With the election and its furore and speculation just a month past us, I thought I’d reflect on some truths and realities that surfaced in the period surrounding the election. An obvious and undeniable reality is that Bermuda’s heavyweight ‘daily’ – The Royal Gazette – has a dubious effect on the opinion of Bermuda’s majority population. Related to this is that the Royal Gazette’s reportage is not neutral reportage. But as I’ve reminded before, the Royal Gazette and its editorial and journalistic teams are under no obligation to be neutral. The Royal Gazette is a privately owned newspaper that is perfectly free to adopt whatever attitudes and display whatever values its owners wish it to display. The problem with the Gazette, though, is that it sometimes claims to be politically unbiased. Bill Zuill [the younger] is perfectly free to make that claim anytime he wishes. It’s his paper and he’s free to write whatever he likes. But – like a tortoise – his paper carries the shell of a heritage of decades of bias.
A dispassionate reader would recognize that throughout the lead-up and the election, the Gazette’s bias was for the UBP and against the PLP. With my writer’s mind, I would agree with that dispassionate reader.
A PLP supporter will claim that the Gazette is heavily biased against the PLP. But – as generally happens – a UBP supporter will still deny that the Gazette and its reportage always favours the UBP. Over at the Mid-Ocean News, in Tim Hodgson editorial domain, it’s clear to all that he is an issuer of vitriol and venom – all directed against the PLP. Tim’s brand of vitriol is so strong that it has a most unusual effect. It works against him! When poured over the delicate social fabric of this island, Tim’s vitriolic venom burns and scorches its way through that fabric. It burns black Bermudians with its views and opinions that can only come from Bermuda’s ‘hard right white’ population. It scorches black Bermudians – in every vitriolic issue and with every venomous word – with its strong reminders that extreme prejudice still thrives in some corners of white Bermuda. Tim’s weekly searing reminds black Bermudians that they must always be on guard so that those who support Tim’s views are never again allowed to sit in the seats of power in this Island. Almost every issue of Tim’s newsletter from Bermuda’s Jurassic past, reminds black Bermudians of that Jurassic era. Between them, then, did these two newspapers influence the election? Yes. But not as they thought they might. Tim’s venom helped to keep black Bermudians ‘in line’ with their Bermuda heritage and history. So did the Gazette’s editorial choices, style, and balance of reportage. The Gazette was simply more muted – muted, that is, relative to Tim’s scorchers. The Bermuda Sun – and I say this with my writer’s mind and not to please the Editor – was the only paper that followed the generally accepted principles of western journalism and stayed neutral. So Bermuda’s whole print media, in combination, doesn’t have the clout that the US, UK, Canadian, Jamaican, etc… press groups have. That lack of influence is an indictment of their ‘professionalism’. The electorate? In swallowing the midstream leader change, this electorate has proven that it is more mature and astute than it was in the 1980’s. This electorate was given or received all the information that it could possibly get about allegations of corruption and inefficiency and waste. Yet this electorate, inputting its own knowledge of its own persons and its own organizations, weighing its own interests against its own perceptions, its own heritage, and its own future; determined that the best interests of the majority population would be best served – for the time being – by keeping the PLP in power. In the 210 days between 1st January 2003 and 29th July 2003, this electorate matured. The electorate showed the effect of all its maturing in that critical five-day period between 24th and 29th July 2003. The biggest reality from this recent election is that Bermuda’s electorate and general population is now mature and sophisticated. The next reality is that the greatest part of Bermuda’s print media is stuck – either deep in a Jurassic past, or in the ‘no mans land’ between that Jurassic past, the new realities of August 2003, and the months and years that lie ahead.
Changed the government in 1998. Changed leaders in 2003. Can the media change in 2004?