Jamaican Grief Porn and John-Crow Journalism

While I am absolutely against censorship, I am growing tired of the john-crow journalism that dominates the news every single night. The overly intrusive death knocks must end, especially when they form no real part of the report and the highly emotional mourners are just abused for the effect they will have on viewers.

Cathartes aura  Florida  USA  upper body 8 Jamaican Grief Porn and John Crow Journalism

John Crow

14-year-old Haile Selassie High School student Shariefa Saddler was abducted and murdered in Kingston, Jamaica on Wednesday. Four-year-old Rushaun ‘Rajay’ Burford was shot in the head the following morning, supposedly because of a manhole dispute his family was having with their troublesome neighbour. One 20-year-old police constable was killed and five others injured during a training exercise at the Jamaica Police Academy. These were the top stories in the nightly news yesterday, and you know what they all had in common? Grieving family members, and grieving schoolmates in the cases of Shariefa and Rajay.

As is customary in the case of police killings1 and high-profile murders, the homes and schools were visited. I only caught the CVM TV News last night but it is likely that TVJ did pretty much the same thing. On CVM’s visit to Haile Selassie High School, which is in the ‘troubled’ Tavares Gardens community, also known as Payne Land, they managed to film a boy who was lamenting the fact that nobody tried to assist the girl who was supposedly seen being dragged into the car. The most unsettling thing, however, was when a [handsome, dreadlocked] teacher advised the cameraman that he should not film the students; the cameraman was insistent and defiant, claiming to have gotten permission from the [school] board. CVM TV had the gall to show the footage of the teacher insisting that they not film the students, and the insensitivity of not heeding his advice and going ahead with using footage of mourning students in their story. I anticipate Minister Thwaites addressing this media invasion of grieving schools in the form of a national policy.

Editorial responsibility is only a dream in this nation. The time we spend on relaying dramatic footage would better be invested in investigative reporting but no, Jamaica must have its poverty porn. The viewers must see the poor of the nation in: a) pure, unadulterated grief, b) utter desperation, c) demon possession or d) assembled as an angry mob; we must get a bite out of someone making poorly enunciated, rhyming, ignorant, scandallous or otherwise ‘funny’ statements that might be used as the next punch line for someone’s viral video. Otherwise, the news won’t be ‘nice’.

It is funny how certain families are left alone to grieve yet others are pounced upon- often before they become aware of their loss. Since year, a woman rushed to the hospital upon hearing the news that her son was shot by police. She was awaiting word on his condition and ‘confided2’ in the camera crew that she had earlier that day sent him some money to buy a box drink to have with his lunch. While she was talking to the camera crew, someone broke the news that he had died and she let out a chilling wail after asking “Him dead?” The footage quality did not diminish, the camera did not shake. For the first time in my life I saw a mother hanging on to a thread of faith, and watched her world shatter while hope was being cut away from her grasp.

I would like to believe that each individual working in the media has some semblance of a heart and will realise that while they have the opportunity of cutting and arranging clips for their reports, those who are grieving have no way of censoring themselves. Physical poise and rational dialogue cannot be achieved when one is attempting to come to terms with the loss of a loved one. John-crows, if you must descend upon the bereaved, please try to do so lightly and gracefully; leave a little of their souls out of the news reports. We don’t need it. We cannot bring their loved-ones back, no matter how much we watch, no matter how forcefully you plaster the raw wounds of their hearts upon our eyes- we cannot.

  1. police killings are never classified as murders []
  2. She did not speak in a manner that would have you believe that she was aware of being recorded. []
This entry was posted in Featured, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

28 Comments

  1. Fragano Ledgister
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 11:14 AM | Permalink

    Demon possession?

    I suspect that if people demanded en masse that TVJ and CVM cease to do this, or if the camera crews were deliberately excluded from grieving families again and again, that would stop. Some real investigation of police impunity would also be good. I suspect, however, that the likelihood of that is slim.

    • stafford l. schliefer
      Posted February 1, 2013 at 12:51 PM | Permalink

      RRs Agreed.Indeed, part of the responsibility of the police should be to (metaphorically)install ‘yellow-tape’ around unfortunate grievers.

    • Karee
      Posted February 1, 2013 at 5:06 PM | Permalink

      Yes- demon posession, remember the child from the CVM exorcism?

      • Flavio Bacchetta
        Posted February 2, 2013 at 11:57 AM | Permalink

        it is very sad to realize how the media most of times become just a mere expression of gossip ( in the best scenario) or, worse, “peep show” and “john crow” attitude, as Karee remarked…we have in the country a tabloid, The Star, which daily showing on paper bleak cases of poverty and domestic depravation, especially sex abuses, homosexual relationships exposed, as well as awful situation of family abuses, mostly involving children, shown on paper, soliciting the worst instincts of human beings…a way out ? Just stop buy this rubbish and starting instead a new project of fresh journalism, involving the best attitude of the sane part of Jamaican people…this project costs money, so any proposal and contribution, not only money but also human support, would be welcomed. Please write to : flaviojamaica@cwjamaica.com

  2. Sean Bowen
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 11:38 AM | Permalink

    Wonderful article and fully endorsed.

