With the global downturn, many organisations worldwide are taking one, or a combination of the following five actions – reducing the size of their staff, reducing the income of staff, mandating that staff work a four day-week instead of the regular five-day week, work a five-day week for a four-day pay or simply close business down.
Several hotels in Toronto, for example, have been forced to reduce workers’ hours as the properties slowly become ghost towns. The same is true for restaurants. This, I am sure, is not peculiar to this city but will, or is already occurring worldwide including Jamaica.
In Jamaica, despite previous scoffing at the idea that a global recession was about to adversely affect the Jamaican economy, the current reality of harsh and bitter times has started to surface and has become quite sobering to many in practical terms.
Recently, a prominent Jamaican journalist announced in an on-line forum of which many members of the Diaspora are a part including myself, that he has been let go due to the recession in Jamaica. This was quite shocking to me as, although I have never met this individual, I can recall listening and reading the views of this person for years. When this announcement was made in the on-line forum, I had this terrible feeling in my gut, deep down in my intestines, similar to the one I experienced some time ago when I read that Neville Willoughby, formerly of RJR (Radio Jamaica), was involved in a fatal car accident in Kingston.
However, such is the reality of life. We must overcome the shock and continue to live our lives. As the saying goes, life must go on.
And go it should. That is why I think it is important that government and the private sector alike should come to grips not only with the impact that such a recession could have on the economy but importantly, on the lives of ordinary folks, if our newspapers and media houses should go crumbling with the high tide of this global recession.
Let’s say, for example, most of our newspapers were to go under with this sweeping, hurricane-like recession, who would be there to be the watchdogs of the ordinary people? Newspapers serve a very crucial role to any society. They help to keep governments in check and sometimes protect them from tripping over their own legs, and as a consequence, may help preserve not merely the career of the politicians but the future of the country and its stability.
This is why I deem it highly crucial that every effort should be made by media organisations to do everything humanly possible to remain in business and to retain their journalists and columnists.
I would even venture to say, that government should, where possible, subsidize media organisations that are feeling the crunch so as to maintain the watchdog for the masses.
Some may argue that there are the internet, blogs, etc., and a host of social websites: Facebook, MySpace, Tagged, and so on that can, and will, replace and serve the purpose of newspapers when they eventually subside.
However, if one looks closely at these other media networks, apart from the fact of their ad hoc style and uncertainty of being, they run as subsidiaries to the mainstream, traditional media. Their role, mainly, is to proliferate, at lightening speed, that which the traditional journalists and media houses have investigated and made public by the wealth of the professional training and experience acquired over many decades.
Consequently, we cannot allow our good journalists to go into oblivion along with our good and prominent media entities. We Must have plans afoot to avoid this calamitous end.
Joshua Spencer is an educator, author and poet. He writes out of Toronto, Canada.