Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 5th 2014 Contents • From Page A29
Chookolingo, ever the enterprising new-
shound, went to the burned commune
house in Arima where he found---and
took---boxes of material left there, said
Grant. Later, he explained, Choko shared
this discovery with VS Naipaul, providing
Naipaul with some invaluable material.
Naipaul went on to write a factual doc-
umentary piece on the matter called The
Killings in Trinidad, first published in the
London Sunday Times Magazine in 1974.
Naipaul developed this into fiction with
his 1975 novel Guerrillas, which has been
described as "a novel of colonialism and
revolution, death, sexual violence and polit-
ical and spiritual impotence." He revisited
these themes again in his expanded essay
Michael X and the Black Power Killings in
Trinidad, contained in his 1980 collection
of essays The Return of Eva Peron.
Like Chookolingo, Naipaul knew a good
story when he saw one.
Fact or fiction?
Literary scholars have discussed the ten-
sion between fact and fiction in Naipaul s
novel Guerrillas, which was inspired by
real Trinidadian brutalities. Perhaps such
factual-fictional tension was also a feature
of some Chookolingo stories. Choko
became an expert in understanding libel,
his son Pedro Chookolingo said on
Wednesday. His philosophy was, publish
and be damned.
At home, Pedro said, his father never
talked to his family about his work. He
looked after the family, and could be strict,
sometimes lining up all 15 children in the
house to punish them, one by one, for
That Choko was "fierce but fair" was
an opinion echoed by other audience mem-
bers, including a former reporter, Mervyn
Crichlow, who recalled that Choko twice
fired reporters the very next day after they
failed to get breaking news stories printed
by the competition. And if there was no
news---like on a sleepy Sunday---he d order
reporters to go out and find (or make)
Grant said Choko s journalism was "a
spontaneous anarchic outburst" charac-
terised by in-your-face directness, naming
and shaming, breaking sensational stories,
and inventing new angles to stories never
dreamed of by the competition.
Grant praised Choko s productivity, in
the face of very scarce resources in the
early years of the Bomb, a tough-willed
Choko defied all constraints to produce,
almost single-handedly, an invariably com-
The costs of this approach, however,
included lots of lawsuits.
Perhaps there was another result: the
start of a trend towards sensation at the
expense of truth, debasing local media
products as trusted sources of public infor-
Though this possible negative legacy was
not extensively discussed on Wednesday,
one questioner did ask about the damage
to the society caused by Chookolingo s
approach to journalism. Grant answered
that he did not think Choko s approach
did any more damage to society than what
a calypsonian does.
Calypsonians, however, arguably never
had the wide public reach of tabloid news-
papers to influence and affect T&T audi-
ences every week in the decades of the
1970s and 1980s---a time when T&T s
media diet was very restricted indeed, and
when the Bomb had way less competition,
and therefore more impact.
Emerging from the talk and subsequent
comments, it seems Chookolingo had
undeniable energy and drive, a nose for a
good story, and an uncanny knack for
knowing what would please his audience---
and sell well.
Chookolingo introduced readers to bold-
er, more probing stories, and helped to
expand media content and style. But the
excesses of what some may view as a cal-
lous, overly sensationalist approach may
have opened the floodgates to the dark
side of media: an explosion, in some local
media, of sometimes vitriolic online news,
opinion and social media sites, many lack-
ing in balance and honesty; and a style of
journalism which overhypes unimportant
issues to boost readership, while introduc-
ing bias, controversy, omission of key facts,
and attention-seeking exaggeration to boost
readership and ad profits in a cavalier dis-
regard for real public interest.
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, November 5, 2014
WHO IS LENNOX GRANT?
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Patrick Chookolingo was the kind of man who always wanted "a good story" in his
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