Archive for the ‘Bermuda’ Category

Essential reading

Posted: July 4, 2013 in Bermuda, bermuda politics, media
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The Media Council of Bermuda, of which Breezeblog is a member, has just published guidelines for journalists reporting on race. You can read the full guide here:
Reporting On Race – A Guide for Media Professionals

The main thrust of the guide reinforces the Council’s code of practice which states that journalists should not refer to a person’s colour, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, illness or age unless it is relevant to the story.

These are important and basic points, especially in Bermuda where so much of society is still racially charged, but are frequently ignored on radio talk shows, letters to the editor and online comments.

The guideline also includes a useful summary of Bermuda’s racial history which provides perspective and context to the island’s social and political issues. It is essential reading for Bermudians or all ages and backgrounds, new arrivals and visitors to the island. I urge you to read it and help dispel some of the ignorance that still exists about Bermuda’s history.

Judging from the many comments, phone calls, emails and texts I’ve had about my recent post on editorial independence, a lot of people share my concerns. Today’s Royal Gazette is another reason to be concerned.

RG-wrap

Here’s the news … but first a really annoying word from our sponsor.

It features what the industry calls a “wrap” – advertising that masks part or all of the front page. The Gazette certainly isn’t the first paper to do this and it won’t, sadly, be the last. Wraps, which are lucrative revenue earners for cash-strapped newspapers, are controversially creeping across many of the world’s newspapers.

The Daily Express in the UK took a lot of flak in 2009 when it obscured coverage of Barack Obama’s historic inauguration with a four-page wrap marking the first birthday of the Fiat 500. Ditto The Guardian, when it carried its first wrap last year for a phone company. In 2010, an appalling wrap for the Johnny Depp film Alice In Wonderland mimicked the front page of the LA Times.

Newspapers seem to be returning to the 18th and 19th century, when the front pages of many leading publications were completely full of ads. As journalism and professional reporting became more established, news content grew and became the main driver of circulation. The front page became sacrosanct and defended by editors and owners alike against front-page ads of any kind.

LA Times: re-defining the front page "mock up".

LA Times: re-defining the term “front page mock up”.

A few years ago, Gene Roberts, a former managing editor of the New York Times and executive editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, told the American Journalism Review that front-page ads were another in a series of industry mistakes triggered by short-term thinking. “It’s one more in this kind of death by a thousand cuts that the newspaper business seems to be administering to itself. In the long run, the big necessity is to get and maintain readers, and I think without question that front-page ads work against readership.”

Every advertiser naturally wants to be on the front page because it’s the most-read page in a newspaper. Although my company plans and produces advertising, I never recommend wraparounds and dissuade clients from doing so. Why? Because I believe they are counter-productive and not worth the premium rates that media organisations charge. Journalists and editors naturally hate them and readers generally resent them in the same way they resent ads that often pop-up when you load a web page. I’m sure I’m not the only reader who immediately rips off the wrap and chucks it in the nearest trash bin.

I’m not sure if today’s half-page wrap is a first for the Gazette but we’ll be seeing more and you just know that a full page wrap won’t be far behind.

I hope that the Gazette resists this trend and is able to find an alternative revenue stream for many of the same reasons that I stated the other day. When advertising becomes the front page, it tells readers that the news is not important. It devalues the very reason that newspapers exist for in the first place and further blurs the line between news and business interests.

Wraps are part of a slippery slope that turns a newspaper into an advertising free-sheet. And if newspaper owners and advertisers risk alienating the very people they are trying to attract, then what’s the point?

RGLtdWhat on earth is going on at The Royal Gazette these days?

Over the past weeks there has been a rash of unusually soft front page lead stories that would have normally run on feature pages at best while more important news articles were carried – some would say buried – on inside pages. Last week this reached a nadir when the front-page lead stories included:

These stories certainly have a place in the paper. They are worthwhile community stories but they have no place being the lead story itself.

