The Prime Minister of Bahamas, Dr Hubert Minnis, has blamed 24-hour cable news shows in the United States for lowering the standards of journalism “that would not have been allowed in previous times” and urged local journalists not to be “champions of any political party, business, group or interest in a country”.
Addressing the Third Annual Press Club Awards Banquet here over the weekend, Minnis said that while he understood that Bahamian journalists must take on multiple roles given the number of reporters and limited resources, “it is still surprising that some who serve as 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,” he said.
“The 24-hour cable news shows in the United States have in a number of ways led to a lessening of standards that would not have been allowed in previous times. 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 realize that a standard has been breached. Journalists are not supposed to be champions of any political party, business, group or interest in a country.”
Minnis said that journalists must avoid conflicts of interest, and must be allowed to report fairly and honestly on where a story takes them, adding “the best journalism criticises, celebrates and inspires”.
He noted 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”.
In the prime minister’s view, some in the press often miss important and more consequential stories on important public policy questions.
“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. 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,” Minnis said, adding that the press has an essential role in promoting good governance, transparency and accountability.
“By pressing public officials for accurate and timely information, the press helps citizens to learn about the decisions being made by a government on their behalf,” he told the awards ceremony.