  3. Corve DaCosta
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 11:49 AM | Permalink

    I heard someone say, they watch Bite of the Week on TVJ to laugh at the people.

    I was shocked because TVJ highlights the poorest Jamaicans to poke fun at them, most times expressing a concern in the most inarticulate way.

    I did not watch the newscast you mentioned but there is no doubt in my mind the editors would approve something like this. I watch reports from Jamaican journalists and you can tell the story is incomplete. But, they get to parade tv as such. In other countries they’d be out of a job. I want to see more investigative pieces from Jamaican journalists – I long for the day. Of course, reporting the latest crime scene is breaking news.

    • Karee
      Posted February 3, 2013 at 5:14 PM | Permalink

      It is such a crying shame, Corve. Last week’s ‘bite’ was Rajay’s family lamenting how he promised to buy them all houses when he grew up.

  4. Mamachel
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 11:56 AM | Permalink

    Very well written. I have fought for a long time to put into words my displeasure w/ the standard of news. This reflects my sentiments fully. I too suspect that noting will be done because we my dear are only a small percent.

  5. NiFi
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 12:31 PM | Permalink

    And why is the media not putting pressure on the political, judicial and security related issues damning the country? Stories are reported daily with little or no follow up. What’s the deal with Trafigura? Light bulb scandal? The bribing of the two policemen by a high profiler? The JDIP mismanagement of funds? And I am sure there are years of incomplete stories that have been raised and allowed to die naturally or by some strong-armed influence. As dem seh, ‘Monkey know which branch fi swing pon”.

  6. Carrie
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 1:11 PM | Permalink

    I suppose it’s all about ratings? Who can get the story first, and portray the most gory aspects of it? Or is it?

  7. Zan
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 2:06 PM | Permalink

    The media exploits the horror of what is happening in this country, and they probably don’t realize that people are becoming numb to it. Numb to violence. And it’s becoming entertainment.

    And they (TVJ) blurred the body of the little boy on the road in their news story last night. Why bother include that frame at all? Does anyone edit?

    This week I was amazed by the amount of news coverage on the VW ad. They cross-analyzed and dissected til it couldn’t pick apart anymore. Even the PM gave her opinions on it. And I thought, SURELY it’s not of national importance. But the media gave audience to anyone who had a say. So evidently there isn’t a quality control filter for what gets on the news.

    • Karee
      Posted February 1, 2013 at 5:10 PM | Permalink

      I heard someone pointing out that the ad doesn’t even mention the word ‘Jamaica’. Also on the news last night was our prime minister standing at a lectern, yanking at her hair to assure someone [perhaps Andrew Holness] that she wasn’t wearing a wig.

  8. Jahmekyagyal
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 2:40 PM | Permalink

    As a working member of the press and a staffer at an offending news station, let me just say here that I’ve long cussed about this practice. And I’ve said time and time again, the Press Association of Jamaica must create and publish a standard of ethics that will govern the profession. I’m yet to ever be taken on about it. However, I will say I’ve never participated in “johncrow journalism” nor will I ever. I, too, unfortunately, know what it feels like to be so violated by the media. I can never remove from my mind, the image of my grieving aunt splattered on the front page of the Gleaner. What I have done, will and always do is to push for change. I’ve shared your blog with my colleagues internally and also wider with the people on my fb page. Hopefully, the practice will end.

    • Karee
      Posted February 1, 2013 at 5:11 PM | Permalink

      Thank you for sharing. I am happy to be [possibly] effecting change.

  9. Nicoy...
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 3:08 PM | Permalink

    “The time we spend on relaying dramatic footage would better be invested in investigative reporting but no, Jamaica must have its poverty porn.” … I agree with this statement totally…. ‘they’ continue to broadcast people in their moment of grief showing little or no damn emotions in what the broadcast. I hate the fact that they media continue to invade the poorest in Jamaica. Going as far as in their houses and in their pots [the news literally showed what a family was having for dinner and showed it on TV] … I hate the double standard in the country and i hate the fact that persons n society that enjoy a better standard of living are not bombarded by the intrusive eyes of the media and could only show what those family care to share.

    • Karee
      Posted February 1, 2013 at 5:13 PM | Permalink

      Duppy know who fi frighten. I wonder if some of these people who race to get a touch of the video light realise how they are being used?

  10. o-access JAMAICA
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 3:17 PM | Permalink

    I cannot bear to watch the news in Jamaica just from what you have pointed out. Your post was well written, and straight to the point indeed.
    Dear Jamaican Media … please stop this poverty & grief porn.

