On Monday on my radio programme, I spent the first 45 minutes discussing the new law allowing personal property to be used as security for loans, which, it is hoped, will help small businesses. We had a 6-minute international segment on Syria, then spent about 12 minutes talking about crime in St. James. That was followed – one hour into the programme – by a 9-minute interview with Michael Cuffe, Tessanne’s husband, who is in L.A. for the finals of the US talent show, The Voice, in which Tessanne Chin is competing. My half hour Hot Topic segment – after 7 o’ clock, was spent talking about the songs for the night’s competition.
One listener said she supported Tessanne but wished I had spent more time on crime in St. James. Another listener texted me a sad story about his niece who had been recently murdered and said that the story about Tessanne is a distraction from Jamaica’s real problems.
Yes, there were only two comments. I got many others congratulating Tessanne. So why mention them at all? In the first place, all views should contend, and I shared both comments on air. Secondly, they raise the question again of “What is News?” As a result, they represent a frequently expressed view, whenever I focus on something that is not “hard news,” that I am wasting time talking about whatever it is when we have serious issues to talk about.
Yes, we do. And we do talk about those serious issues. I have been doing talk radio for 17 years, and we talk, and talk and talk about the troika of news in Jamaica – politics-crime-economy. I have spent countless hours looking at those issues from every angle known to man. I have also discussed many other issues – education, the environment, children’s rights, issues affecting the disabled community, for example.
What is news? All those issues should, and do, make the news. But the story of Tessanne Chin is also news. I spoke in this post about why an item about model/beauty queen/celebrity Yendi was news. Tessanne’s story is MUCH bigger than that story about Yendi.
A story like Tessane Chin’s is rare. A human interest story that has captured the interest
of all of Jamaica and the diaspora. A story of a talented, hardworking, humble Jamaican whose “Jamaicanness” shines through her every word and action. A Jamaican on the international scene who allows us to hold our head high. Someone we are rooting for all the way. It’s a story that gives us a little respite for a few short hours, from the hardships of what it means to live in Jamaica.
And from a journalism point of view, it is a human interest story that also ticks all the other boxes of what makes news – proximity, impact, relevance, timeliness, conflict, unusualness, prominence.
And for bigging up this story, as a journalist, I make no apologies. Would that we had more of them.