On badjohns, Brent Sancho and things in between

There is much about the local media that raises my blood pressure, but today’s feature in the Sunday Express on the origin of the word ‘badjohn’ is a beautifully-written exception.

I’ll cite only the beginning, but the piece – written by Kim Johnson – is worth reading in its entirety:

Of the countless jailbirds to tread this island, none has cast a longer shadow than John rcher, who set the local, probably the regional, and – who knows? – maybe even a world record with 19 criminal convictions, and whose very name would come to mean a ruffian and a bully.

This evening, Trinidad & Tobago will play Bermuda in a do-or-die qualifier for the 2010 World Cup. I will not comment here on the heartbreaking state of Trinbagonian football, but I will comment on Brent Sancho’s Q&A with the Express.

Which is to say, Brent Sancho turns me into a giggling school girl. No joke.

Express question: biggest turn-on in a woman?
Sancho: Nice long legs!
Me: Aha! I have great legs!

Express: Biggest turn-off?
Sancho: Smoking
Me: Woohoo! Don’t smoke!

Express: Best book ever read?
Sancho: The long walk to freedom, Nelson Mandela
Me: OMG, he reads? FTW!

Express: must visit before you die?
Sancho: Japan
Me: Dude! We were clearly meant to be.

Etc. Tsk.

Things are not going according to plan, where plan = move back to Trinidad, do MSc at UWI, sort country out. Not necessarily in that order.

Moving back to Trinidad is harder than I thought it would be, because I’m in housing limbo, the work about which I am most passionate demands that I be either in New York or London and UWI hasn’t even bothered to let me know whether I’ve been accepted into my hoped-for program.

That, and I’ve been here almost two months and have totally failed to engage with the country – I’m still working full time for my overseas employer, I’m not doing much any liming and I’ve switched from behaving like I’m moving here to acting like this is an extended holiday.

Except it’s not so much a vacation as an exercise in daily frustration.

So it go. As may I.

The T&T Guardian needs more than a cosmetic change

For the sake of my blood pressure, I try not to read the local newspapers. This is difficult, given my obsession with news and media and my day job as a reporter, and more often than not I succumb.

And each time I pick up a copy of the Trinidad Express, or the Guardian, or the Newsday, I am disappointed, embarrassed, infuriated by the spelling and grammar mistakes, the obvious lack of editing, the flagrant plagiarism and copyright infringement, the errors and the inaccuracies.

Which brings me to the Guardian’s redesign. Aesthetically, the new design is a significant step up from the monochromatic drabness of the paper’s previous incarnation. But the changes are all superficial – in terms of content, it’s business as usual.

Take this gem from the editorial on Tuesday June 10 hyping the redesign:

“…readers will notice the introduction of new typography (called fonts) which should make the reading experience more enjoyable.”

New typography called fonts eh? You couldn’t make it up. But this is a minor quibble, compared with the delicious irony of an error in a story printed just above a blurb outlining the paper’s corrections policy on page A3.

(And now that I know the Guardian does have a policy of correcting “significant errors as soon as possible”, I intend to keep them informed of the many mistakes that litter their pages. I will report back on how that goes, so watch this space.)

The Media Watch blog also picked up on the error, noting:

On page A3 there’s an interesting story about a young man who appeared in court charged with turning off a computer in the Register General Department.

And would you believe directly below that story is a section called Getting It Right, which says “It is the Guardian’s policy to correct significant errors as soon as possible.”

Directly below.

You might say that was not a significant error since the writer of the story really just meant to say Registrar General’s Department…

There were some errors of transposition – is the name of gentleman referred to in the story “Man left to die on hospital bed” (story by Radhica Sookraj, photo by Rishi Ragoonath) Anthony Atlo or Anthony Alto?

And quite a lot of editorialising. Michelle Loubon’s report on a promoter “fuming” over the $200,000 he is being asked to pay to rent the Jean Pierre Complex for a Learie Joseph concert provides one example of this widespread practice: “[Glasgow] flatly refused to pay the exorbitant price.” (emphasis mine)

You may think $200,000 is exorbinant, Ms Loubon, but no one asked for your opinion. This is a news story, not an editorial.

And of course, my favourite bug bear, an absolute outbreak of pieces without bylines. Media Watch highlighed two of the more pernicious examples:

On page B34 there’s a story on sleep titled ‘How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?’. We thought it looked familiar, but there was no byline in the Guardian so we searched the net and found it – the same story we read last week at Time.com.

The story on page C16 on hearing loss also looked familiar. Ah yes. We read it on the BBC website on Monday. They copied down to the picture of the ear.

Come on editor, where is the attribution? Why can’t you stick in somewhere in the story where it was copied wholesale from? This is not the first time you’ve done this and it’s not a habit you should be happily repeating. What about copyright issues?

None of the financial market reports had bylines either, while the oil report on A11 was lifted – without attribution, of course – from a Reuters story. Separately, in the salmon-coloured Business Guardian, the Commentary on page 26 – “Apple to unveil faster IPhone [sic]” showed either a complete lack of news judgement, or a studied laziness on behalf of the editors.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Guardian, Apple unveiled a faster iPhone on Monday. This Bloomberg story, to which you devoted a whole page and an ad for West Indies Stockbrokers, is four days old. Four days. Please, get out from under that rock and sort your paper out.

Moving on.

Then there’s the blurb in the classifieds section, which blithely states: “you can place your ad by phone any pay by credit card.”

I presume they meant “and pay”, but you just never know.

And someone tell Bobie-Lee Dixon that it is possible to write an interview-based feature without fawning over one’s subject (in this case, Diane “Radical Designs” Hunt). And that “fashionist” is not a word.

But I digress. Here’s Dixon on Hunt:

Even in her “dress down mode” Hunt seems well colour coordinated with a look that just says, “hey I know my fashion,” and indeed she does.

With a winning smile across her face Hunt said her dream and aspiration is to make a serious contribution to fashion in helping to organise the industry and to make it more viable

And what is with the aversion to “said”? It’s a good word. A simple word. And it avoids having to write things like this:

Hunt also gave a breakdown of the different types of fashions that exists. “People only think of fashion as the designer,” she articulated.

I will not, for the sake of my aforementioned bloodpressure, comment on the sheer wrong-ness of “different types of fashions that exists.”