Aired May 13, 2015 on ieTV, Channel 1, Trinidad.
It was an odd day today. I know, most of my days are odd but this one was odder. It was a news producing day today and things were looking bleak by midday. We simply had no stories and I was, as usual, worried and verging on panic despite the amazing Giselle ( who I would steal and take to any company I ever work with) kept reassuring me that things would be fine and in any case she was reading so no matter what developed she would be the one on camera to suffer. Then it happened. While searching for regional news to pad that section I found a story that rather flummoxed me. I found something that suggested there had been another massacre in Guyana.
I was a bit surprised because the story apparently did not have any legs. I could not find it on any of my standard news sources. How could a major story – another massacre in Guyana – not be everywhere including the BBC? A few calls to our sources including a Minister who hung up on Nadine Hackett led us to believe the story was real. Even more strangely a quick internet trip to the usual Kaieteur News and Stabroek News sites showed the story was real. How the heck did this story not make it onto the radar? Even more strangely, speaking to one of my colleagues in another media house, without mentioning the story we had discovered, revealed they had no clue. I might have had a moment of guilt in not telling someone I truly respect about the story but a local exclusive is an exclusive after all. Welcome to the world of friendly competition.
We decided to go with the story as a lead. Nadine called our sources in Guyana and we cobbled together a story which might have not been the best but, given our lack of footage , worked out rather well. Amazingly, to cover the voice of the reporter in Guyana we managed to find her picture on Facebook…who knew it had an actual use? News time arrived and Giselle and I got ready wondering if we would have yet another exclusive. She read and I sat in control and produced. When we reached the weather I ran upstairs to watch the other stations…thank heavens our news is 1/2 hour before anyone else. Not surprisingly Gis ran out of the studio as the news finished to join me. We watched TV6, CNC3, CNMG and as each started their news we crossed our fingers we would not hear the word “Guyana”. Shock of shocks each newscast started with no mention of a massacre.
There are few rewards in journalism other than feeling you have done the best story. Despite the silly concept that there is some glamour in what we do it is usually just a decidedly boring exercise. There is one great thing that excites us usually and that is a scoop. In as much as this is another horror for a great country it was hard to not have a moment of satisfaction when we realized all the other stations had missed the story. Our first headline was “another massacre in Guyana as 8 miners are found dead in Lindo Creek”…it was a risk and I am happy we took it.
Sadly, as crime becomes unavoidable here, I vetted a murder story only to realize when I looked at the story in the editor’s area, that it was someone I knew very well. I never knew him by his real name when I encountered him at work but I just want to say – Trail…I am sorry you are yet another victim.
News coming out of Guyana indicates that the 8 men have been found burned and shot in Lindo Creek, Guyana. The police there don’t seem to have much information and the local press seem to be much more on top of the story. There are full details of what is known so far on both the Kaieteur News and Stabroek web sites.
Guyana police have released pictures of 6 of the men wanted in connection with the Bartica and Lusignan massacres. An ieNews television report has been posted on my other site. Click here to see the video ( requires Quicktime)…Guyana news Sunday
Melissa Williams is back from Guyana and was able to shed some light on events there. There are now three people detained over the matter though it seems two of them are being held for assisting the killers get to Bartica. Interestingly enough, a police officer who is part if the special elite squad investigating the two massacres was arrested on drug charges. Strange goings on in Guyana. President Jagdeo has still not held a press conference to discuss the event and has been laying low for some reason.
Other than that I came close to boarding a plane and heading to Seattle to give Bill Gates a good tongue lashing. I do not like Windows in any way shape or form but we use it in the office and thus I hold my nose and deal with it. I usually have my Apple Powerbook on my desk as well and while it plays well with the network it cannot talk to the ancient news printer so i work in MS Word. Today, while building the news script the programme decided to crash taking with it several stories, the headlines and the script. After relaunching the wretched thing it defaulted to the Oct. 2007 news folder and I realized that autosave was another cruel MS joke…rather like everything about MS. I cursed like a trooper eliciting stares from everyone in the newsroom. I am pretty sure I mentioned the body parts of everyone in Bill’s family going back at least 3 generations.
Recovering from that fiasco and making sure i clicked “save’ after every word I typed I managed to get the script done and send it to the prompter. Great…I printed the hard copies and headed into the studio to read the 6:30 news. The theme starts and then I press the bar to activate the prompter roll…nothing..nada…the wretched thing was frozen. I switch to the script and read what i have to read…then reboot the system during a news story…still zilch..the script will not load. During the commercial break I run to my desk to discover that the script has vanished. The name is there and I can open it..but it is a blank page. I curse Bill and his family again and run back to the studio to finish reading from the script.
Had I been using a Mac with Pages or Appleworks ( RIP) or NeoOffice I can assure all involved this would not have happened. All I can say is that if Mr. Gates ever finds himself wandering the halls of ieTV I will have to be tied down to prevent a violent incident…possibly involving a flying PeeCee.
I had the pleasure of having Professor Ramesh Deosaran on the programme again today. He is a complete gentleman and always an interesting guest. With most of my guests I can get through everything I need to ask in half an hour, sometimes 16 minutes seems too long for some guests but with Professor Deosaran i always feel there is never enough time. We did two back to back interviews today ( as is our normal custom) and yet afterwards i felt we could have done six back to back interviews and still kept it interesting.
