Exactly two months ago, I shared a bit of writing entitled Jamaican Grief Porn and John-Crow Journalism. I would like to thank you all for the positive feedback and shares; this piece is among the most popular to date on Negril Stories. A few days later my attention was drawn to a letter published in The Gleaner from a former columnist under the heading The media have lost news focus. The letter had a very striking resemblance to my post and while I read, I sighted several phrases of three words and longer that appeared exactly in my post.
I read and re-read the letter several times in an attempt to convince myself that this was a coincidence, that this man who has contributed many letters and columns to local newspapers did not just copy my work and send a botched version to the paper for publication, that nobody would be so brazen. I was unable to conclude that this was purely by chance so I did a bit of ranting then sent a letter to The Gleaner requesting that they remove the letter from their website and publish an apology. Three weeks later I received no response so I decided to call the relevant department. After several days, I finally got to speak to a gentleman who was the Opinion Editor and when I did I was told they did not receive the letter and I was provided with an alternate email address. After sending the letter the second time, I still received no response. I tried calling back for a week and finally got to speak to the same gentleman who gave me his personal e-mail address to send the letter to. He confirmed receipt on the 5th of March and to date the matter is yet to be addressed. I have emailed to check on the progress of the matter and no response has been forthcoming and as you can see, the letter is still there on their website today.
The Gleaner should check everything that goes through their press for libel/defamation and plagiarism and should at least pretend to take these matters seriously when they do arise; or maybe I am mistaken for thinking this is normal procedure in the 21st century. Or maybe it is acceptable to steal others’ work, as even the dear Dame Jane Goodall has been accused of lifting passages. Although an email address was published for the gentleman to whom the letter was attributed, I did not contact him on the matter as in my mind the newspaper is entirely responsible for what they publish. The gentleman was, however, sternly reprimanded by a friend of mine. She shared his response with me and his excuse was that “most people in the media fraternity had seen it etc… must have seen it… I saw it on a JOURNALISTS fb page… wade brown…. geffry phillips and i think Janet Silvera… a nuff people mi did see wid the blog article clipped to there profile…”. The gentleman also said: “mi [nah] try steal nobody thunder… ahmm mi even did waan repeat the article sentiment true FB nuh penetrate Jamaica the real way…. the internet is an elite place filled with an elite citizenry I am barely lucky to be apart of… most peoples internet connect is not even continuous but intermittent and mi know the net nuh reach 1 million of we 3 million population… i just thought a letter to the editor wi reach a ends in a chu-kuh… mocho and mafoota and mount horeb u zimmi…”.
Thanks, sir, but no thanks. I do realise that my blog does not enjoy the readership of the entire Jamaican population but as you acknowledged in your response to my friend, it did get to much of my target audience and even if it did not, the decision to submit it for publication on another medium would be entirely my own. You would have been free to drop me a line to recommend that I shared the article with a major newspaper, as many of my friends had done. You had no right to massacre my work and affix your name to it. You thought it was an “excellent article” so you should have left it as it was, where it was.
My dear readers, I love all of you and I welcome your honest opinion on everything I share with you. Every single time I press the word ‘publish’, I have a sense of opening up my heart a little wider to the world. That is one of the main reasons why I no longer submit opinion pieces to major newspapers, I used to do this frequently when I was in High School but I was never satisfied with how they edited my work, which I believe is a tangible piece of my soul. Mainstream media is a wonderful outlet for many things but at this place in time, my work is not among them. I actively exercise the right to express myself and I will continue to reserve the right to choose my media.
P.S. I invite you all to follow Negril Stories as I continue to exercise my right to expression in the April A to Z Challenge. I will be publishing 26 posts throughout the month- one on each day except Sundays.
UPDATE: I have withdrawn from the A to Z Challenge.