Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Stella says... Write a Letter to the Editor

(Originally published in the Kaieteur News on 25 Oct 2005)

One of the fantastic and unique aspects about the newspapers in Guyana is the way in which letter writers interact with each other. It is not uncommon to watch as an entire political or social scenario unfolds with a variety of views on the Letter to the Editor pages of the newspapers every day.

For every individual who holds an opinion on a subject, there are five others who have opinions on that opinion. It really is so much fun to rip the paper open every day to see who has what to say in response to something said yesterday by someone else.

Even Sweet and Sensitive Freddie, who has a daily column, writes letters on a regular basis. You would think he would be able to get all of his thoughts into the column, but obviously he needs to have another outlet too.

The Letter to the Editor section of each newspaper also has its own aura and personality. I think the funniest letters are in the Chronicle, which has so many letters that extol the greatness of the PPP that I read it with the same light-hearted merriness that I do the cartoon sections of a paper. In fact, they are usually funnier than the cartoons, and I find myself laughing out loud.

I have to admit that often I ponder to myself how many of those letters are actually penned by Smart and Sharp Robert Persaud under a pseudo identity. It doesn't really matter, though, as it's not like anyone really takes those types of letters seriously - but my, oh my, they sure are so much fun to read.

I'm still waiting for a pro-PNC or pro-Third Force letter to be published in the Chronicle. What really perks me up every morning is reading the “things are so great now with the PPP” letters.

These letters are there every morning and always say some version of the same thing, “Since the PPP took over 13 years ago things are so much better.” If the economy stinks, there is a letter that says, “The economy is better now than it was in 1992 when the PPP took office.” Other issues are racism, crime, media freedoms, etc. Whatever the issue of the day, it is better now than it was before. Could it be that someone is missing the point?

The most recent letters that had me rolling with laughter were on corruption and Transparency International's perception survey. In Monday's edition, letter writer Sabrina Narine said, “We have all come to the realisation that Guyana is a developing country, but has shown tremendous growth and progress over the past 13 years, more so with the accession of the PPP/C to office in 1992.”

That joke just never gets too old for me. I told someone the other day that it is akin to telling a mother that her child is black and blue from the beatings she is inflicting, and then her responding with a flippant retort that the child is better off now than when living with the drunkard father who molested and beat the child.

Here's a novel idea - how about no corruption at all! How about a zero tolerance for crime? How about adding some radio stations to the dial? Instead of excuses and the pathetic “things are better now than before” gobbledygook, just give the people of Guyana what they really want – a thriving economy, a crime-free society and a government they can trust.

But if that happens, the daily letters singing the praises of the PPP would stop, and I would have to start reading the cartoons again every morning for a good laugh. I would gladly make that sacrifice though, if it meant the end of crime and corruption.

There is a definite “sway” in the way news is portrayed. The Chronicle sways toward its beloved PPP, and Stabroek seems to sway toward the new and upcoming AFC. I have to hand it to Kaieteur News; they don't seem to sway too much – but maybe that is me swaying now.

Honestly though, Kaieteur's diversity in its columnists is nothing short of impressive when a journalist examines the objectivity of the paper for which they write. I'd like to say I made a good choice, but I didn't choose Kaieteur, it chose me - and I'm so glad it did.

I can't imagine writing for the Chronicle. Not that they would have me write for them. Can you imagine it? Just picture them trying to make me tone down my views of the sitting government! There would have been stuff flying, and nasty words flying, and then I'd be flying out the door.

Even if we did get along for just a short while, they would eventually have to fire me for laughing at their Letters to the Editor. I like that Kaieteur allows me to be me - an intelligent woman who isn't afraid to speak her mind. And I'm so glad I don't have Robert Persaud standing over my back while I write my columns. That could get really annoying.

Email: Stellasays[at]gmail.com

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