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Role of a Journalist

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In recent times a great deal has been said by way of the electronic media about the role of media, particularly the press.

The discussions have not been particularly flattering to journalists, with one commentator saying Vincentian journalists are at the bottom of the heap in the Caribbean.

That same talk show host has spoken about what he considers to be the inappropriateness and poor timing of questions asked at press conferences and what should or should not be asked. {{more}}

We accept, as with all other professions, that there is room for improvement, and that some of our practitioners need formal training. We accept too that errors of judgment have been made. Ours is not the only profession in which mistakes are made; it is just that in our case, our shortcomings are in full view of the public.

Where we stack up in relation to other regional media practitioners is debatable and really quite inconsequential in this discussion. There however seems to be a misunderstanding among some with access to the airwaves of just what is the role of a journalist.

Our primary purpose is to provide our people with the information they need to be free and independent thinkers. Despite the changes to the face of journalism over the centuries, that guiding philosophy has not changed. Our first obligation is to the truth, and our first loyalty is to the people. They are the ones who set our agenda.

Our agenda is not and should not be set by any particular individual or group. We serve as a watchdog, push people beyond complacency, and offer a voice to the powerless. Journalists would be failing their constituents (the people) if they fail to seek answers to the questions that people want answers to when the opportunity presents itself.

Just what would be the use of journalists who stay within the confines of a space whose boundaries have been set by those who have information? The journalist would then be giving others permission to use him or her as a tool, an agent of their propaganda.

Ours is a democratic society. One defining characteristic of a democracy is an abundance of media houses operating in an atmosphere of freedom. It is therefore counterproductive and counterintuitive when one arm of the media uses that very freedom to attack the freedom exercised by other media colleagues.

We recognize the responsibility that comes with these freedoms. That is why we seek at all times to pursue accuracy and fairness and truth. It needs to be said, however, that no one can be completely objective since we all have our biases.

The ironic thing about the commentator’s remarks is that much of what he said was said without first checking to see if what he was saying was correct. Verification is what separates journalism from entertainment. His remarks therefore are to be taken as nothing more than light entertainment at the expense of serious journalists.

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