  11. K.Doss
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 5:55 PM | Permalink

    I couldn’t have said it better. What makes it worse is that you have folks who want to see this madness. What can I benefit/gain from seeing the body of a dead 4 year old or his family mourning his loss? #joketing

  12. Caribbean Tots to Teens
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 7:39 PM | Permalink

    Blood stained sheets, pixelated bodies, bullet riddled walls, wails of grief and tears of confusion. Jamaica’s soul is weary from the daily onslaught. There is no more shock, or awe, just despair and desensitization. Thank you for finding words to express so much of how I feel. No-one is safe, not even the children.

  13. Emma Lewis
    Posted February 1, 2013 at 11:53 PM | Permalink

    I completely agree, and the example you gave has been worrying me ever since I saw it, with the news of the son’s death being broken to his mother on camera. Can you IMAGINE being in her shoes? But there is, of course, a connection with poverty. Somehow poor people are allowed less dignity. A report like that would never have been done if it was an uptown, middle class woman. She would have been allowed her privacy and space to grieve, as everyone should. If a TV journalist wants to portray the sense of loss after someone dies violently, they can still do it without this in-your-face reporting. It just takes thought, care and a great deal more professionalism and sensitivity.

  14. JamaicaGlassHouse
    Posted February 2, 2013 at 9:16 AM | Permalink

    Very well written. It just points to sensationalism, insensitivity and drudgery reminiscent of roots plays. Think on this, if we, as Jamaicans did not crave this sort of “soap opera” journalism, they would have to stop. No demand. No supply.

  15. Colin
    Posted February 2, 2013 at 11:47 AM | Permalink

    A very good article but unfortunately the news is about ‘sensationalism’ which in turn attracts viewership which in itself attracts sponsors/advertisers, hence we will not see that kind of brutish behaviour stop any time soon. A critical mass of persons who spurn that kind of ‘journalism’ will have to be reached for any change to come about but again unfortunately the majority of our people are only concerned about their bellies and things that affect them personally.

    Keep on writing Karee, hopefully (and that’s a lot of hope) people will be moved to action.

    • Lance Cameron
      Posted February 3, 2013 at 8:42 PM | Permalink

      You have my exact views on this…. only difference is that i think its necessary but not at the point this post mentions.

  16. Wade Haye
    Posted February 2, 2013 at 12:28 PM | Permalink

    Great article, sadly the news has been something that many of us avoid watching because bad news is always highlighted. So many good things happen but fall by the wayside because just like sex, bad news sells. A change is needed, so I do hope the people with power or influence make something happen real soon.

  17. Donna P. Hope
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 3:44 PM | Permalink

    Excellent piece Karee. Will post on my FB Page. Poverty/Grief Porn and Johncrow Journalism indeed. The point has been made that only people of a certain class – poor people – face this kind of exploitation. I shudder each time I approach the nightly newscasts…threading carefully through prior headlines to see if I will acutally subject myself to the whole gut-wrenching shebang…most times opting not to. It’s getting to the point when local newscasts will be excluded from my daily diet. Surely, there is more the work of our award-winning reporters, journalists and news editors than this insensitive and banal diet that showcases the poorest and most vulnerable Jamaicans at their most traumatic, grief-stricken and worst moments?
    I do agree that the public has become so numbed to this nightly diet of grief/poverty/johncrow porn as entertainment that soon “nutten naw go move dem”.

  18. Lance Cameron
    Posted February 3, 2013 at 8:38 PM | Permalink

    I think to differ on this idea given by this post.
    What is news… a set of words if you can’t get the stories which matter.

    I am not pushing for the right for a journalist to push the camera in to the face of someone who has no intent of having their feelings being broadcast across to the length and breadth of our nation but my point is that it has its advantages. Journalists and anchors have brought accross the emotional distress depict in these types of footage and it should deter people from crime. However its having no impact and thus pushes the ideal that good news won’t have a good effect either.
    Again its costs journalist alot to do investigative journalism…. the might push there life at a higher risk doing so.

    Endnote: My views are agreeing on part but i beg to differ that its no point in the need for this to stop. We have the right to have them not capture us but making a big deal by damaging equipment is not gonna do it cuz that is only gonna lead to it becoming needed/Valued footage.

  19. Cindy's Daughter
    Posted February 26, 2013 at 4:50 PM | Permalink

    The article masterfully puts into words the disgust I feel and the bile that rises in my stomach whenever I see/hear these “interviews” for want of a better word. I immediately change the channel as soon as one comes on air. It is exploitation of the worst kind. Someone said it above, Broadcasting Commission! Please. Set some standards.

  20. Posted May 5, 2014 at 8:32 AM | Permalink

    missed this post the first time round, glad you posted the link to it on Twitter today, this is something I hope CARIMAC will pick up and use in its classes when teaching future reporters…a really cogent assessment of the egregiousness that passes for news reportage in this country.

One Trackback

  • By All Rights Reserved, Many Exercised on April 1, 2013 at 9:09 AM

    […] 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 […]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

*
*

Subscribe without commenting