So what’s going on here? Have acting editor Jeremy Deacon’s news senses deserted him or, as PLP leader Marc Bean claimed recently, have Gazette journalists “been told by their editors, and their board of directors, that nothing negative about the OBA Government, or Bermuda in general, can be on the front page, let alone reported on”?

Jonathan Howes, the Gazette CEO, angrily denied this and threatened to sue Mr. Bean, prompting one reader to write this week: “We expect [the Gazette] to hold every organ of this Government accountable. As uncomfortable as it may make Mr. Howes and the board, the evidence of bias is clear; deliberate or not.”

Mr. Bean and the letter writer may be a little wide of the mark politically – ‘Jetgate’ has had plenty of coverage in the Gazette, for example – but it is my understanding that the board of the Bermuda Press (owners of The Royal Gazette), through its publishing committee, has indeed been putting increasing pressure on the editorial department to run more “positive” stories on the front page, and wants closer control over editorial content and direction. I understand that none of the publishing committee have any journalistic experience.

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Photos by Chris Gibbons

I’m not sure what it says about Bermuda in 2013 that a National Day of Prayer, at which some clergy chose to openly advocate continued discrimination against gays, drew far more people to City Hall yesterday than the 100 or so who turned out at the House of Assembly today to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia and the tabling of a bill to amend Bermuda’s Human Rights Act to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Does it mean that Bermudians place more stock in religious dogma than human rights? That their unfounded fear and ignorance prevents them from recognising that discrimination and injustice in any form is to be opposed? I hope it means that many Bermudians – and not a few clergy and churchgoers, I would wager – privately agree with the amendment but for whatever reason don’t wish to be seen publicly supporting it. Either that or they couldn’t justify two consecutive days out of the office.

It was disturbing to hear hysterical rhetoric such as that by Bishop Lloyd Duncan of the New Testament Church of God who declared: “I now implore our newly elected Government to exercise Biblical caution and spiritual restraint as you seek to approve what God’s word does not endorse, and as you seek to legislate what heaven has deemed inadmissible from the inception of time.” He said the amendment would be “a critical error and what can only be termed a lethal mistake”.

Or this statement, from the AME Church warning the Government “legislation that endorses homosexuality violates God’s Word” and said that all people are made in God’s image, including those “affected by same sex attraction”.

They are entitled to their view but are missing the point. No one is demanding that they support gay marriage or condone homosexuality. What they are not entitled to do is to actively support an encourage discrimination against a section of the community. Their claims that gays can be “cured” by prayer belong in the same category of ignorance as those who still believe  the earth is flat. A gay person can no more change than a white man can become black. In the words of the wonderful Macklemore & Lewis song Same Love: “I couldn’t change even if I tried/Even if I wanted to.” (By the way it was encouraging to hear The Captain play that track on the Mix 106 drive-in this morning to mark the day).

As Phil Wells posted on Facebook today: “Someone should ask the churches whether they would support the removal of ‘religion or beliefs’ from the Human Rights Act.”

Although consensual homosexual sex was de-criminalised in 1994 (yes, as late as that) it still takes courage to be openly gay in Bermuda. In the same way it took courage for black Bermudians to fight – and continue to fight – against racial discrimination and prejudice it took guts for gay Bermudians (supported by Amnesty International, Centre for Justice, Rainbow Alliance, Two Words and a Comma and the Vision Ministry) to publicly stand up and be counted at the House of Assembly today.

Now lets hope that our MPs have the sense to give the religious bigots short shrift and add those two simple two words and a comma to the Human Rights Act.

Unsung hero

Posted: April 25, 2013 in Bermuda, Uncategorized
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Sad to hear of the passing of lawyer Bala Nadarajah this week. He was one of the unsung heroes behind the establishment of Bermuda as an international centre for (re)insurance and a true gentleman. I had the pleasure of interviewing him for a business magazine a few years back (see link below).

