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A gruesome twosome

By Terry Joseph
November 09, 2002

Among the most piercing of derogatory remarks that may be levelled against a journalist is inference that he or she wilfully perpetrated any form of cozenage upon the readership.

This week I was twice accused of such malfeasance, firstly in a letter to the Express lamenting my ignorance, then on Wednesday, an abusive telephone call from promoters of the Enrique Iglesias fiasco.

The letter from the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) sought to redress my comments about a newspaper advertisement inviting bids for "one maxi driver with accessories" for San Fernando General.

Double entendre is standard feedstock for humour. And in a place where majority definition of "a maxi driver" has less to do with surgical procedure than public transportation, it seemed harmless at the time to highlight the ambiguity of its communication by poking fun at the SWRHA.

But their communications specialist expressed "the strongest objection to the article both in terms of content and headline", finding the work "entirely misleading and woefully inaccurate", then "reckless and irresponsible" which, in further castigation, was deemed the result of an "unholy rush to print such inaccuracies".

Repeatedly citing variations of the "inaccuracy and failing to check the facts" assertion, the letter-writer insisted my conclusion was predicated upon bogus information received from a caller to my radio programme.

Well, to respond from the bottom up: I have no call-in radio programme and never did, a fact that, to my mind, speaks to the complainant’s argument about "inaccuracy and failing to check the facts". Worse, the column was not about the SWRHA, with a mere two paragraphs spent on that topic.

To decide, therefore, that the column was "entirely" misleading and debunk its overall content and headline in the broad sweep, seems to fit the description of "reckless and irresponsible" far more snugly than my attempt at ribbing the Authority.

We can hardly accuse the Authority of "an unholy rush to print these inaccuracies", since it took nearly two months to respond. For the record, however, I am willing to forgive them those "entirely misleading and woefully inaccurate" statements and go one step further by apologising for any discomfiture caused by the joke.

My reaction to a telephone message from the promoter of the Iglesias concert is not so forgiving, although the young man also accused me of "reckless and irresponsible" reporting, called me "childish" and described my writing as "highly over-rated".

As reported in both the Express and Guardian, the concert promoter failed to deliver on promises to patrons in the $1,200-a-ticket VIP section.

The upscale patronage was offered "padded seats", all-night cocktail service at no additional cost, two full hours from Iglesias and, as could reasonably be expected, a hassle-free view of the stage at all times.

Pre-show torrential rain and consequential mud was none of their doing but "padded seats" turned out to be general purpose chairs such as you would find in the average waiting room. The "all-night" hors d’oeuvres and premium liquor both expired well before the star came onstage.

Egged on by the headline act, general admission patrons stormed the VIP area, sending well-heeled patrons scampering for safety and blocking the view of those who stood their muddy ground. Guard dogs only threatened while the gym-boots posse sprayed beer, as is the custom at low-life concerts.

My comment on the debacle contained nothing but those facts, yet promoter Vishesh RamSingh felt the need to call and leave a vulgar message on my phone, using a variety of epithets to accuse me of being less than professional.

Now, the young man is new at promoting large-scale public events and was probably depressed by scoring what appeared to be a monumental loss on his first major project.

It may also be that young Mr RamSingh thought the offer of two VIP tickets also purchased professional integrity but that is as unlikely as the devil ice-skating.

Reliable backstage sources indicated Iglesias’ handlers treated him in undignified fashion, calling shots and talking down to their employer, including curtailing the performance of local band Imij & Co; allowing him no authority.

While we all can understand how belittling that experience must have been, shooting the messenger is never the recommended palliative. His response was, in fact, "childish and irresponsible", rendering him "highly over-rated" in a number of ways.

Having missed the November 6 deadline for settling his account with Imij & Co, the only local act hired for the Iglesias concert, Mr RamSingh might now wish to spend his time reconciling that matter, rather than apportioning more of it to insulting telephone calls.

On the other hand, let me express my sincere thanks to Mr Curtis Pierre, who politely brought to my attention a real error, one repeated from a news release sent me by the St Mary's College Past Students' Union. Atilla the Hun sang "Graf Zeppelin" and not "Led Zeppelin", the latter being a rock group that sang for itself.

Clearly, there are at least two ways to approach any difficulty. 'Tis a pity some prefer the gruesome route.

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