Crime In The Limelight
Crime enjoys the limelight in Jamaica in a similar way that celebrities enjoy the limelight in the United States. The increased coverage of crime is thought to normalise tragedy and may numb the audience. Experts posit also that this can include criminals who feel empowered by the effects of crimes. Members of gangs are said to have initiation rituals that only allow one to move up in rank if the crime makes it into the news.
While acknowledging the role of the media in a free democracy, Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett says that graphic details of crime in Jamaica can destroy all the gains that have been made in the tourism sector in recent years."No one wants to wake up and see a front-page story in our newspapers stating, 'Jamaica bleeds'," Bartlett told delegates attending the 56th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association (JHTA) at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston yesterday.
Arguing that there needs to be a partnership between media and tourism, Bartlett warned that the news being put out has the potential to influence the choices of consumers.
Admitting that the media landscape has changed, Bartlett argued that the gatekeepers have a job to create content and own its narratives.
This view has received harsh critique from reporters (Associate Editor at Gleaner, Arthur Hall - “Absolute Rubbish’, “Ridiculous”; Executive Editor of Production at the Jamaica Observer, Vernon Davidson) and fellow members of parliament alike such as (Opposition Spokesman on National Security, Peter Bunting, ). Focus should be on stopping crime, called a ‘crisis’ to improve tourism.
It has become commonplace to utilize sensational headlines and oftentimes disconcerting visuals to attract readers/ viewers on a daily basis.
Detailed inspection of news reporting in Jamaica during the first week of summer, Saturday July 17-23, 2017 according to a media monitoring report provided by DRT Communications, during those seven days 43.23% of articles were centered around the topic of murder, equating to 503 articles across all local news sources. A total of 1,226 articles found in the news are focused on others crime including lottery scamming, corruption, gang violence and rape.
Although all may not agree with the reasoning behind the statements made by the Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett, it is certainly true that, “No one wants to wake up and see a front-page story in our newspapers stating, 'Jamaica bleeds'." Hence, there is merit to the notion that negativity should not be highlighted in the news. Violence breeds violence, and as our nation’s population grows more accustomed to it, criminals continue to up the ante. There is also no harm in focusing our minds on the great things about our country especially if, like for many, watching the news is the way we start our day.
Danielle Terrelonge is a Communications Consultant and Managing Director of DRT Communications Ltd- the first technology driven media monitoring agency in the Caribbean.
Prepared with Zari Burnett and Gabrielle Miller of DRT fame.