Bala Nadarajah interview

Finance Minister Bob Richards presented his first budget today and finally some – albeit with a small “s” – good news for us Permanent Resident Certificate holders.

Readers may remember I had a rant last year about the continued treatment of PRC holders as second-class citizens, in particular when it comes to buying property. Even though I have been a resident of Bermuda for more than 30 years, own a business, and have three Bermuda-born children I still can’t vote and would be penalised with a 25% licence fee (10% for a condo) should I wish to buy a home. Oh – and that property has to have an Annual rental Value of more than $63,000 and I would not be permitted to let out any part of that property, even if it contained existing rented apartments.

Today Mr. Richards offered some relief as a means of stimulating the stagnant real estate market, cutting the 25% rate to 6% for 18 months before rising to 6%. For non-Bermudians who are not PRC holders, the rates will be cut to 8% (rising to 12.5% after 18 months for houses) and 6% for condos, rising to 8% after 18 months. The ARV level and the apartment restrictions will remain in place.  

While the licence fee reduction is certainly welcome and a step in the right direction, it really doesn’t go far enough. Why should PRCs still be discriminated against when it comes to buying property? Why subject us to a rise in the fee after 18 months and other restrictions?

Surely the logical step – from a human rights standpoint if nothing else – is to grant PRCs full Bermudian status. I am delighted that the OBA Government plans to finally protect gays under the human rights laws. It would be nice if PRCs were given similar consideration.

Some of the commentaries worth reading today after yesterday’s election:

“If we want a better Bermuda, we need to do much more than vote in a new government. We are going to have to demand more accountability from everyone, but starting with ourselves.  Succinctly, we must start practicing collective responsibility.” – Bryant Trew in the Bermuda Sun.

“This election … proved that appeals to racial loyalty are not effective. The PLP attempted to make this election about race, especially in the last days, and voters seem to have rejected that in favour of an improved economy. Unemployment knows no bounds and even the anti-business rhetoric which infused the PLP campaign at the end failed to mobilise the PLP base and may even have backfired.” – Analysis in The Royal Gazette

“The PLP is reflective of all the people of this island. Yet they wish to label us as a black party only to subliminally tell whites not to vote for us … We know there are many PLP supporters and members of many different races. However, for a multitude of reasons they seem a bit hesitant to come forward and publicly involve and engage with our events and activities … Persons such as Dorothy Thompson, David Allen, Zane De Silva, Jonathan Smith and Dr Barbara Ball must not be the exceptions .They must be the norm.” – Christopher Famous in the Bermuda Sun.

“The new team (OBA) must be genuinely — not rhetorically — transparent. It must be genuinely direct – not obtuse and non-commenting and non-answering. Above all else, this new team must genuinely embrace all residents and all Bermudians – and not just those who can be described as “our people”. – Larry Burchall in the Bermuda Sun.

“The hope of this newspaper is that this election will open a new chapter in Bermuda politics, which will be less divisive, less reliant on race as a motivating force, more open to problems all Bermudians face and more constructive. The next few years will not be easy, but they can lead to a better Bermuda, provided all people are willing to work together for the betterment of all.” – Editorial, The Royal Gazette.

“The first job for the new government is mending fences. Because the biggest threat to our economic stability is the massive debt and a dearth of ways to repay it, I believe the OBA government must make peace with our income generators and take clear steps to woo them back. This will not be an easy task because of the race-baiting that has been a dominant theme in how previous administrations beat up on their political opponents.” – Stuart Hayward in the Bermuda Sun.

“Posturing, arrogance,  hubris, defensiveness, an unwillingness to change policies that aren’t working out … the list of damaging side-effects of UBP-PLP hatred goes on and on. And it has gone on and on, for way too long. There were understandable historical reasons why it developed. But the great hope that the OBA has offered us this week is that it need not go on forever. Bermuda, Bermudians and the Bermudian political system can move forward, grow and mature. The time has come, and here is our opportunity.” – Tom Vesey in the Bermuda Sun.