jamaica Observer.

That is fact, which cannot be disputed. We were the rage of the Jamaican media.

It was hard work. Sometimes taking 16 hours out of our day, hardly affording us time to cater to our families and personal needs. However, we persevered.

At the time we were pushing water uphill without a pump. Few among us believed in the vision. We were trained journalists, mindful of the principles of libel, defamation of character and verification of facts.

We knew that if we were in doubt, we should check it out and if after checking it out we were still in doubt we should leave it out. It is a basic tenet of journalism. We also stuck to the principles of five W’s and an H.

Who, What, Why, When, Where and How.

This is not the case nowadays. The profession is being infiltrated by a plethora of individuals with enough resources and technological savvy to construct an online platform and beam any and everything to the world with not an iota of fact checking or consideration for professional integrity.

Many Jamaican citizens who live in the Diaspora connect to Jamaica through the sea of Youtube channels which are readily available at the tip of their fingers through the wonderful instruments known as smart phones. The traditional media houses still hold a precious place in our psyche, but the vloggers are becoming increasingly popular.

However, the vloggers are not journalists, though some of them have proven that without the formal training they are worth their salt.

Let’s view the social media newsroom available to the Diaspora via social media.

The best social commentary coming out of Jamaica, in my humble view, features Rastafari dub poet and radio show host Mutabaruka. He has been an icon of Jamaican culture for decades and none can compare in the online space.

Mutabaruka is well known as were the journalists who were blooded in the activities of the newsroom and the exigencies that accompany it.

Sir P is seen as a pioneer in this new form of dispensing information. Although he has refused to reveal his identity, this vlogger has shown that he is willing to research topics, dissect them and present them in a way which the man from Mars can understand and so has built a great following.

On The Spot News Media is a valuable crime reporter and seems to stomp the online pavement. This vlogger gets the news behind the crime and only needs to improve his diction. The intention behind this channel seems to be pure but is it hard on the ears when a narrator employs the use of the English language and mangles it to a bloody pulp.

True Island Stories? Great narrator but too many disclaimers. If you are not sure, do not publish.

Tu Lox, your two cents have purchasing power.

However, a channel run by a man who claims to be a former constable from the Hunts Bay Police Station also does a great injustice to the ethics of journalism. The presenter has accused individuals of conspiracy to murder without presenting irrefutable evidence and levels accusations of theft and corruption against his former co-workers. One thing we as trained journalists are taught is the golden rule of it's not what you know but what you can prove. This also stands true in a court of law.

That said, Jamaica’s social media circuit is alive and well and keeps us, the Jamaicans in exile, abreast of happenings within our beloved country of birth. We look forward to your vlogs and appreciate the work you all do. Iron out the kinks and keep it moving.

One thing about Jamaicans, we always find a way to survive.

Thank you vloggers.

It is now the time for the real journalists in Jamaica and in the diaspora to stand up.

Karyl Walker is a veteran journalist who served as the Jamaica Observer's Crime/Court and Online News Editor. He now resides in Florida, USA.


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