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Monday, April 6, 2020
Home Letters Some media advice from Hart Tillett

Some media advice from Hart Tillett

Dear Editor,

A few years back a young journalist (I’ll call him KayJee) from a well-known network TV station in the USA was visiting Belize. News coverage of his interactions at the time with the media houses here, shows that he excoriated our news agencies for the way in which they reported stories involving acts of extreme violence. Officially, one got the impression that media heads agreed to clean up their reporting.

The network rep, I understand, has Belizean roots, and was back in Belize recently. No report this time of a meeting with the media. His visit coincided with the news of the rape of a female toddler in a small village in southern Belize.

As if the act itself was not blood-curdling enough, the details surrounding the incident, as brought to us by sections of the media, stopped just short of actually naming the child. We were given the name of the village, the district in which it is located, the child’s sex and age, when it happened and the police station to which the report was made. KayJee must have thought: “Aye denh bally! Dehn noh lahn!”

I grew up in a small village like that. Someone shoots a deer the night before and by recess the following day, everyone knows about it—who shot it, where it was feeding when shot, how many hunters were involved, if it were a buck or a doe, how many pounds it weighed, whether it fell with the first shot, and whether the kill was illegal due to being out of season, etc, etc. Nothing gets the gossip mill cranked up in a small community of 300 people like the exciting news of someone killing a deer.

Now a murder or a stabbing or spousal infidelity—that’s on the scale of a rocket launch, isn’t it? But the rape of an infant? Man! That’s like a moon-landing. Goh deh!

TMI is an abbreviation well-known to writers. It is how an editor tells you bluntly that you didn’t have to write/say that; that it adds little to your story; and that leaving it out will not diminish the tiniest whit to the final product. Goh deh instead.

Hart Tillett

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