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Websites with 10 gallon hat egos ignore the tenets of journalism

| by Pearl Thevanayagam

(March 15, 2014, Bradford-UK, Sri Lanka Guardian) Why do Tamils find it difficult to find closure and why do they feel the majority Sinhalese are braying for their blood. They are doing it themselves and splitting hairs with their grandiose egos, prejudices and caste-ridden hang-ups. I’ll give you a small example and follow it with more instances Tamils cannot tolerate another of their species get some recognition.

I wrote to several websites of a young academic from Jaffna who was honoured for his research and gained laurels from Cambridge. I am ashamed to say Tamil websites ignored him. I do not know him from Adam but my sister - a scientist in the US - who has strong feelings towards young Sri Lankans who need all the help they can get from fellow Sri Lankans when they excel in their discipline - sent me an email about this young aspiring academic.

By the way, she told me she would donate her savings and inheritance towards young entrepreneurs when she dies. I hope she lives up to her promise and my wish is she lives for many more years.

Only Sri Lanka Guardian published the young academic’s story and Tamil websites ignored him. Need I say more. Competition is a necessity for improvement but it alone cannot win when avarice and envy take over. Johnny-come-latelys who found they have earned some degrees and want to prove themselves should not deride others and believe they are superior.

Which brings me to another curse that has blighted our websites. Seeing media websites placing more importance on their own credentials and accolades rather than what they project as news which in this virtual space of internet is infinite and who choose to promote long-winded thesis of their past PhD presentations is frustrating. Blocking of websites is kudos for their editors that they are a force to reckon with.

Readers do not care tuppence for theses; they want news and news alone. They do not want Aristotle, Theoclytes, Eurypides or Neitzsche. Nor do they want age old theories stretching to umpteen pages of their long winded dissertations. Theses are good for trade journals and unless the theme is topic it has no place in journalism.

Journalists of yesteryears did not have to market their product. Their stories were coveted and looked forward to daily. Readers would trot along to the junction to get their daily dose of news with morning coffee notwithstanding the earful they would get when they come back without fish, meat and vegetables for their spouses. Even Daily News, the state media organ, has what is called news although biased towards the ruling party out of necessity and gratitude.

Now even with all modern technology at their fingertips many website editors have no clue to journalism. The feeling that the more they publish reams of academic research and analysis the more they would seem intellectuals. They do not understand they should transcend their prejudices and ego and give their readers what they want; plain unvarnished truth of news and news alone. Academic features are useful as long as they are current and provide the larger picture of a given subject at hand.

Take Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Guardian UK journalists, Paul Craig Roberts et al and you will find they use plain language despite the fact they attended prestigious institutions such as Monash, Oxford, Harvard, Princeton and MIT.

Finding news in Sri Lankan websites is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack. The reason is some editors have never been trained in journalism or newspapers.

I am straying here so let me get back on course.

What chance do we have at UNHRC? Ms Ananthi Sasitharan complained TNA MP M.A.Sumanthiran intimidated her into not attending UNHRC since her presence would be perceived as a representative of the LTTE which is proscribed by the US and several western countries. I cannot comment either on Sumanthiran’s stance or Ananthi’s outrage but this is a blight that has befallen Tamils since independence.

At this crucial stage we should not be clamouring to score brownie points but rather unite and show the world we have one goal and that is justice. Justice to war victims, justice to the oppressed and regaining the due rights of Tamils which hitherto have been deprived of, due to our infighting which splintered our nation and which pitted Tamils against Tamils.

And Tamil media would do well to accommodate and present a balanced and lucid view irrespective of the correspondents who provide them with news and news alone. If Tamil media cannot accommodate the young academic a few bytes in their website how the hell are they going to find solution to the ethnic problem.

(The writer has been a journalist for 25 years and worked in national newspapers as sub-editor, news reporter and news editor. She was Colombo Correspondent for Times of India and has contributed to Wall Street Journal where she was on work experience from The Graduate School of Journalism, UC Berkeley, California. Currently residing in UK she is also co-founder of EJN (Exiled Journalists Network) UK in 2005 the membership of which is 200 from 40 countries. She can be reached at pearltheva@hotmail.com)

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