Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 20th 2013 Contents A11
Saturday, July 20, 2013 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
The Media Association of T&T has been beset by
problems in recent times, even though media pro-
fessionals agree that a strong Matt is vital to support
and develop journalists, to promote journalism as
a career choice, protect freedom of speech and give
a voice to the voiceless.
Still, there is a widespread feeling in the industry
that Matt has become directionless. Last week, after
a series of contradictory statements about the events
in the T&T Guardian newsroom of the previous week,
the interim executive resigned.
Can Matt survive this crisis? And, crucially, is there
the necessary willingness among journalists to pull
together to rebuild the association?
There is a wide range of opinion about solving the
issue. This week, several former presidents of the asso-
ciation told the Guardian that public funding, a per-
manent home and younger journalists could transform
the media body into a force again.
Matt relies on the efforts of senior figures within
the journalistic community to ensure its continued
existence. Those senior figures feel it is time younger
journalists stepped up to contribute time and ideas to
reinvigorate an organisation on its knees.
Former member of the interim executive and
Guardian columnist Ira Mathur said she can see the
"You need a little revolution to make things change,"
she said. "Matt has served its purpose over the years---
in times of crisis it responds. "But recently it s been
sputtering along as a body, we need to be more cohesive.
We have relied on elder figures within journalism to
keep it alive, it would be good to get younger people
in the industry to become members, attend meetings
and make a sizable contribution."
Dale Enoch, head of news at the i95 radio station
and former Matt president, agrees.
"We need unity and participation. The older heads
have kept Matt going for a long time now---but we
have lots of media houses, we shouldn t be relying on
older heads. The last interim executive consisted of
veterans. If you attended the meetings you would
never have thought that we have an expanded, younger
This is not to say Mathur, Enoch and others are
criticising young members of the press for their inac-
tivity; they are looking for ways of enticing new mem-
"The challenge," says Enoch, "is to get young people
to feel Matt is worthy of saving, make it more palatable,
really sell the organisation to them, make it worth
their while in terms of promoting and enhancing what
Problems in attracting younger members are firstly
to do with time and resources. Committing time to
help an organisation for no fee when there are tight
deadlines to be met, in an industry operating 365 days
of the year, may be seen by some as a chore that
returns no benefits to them as individuals and appears
ineffective in meeting the needs of industry profes-
sionals. Marlan Hopkinson, former president of Matt
and assignments editor at TV6, blames some older
journalists for actively discouraging younger ones from
"They tell them there are no benefits to being a
member, and question what Matt does for them. My
position has always been, Ask not what the association
can do for you but what you can do for the association. "
Enoch feels Matt has worked to "create avenues for
developing journalists through training, seminars and
talks from external people."
The pitfall, he says, is that nobody ever shows up
at the meetings. Hopkinson says during his tenure,
voice training was given, writing workshops took place
and Matt held a workshop with the Elections and
Boundaries Commission to discuss guidelines on elec-
These kind of events have ceased, however, and
Clyne and DeSouza feel Matt could arrange field trips,
interactive workshops with local communities, open
days working with students; things people can get
To remember why they work in the media, to
remember that they became journalists because it is
an interesting, vital and exciting job to do.
What's the matter with Matt? YOUNG VOICES SAY
Young journalists such as Guardian reporter Kalifa Clyne, feel
the organisation must change its approach to encourage
"Matt has a tendency to react when the industry is in
difficult situations but often they speak out to condemn,' to
'monitor,' to 'keep an eye on events.' Those are the statements
we frequently hear. What young journalists really need is
support, training and development.
"There are crime reporters out working with bullets flying
around them. It's dangerous work. This needs acknowledgment
from Matt. They need to be a lobbying organisation and
arrange support for journalists."
Janelle DeSouza, a reporter at Newsday, is not a member,
because, she says, "I don't see the point. I don't find it very
effective (as a body). They just release statements, they don't
create policies or work with the government in any way."
There are communication issues too, Clyne says.
"For an organisation whose core remit is to represent a
sector responsible for communicating to the masses, the levels
of communication are poor.
"Young people use social media every minute of the day.
Matt needs to be much more visible on twitter and Facebook.
We only really hear from them when they want us to attend
meetings, and even then I often only hear about the meetings
through friends or colleagues."
Joanne Briggs, another former president, feels Matt needs
proper structure and even a permanent home.
"It needs a secretariat, administrative support and a home,
so we can say, 'These are our offices.' That would definitely
attract members to come."
These things cost money and Matt doesn't have much,
other than a scholarship fund. Asked how this might be paid
for, Briggs and Enoch suggest fundraisers.
"Fashion shows, luncheons and dinners could generate
funding as well as camaraderie," said Briggs.
Kerry Peters, however, feels Matt is important enough to
warrant public funding.
"It is serving a public function, preserving democratic rights
and freedom of speech; it should be given public funding, like
(international press freedom organisation) Reporters Without
Borders." Peters stresses the difference between public
funding from taxpayers' money and government funding from
political party funds.
Mathur admits that publicising meetings is a problem, and
even taking out ads in the press is difficult owing to lack of
cash. It is clear membership fees alone won't generate the
cash needed for training and development. Matt needs
sponsorship, and cash injections. In the current climate it
might be ethically problematic to lobby for public funding, but
approaching commercial sponsors ought to be on the agenda
for Saturday's members meeting.
Above all, the feeling is the organisation needs a figurehead
to take the bull by the horns in the way previous presidents
have done. Industry figures also believe, now more than ever,
journalists must work together.
As Enoch says: "All of us who work in the media need to
show some introspection.
"We have to save Matt. If it doesn't survive it would be a
travesty for the profession and an indictment of journalists."
MATT TO MEET TODAY
For the following position:
Auto Alarm Technician
Must possess your own vehicle in good
A minimum of three (3) O'Levels.
Minimum of two years experience.
Honest, dependable and hard working.
Good communication and interpersonal skills.
We offer an attractive compensation package.
Contact: 662-3605 0718051
In a statement this week, Matt said following the
resignation of interim executive, a meeting is to be held for
members and interested media professionals to discuss
the way forward for the Association.
"This is a critical juncture in the history of Matt," said the
release, "and eligible journalists are encouraged to offer
themselves for service to the association, in order that a
future executive can comprise the broadest range of
talents and perspectives."
It also asked for as many members as possible to attend
to "ensure that decisions can be endorsed by a substantial
and representative number of votes."
The meeting takes place today at the National Library,
Hart and Abercromby Streets, Port-of-Spain from 10am.
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