We spoke for the first half hour about the situation in Guyana which he felt was symptomatic of a lack of government planning and a failure to address the concerns of communities. I am not sure how that fits into dealing with a gang of rampaging murderers but i gather he meant the response to Lusignan should have prevented the second incident. I don’t doubt he has a good point, not because I understand everything he was saying fully, but because the man spends his every waking hour thinking about crime and government.
We spent the second programme discussing how crime leads to a sense of civil powerlessness and how the Westminister system contributes to the state of affairs. As he rightly pointed out, in our present system the Prime Minister is essentially an elected dictator who is under no obligation to heed the concerns of the public for his 5 year term. He is hoping that we will one day have constitutional reform to allow for a dissemination of power throughout parliament. As I told him, though, it is unlikely anyone who has unbridled power will give up some of it for the greater good.
My second interview subject was a complete change of pace in every imaginable way. Peter Elias is National Director of the Miss Universe/Miss World. My views on beauty pageants is well known but I will say he answered my questions with good humour. If nothing else he is certainly the most energetic guest i have ever had on the programme.
So thanks to Heidi artfully arranging 3 interviews I have programmes to cover me till Tuesday next week which also means I can take tomorrow off. That should give me a chance to take my time at the gym and also do some house cleaning.
Despite having serious problems getting video from our team in Guyana yesterday we managed to get a report today. A 19 year old man has been charged with 11 counts of murder. The video is hosted on my alternative site. Click here to see it at: Guyana Report
Our crew on the ground in Georgetown has just attended press conferences held by the Police Commissioner and President Bharath Jagdeo. It seems certain at this point that both the Lusignan and Bartica atrocities were committed by the same criminal gang.
A speedboat containing military uniforms was located about 20 miles from Bartica along the Essequibo River and Guyanese military forces are now combing the area in search of the men. In the meantime a strong military presence has been stationed in Bartica and will remain there for the while. President Jagdeo has vowed to find the men responsible and ensure they are no longer able to continue with their rampage across Guyana.
Melissa Williams and cameraman Mookish Harrypaul have also visited survivors in hospital. I am hoping to be able to bring you some of that raw video when we receive it. The process of digitizing and sending video footage from Guyana via internet is still problematic but we should have some footage in the next couple of hours.
Not much to report today as there is something of an information blackout. I was not in the office today owing to a stomach problem and had no power for 5 hrs ( lest i start to think we are a developed country T&TEC brings me back to earth). Checking with the newsroom the latest we have is that Bartica and surroundings are under something of a military/police lockdown. There is apparently some searching going on in the surrounding area but given most accounts indicate the killers fled by boat this seems more a precautionary measure. Our crew is en route to Guyana and will attempt to get as much information as they can in conjunction with Kaieteur News. Any further information from our ieNews crew in Guyana will be relayed here. If any blog readers have interesting ideas for story angles feel free to let me know and I will consider them and relay them to our crew.
It would be impossible not to be stunned by last night’s massacre in Bartica, Guyana especially as it somes so soon after the chilling events in Lusignan only a few weeks ago. Here in Trinidad we have become somewhat inured to death and killing given our disturbing murder rate. Those of us who work in news are even more hardened to the daily reality of murder but the events of the last 24 hours were disturbing to all of us at ieTV. Death is a fact of life but when it happens on such a large scale and in such a brutal and chilling way it is disturbing.
Guyana is a large and wild country with a small population spread across a great swath of land so to be honest, even the best policing would have a hard time preventing such carnage. It is sad that a band of deranged criminals cake can shake the psyche of a nation and a region. The events in Guyana are a reminder of the thin line that all societies walk between civility and anarchy. I suppose we have traditionally looked to Africa for such examples of carnage. Rwanda and the current crisis in Darfur are horrifying examples of what happens when evil elements start to rip apart the fabric of civilized society. My thoughts are with the people of Guyana and the Guyanese community worldwide.
At time like this we all want to do something and yet most of us are powerless. Those of us in the media are fortunate that we can at least provide information to the public. It doesn’t make the horror go away but people want to know – it is part of the human condition. ieTv has sent our crew to Guyana to work with our contacts there to try and get as much information as we can for our viewers. It is, of course, costing us a bit of money and, given we are a smaller station, takes a bit of a bite out of our news budget, but we feel it is important for the information to be known and the best way to do that is to be on the ground.
As a blogger I felt it was imperative to do what the internet allows best; to get information out as quickly as possible. My WordPress blog was devoted to disseminating information to the public as quickly as I could get it. I like the way the internet is able to fill a gap between TV and print. Anyone concerned about what was happening could just Google the subject and find any number of sites ( including my blog) providing information on demand. Even knowing that I am still shocked at the number of hits my site on WordPress got today. Monitoring the traffic as I type this there have been 200 hits in the last 2 hours. A testament to the power of the internet and the public’s need to know.
I had not expected such a demand but I will certainly continue to use this blog for news purposes whenever the need arises.