Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis speaks in the House of Assembly. Photo: Terrel W Carey/Tribune staff
By SANCHESKA DORSETT
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis criticised the Bahamas media on Saturday for concentrating mostly on the “clashes and drama of politics” and under reporting “important and more consequential stories” on public policy.
While addressing the media at the Press Club Awards at the British Colonial Hilton, Dr Minnis compared the country’s leading newspapers with “tabloids” and said the press has a broader obligation to report on “policy matters that will have a greater impact than some stories that are less substantial.”
Dr Minnis also claimed the media had not reported on his administration’s plans to amend the Immigration Act to give children of Bahamian men and women equal access to citizenship, although the matter has been covered repeatedly in this newspaper and other media outlets.
He also chastised editors who take on dual roles as columnists or talk show hosts, saying such practice is not common in other jurisdictions.
“There has been a tendency by political journalists to mostly report on the clashes and drama of politics. Such reporting is fairly easy and exciting. Still, while there is news in such events, there is considerably more, much more, when reporting on politics and the workings of government. Some in the press often miss important and more consequential stories on important public policy questions,” Dr Minnis said.
“By example, the landmark legislation that will be introduced to enable a certain classification of women and men denied equal access to citizenship in the Constitution, has been unreported, while some other stories have gained more traction.
“Drama undeniably excites viewers and readers,” Dr Minnis said on Saturday. “This is much easier to report on but certainly the press has a broader obligation to report on policy matters that will have a greater impact than some stories that are less substantial.
“I have often found that the better reporting in our daily newspapers is to be found in the business sections, where the writers report in more detail on critical issues, which will have a significant and long-term impact. It is telling that the headlines in the business sections are not tabloid in nature.”
Dr Minnis also said that while he understands that journalists in the Bahamas must take on multiple roles given the number of reporters and limited resources, it is still “surprising that editors also regularly write or offer commentary.”
“This is not a practice that would be allowed by journalists in other countries. I am not speaking here of editorial writing, a journalist and a columnist are distinctly different roles,” Dr Minnis said.
“Nor the editors of The New York Times or Globe and Mail in Canada, nor the editors at the British Broadcasting Corporation would allow their editors to write commentary or to host a radio programme driven by personal opinion as well as commentary that purports to be news analysis...There has been a considerable blurring of reporting and commentary.
“It is telling when certain standards have been breached, that some in the press do not even realise that a standard has been breached. Journalists are not supposed to be champions of any political party, business, group or interest in a country. Journalists must avoid conflicts of interest, and must be allowed to report fairly and honestly on where a story takes them. “The best journalism criticises, celebrates and inspires.
“I note that while some journalists are often more prone to negativity and cynicism, there are many wonderful and positive stories reported by the press, though I sometimes believe there can be more such stories.”
Dr Minnis thanked members of the press and editors for informing and educating viewers and readers and expressed gratitude to the Press Club for “developing as an association of journalists committed to the values, ethics and principles of your craft.”