Independent’s day

Posted: May 7, 2014 in Bermuda, bermuda politics
Tags: , ,

Ayo Johnson: Independent thinker

Ayo Johnson’s new media organisation Think Media and its “fearless independent” digital journal Politica may not quite be the status-shaking reporting revolution that this week’s pre-launch hype in the Bermuda Sun breathlessly suggested but Johnson is certainly to be applauded for at least firing the first shots.

The former Royal Gazette and Bermuda Sun reporter takes his profession very seriously and believes local media can and should play a much more influential role in holding governments and institutions accountable, and ensuring that the integrity of the organisations on which society depends is not compromised by narrow political and economic interests. In doing so, he says the media must also strive to meet and maintain high standards of integrity and ethics – areas where he claims Bermuda’s established media often fall short because of pressure from boards, politicians and advertisers, as well as lack of time and resources.

These are worthy but lofty goals and cynics will no doubt dismiss Johnson as naive and idealistic. But he is prepared to put his money where his mouth is. Think/Politica is not trying to be a daily news service like The Royal Gazette or Bernews, or another opinionated blog, but a platform for longer, in-depth articles and a serious, thought-provoking alternative voice on the local media landscape. And that’s to be welcomed.

Politica is not (yet) beholden to advertisers – readers pay to read beyond the first few paragraphs. Whether that’s a sustainable business model remains to be seen but hey, why not try something new? If nothing else it puts a value on journalism’s labour-intensive craft that is increasingly taken for granted in the internet age.

So what did readers get for their $3.00 today?

Johnson spent six months producing the 4,000-plus word piece, “Selling Bermuda”, on Premier Cannonier’s dubious handling of his relationship with American casino developer Nathan Landow. It meticulously detailed the background to the ‘Jetgate’ scandal – much of which was reported extensively in early 2013 by Johnson while he was working at the Gazette – and the Premier’s apparent dishonesty about his relationship with Landow.

So far, so-so but buried deep into the story were a couple of explosive allegations – one, that Landow donated $300,000 to the OBA election warchest in 2012; and two, that Cannonier requested (but did not receive) a $2 million “facilitation fee” from Landow for smoothing the way for legal gambling in Bermuda and thus provide the opportunity for him to build a casino at the former Club Med site in St. George’s.

When I asked Johnson, in an exchange on Facebook, why he didn’t make those items the lead, he replied: “I am not that fond of sensationalistic reporting. And I wanted to give a sense of the process of inquiry and have the reader think along with me.”

What I also like about Politica is the presentation. The minimalist design is clean and professional, I like the way it includes audio and video in the story and that it actively engages readers through polls, surveys and social media.

Whether it can deliver the real investigative journalism that Bermuda sorely lacks remains to be seen. It’s a tough business on a small island with so many conflicting self-interests and such negligible degrees of separation. The first ‘issue’ felt like a solid base hit rather than a home run but full credit to Johnson and his associates for getting it out there.

I don’t know how frequently future articles will appear but I certainly look forward to reading them. Ayo Johnson has set himself some very high standards. If he can reach and maintain them, he will be doing Bermuda and the island’s journalism a great service.

UPDATE: Landow acknowledges he and other US businessmen donated a total of $300,000 to OBA 

For another review of Politica, see Jonathan Starling’s Catch A Fire blog


  1. Lynne Wifnield says:

    I thought a great piece of investigative reporting… something we sorely need in our media.

  2. […] Well, Think Media launched earlier today, and with quite a bang at that! […]

  3. Nathaniel Butterfield says:

    The last time I saw Ayo in person he was flying home to Bermuda chatting with his friend Dr. Ewart Brown – I believe he also worked for the Brown administration. This certainly causes me to wonder how unbiased his reporting will be.

  4. rockrambler says:

    Nice one indeed. Ayo is first and foremost a seeker of the truth in every respect and am for one am very chuffed to have had the pleasure of sharing time and space with him.

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