In the Jamaica Observer of Thursday, January 22, 2009 Michael Burke Joined columnist worldwide commenting of the swearing in of Barack Obama:
“So Barack Obama is now president of the United States of America. Whether we like it or not, the president of the USA is the most powerful man on earth. The way in which the US presidency impacts on all mankind is sufficient reason why the US presidency cannot be dismissed as an American domestic issue. Will the presidency of Obama signify the final leg of the journey for emancipation from mental slavery? In any case, the mere fact that the current president of the USA is an African American is enough to empower our people mentally.”
On Thursday, January 15, 2009, I was perusing the online versions of the Jamaican newspapers when I ran upon his column which began as follows:
“When I started writing for newspapers nearly 21 years ago, it was with the unwritten and unsaid understanding that I would be writing for Jamaicans in Jamaica. I understood that with a weekly overseas edition, I would be writing to Jamaicans in the diaspora. Today with the online edition of the newspaper, I am writing to everyone in the world.”
I foolishly anticipated and imagined that it was going on to state, ‘But now I have to be more in tune with the global sphere and be much more cognisant of the world and the complexities of my larger world audience and their right to glean of the different cultures and experiences of different nation states of the world such as Jamaica through writings such as mine.’ However, I was to be disappointed.
The thought and anticipation were to be proven as just my sheer imagination! As I read the last line of this column’s first paragraph, a sudden awakening blew me to the ground, grasping for breath, in shock. It read, “This includes those who have not got a clue about the local situation or the local culture.” The column went on to state, “I still cannot get used to foreigners living overseas emailing me about local issues that really should be of no concern to them. Indeed, I should respond, “Excuse me, but I was not speaking to you and what you are really doing is eavesdropping.”
I cringed in deep disappointment in the apparent dislike, near phobia that this columnist displays to foreigners. The reality is that this world is getting much smaller because of technology. One must either adapt or gallop. If you want to be a writer, you must be able not merely to take criticism but be able to provide the required information that most people worldwide crave in this our shrinking world community.
This columnist fails to comprehend that time passes in a flash like a hundred metre dash! If you fail to have a global outlook, you’ll be left in the trash! The old ways of doing things will never return. He also fails to realise that it is for this very reason that the Jamaica Observer of which he writes, chooses to spread its message via the internet. This is a means to remain competitive.
The Gleaner and all the other newspapers with any means will more than likely, continue to lean toward an augmented online readership moreso than its traditional hardcopy readership locally as in the case of Jamaica. This will likely happen due to the fact that the local readership is a miniscule composite compared to the broad online readership in the virtual world. Consequently, the market for advertising dollars will make the local media more viable and have not much choice in this direction for increased foreign readership.
A sure and safe way to continue to create jobs for its writers, sales teams and executives is to include the foreign readership, not to exclude it.
In his most recent column of January 22, 2009, however, I, (and I am sure many residents abroad), are left somewhat confused. Is it okay for Mr. Burke to ‘push mout and tongue’ in the business of foreigners but the reverse situation deserves his chidings?! The fact that Jamaica has connections across the globe, coupled with the fact that it is a tourist destination does make it the interest of foreigners. It is usually from this background that foreigners, including members of the Diaspora, express interests in the local events of Jamaica.
Events associated with Mr. Barack Obama and the USA, as Mr. Burke insinuated, cannot be regarded as merely concerned only with local Americans. To a lesser degree, a similar argument could be furnished as a virtue of the the BIG ways in which Jamaica affects other nations by nature of of its talents in sports, music, other cultural matters and of course, its position as a great tourist destination.
In light of the foregoing, I would humbly advise that this columnist either resign from writing for Jamaica’s local newspapers that offer global readership online, or request that his article (Column) do not be published online or simply, ‘lip it’. If either the first, second or the last suggestion is adhered to by this columist, the newspaper will no doubt continue to establish its niche market, unperturbed in the slightest of form and less confused.
Joshua Spencer is an educator, author and poet. He writes out of Toronto Canada