Sports Journalists and Columnists, let us lift the standards

By Zaheer E. Clarke

Broadcast: February 18, 2017 on SportsNation Live

First published February 20, 2017, Republished April 3, 2017

The standards of sports and opinion journalism in Jamaica are falling. It’s time to lift the standards.

President Donald Trump (l) and his counsellor Kellyanne Conway have waged an unprecedented war on facts and truths since moving into the White House.
(Photo credit: Getty Images)

A friend of mine recently said, “The most dangerous thing on planet earth is an opinionist whose opinions are formed void of facts.” So, I quickly added, “While that statement may be true, what say you of Donald Trump?”

Opinionists are like sand grains on the beach. They are everywhere and worse when it comes to the world of sports. They can be found on the street side, at the bus stop, at the gym, and at the lunchroom at work. Unsurprisingly, another place you will find loads of them is at your local bar, especially when you are trying to have a relaxing evening with the distilled spirits. Sadly, these opinionists often discuss sports in the most nescient and puzzling ways, which both baffles and depresses you simultaneously. We all know the individuals I’m referring to. At times, we entertain them but deep down we abhor them and their unfiltered claptrap.

Bars are a popular location where you will find fact-less opinionists.
(Photo credit: VQR Online)

These fact-less sports opinionists, which are often our friends, spew nothing but unadulterated hogwash and several times, they do so with such conviction that those informed individuals – like yourself – question whether you are the ones ill-informed and unaware that you are uninformed. Do you remember what our grandmothers used to say? “He who knows not and knows not that he knows not …” Yeah, that’s them at times and not you.

The worst part is when those trusted with the responsibility to inform the public, yes us journalists, are the ones described in such a manner. When we are the ones least informed, I often wonder to myself, “where will the public turn to for information and insight?” I presume Facebook and fake news websites.

Fake news stories have been rampant on social media platforms like Facebook in 2016. Facebook and Google have vowed to tackle these fake news entities.

What is even worse is when sports journalists or columnists, like myself, propagate misinformation, which whips the public into a frenzy of ignorance. Yet, strikingly, when the ‘true’ truth is unfolded, they and their unadulterated opinions vanish into thin air. I have seen this in recent years with discussions surrounding various sporting issues, not excluding Jamaican athletes and doping in sports.

As sports journalists and columnists, we have a sacred responsibility. We must be the voice of the minority and not necessarily the populace. We ought to investigate and base our conclusions and opinions on facts and matters rooted in principle and not necessarily those dipped in patriotism and insularity.

Sports Journalist Tony Cozier was respected for his diligent research borne out in his engrossing cricket columns.
(Photo credit: Caribbean Beat)

Let me be the first to shed my snakeskin of self-righteousness. As the Good Book says, we have all sinned and fallen short. In the past, I may have misinformed the public, or maybe in the distant future – God forbid – I may misinform the public on a particular matter. Similarly, I may take some extreme position, uncharacteristically, devoid of facts or truths. However, John Public must never accept misinformation as the norm and must demand facts, truths and statistics from our sports journalists and columnists.

In recent times, ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’ have become almost a staple food in our society. Sadly, these fake facts and alternative news have been incorporated in the diet and salacious feats of the sports world. Several of my less and more learned colleagues and distant acquaintances, at times, report or purport such pristine poppycock that it makes me wonder. Unfortunately, this only sinks the already perceived sunken position of sports and opinion journalists in the local media sphere. Of a fact, our news counterparts are often held in higher esteem and the issues they discuss are often deemed more important. If we as sports journalists cannot inform the public of the basic tenets at hand in our speciality, then whom do we expect to do this job? The news reporters and weather reporters? We must do better. We need to lift the standards of sports and opinion journalism in Jamaica.

Morris Cargill (l) and Hugh Crosskill are two notable Jamaican journalists who were masters of opinion journalism and sports journalism respectively.
(Photo credit: Jamaica Gleaner)

John Public must demand of us sports journalists and columnists, fact-based opinions and insightful insights based on actual data, information and research. If they cannot, then anyone with an arbitrary opinion and pint-sized knowledge of sports can be a sports journalists or columnist. Or, is that already the case?

Recently, I read the work of some famous local columnists, some of who are luminaries, doctors in their respective fields and even lawyers. I also listened to several talk show hosts recently and heard various opinionists and sports journalists discuss several sporting disciplines and issues, including doping. Sadly, in my opinion, most of them were bereft of the ‘real’ facts to inform the public; hence, depriving the public of the opportunity to form informed opinions. From my observations, the writings and discussions of several sports journalists and opinionists were based solely, or mostly, on hypotheticals and conjecture. Astonishingly, facts and statistics were oftentimes treated like a bastard child, utterly detested. If our profession as sports journalists and columnists is to be taken seriously, my friends, then we have no choice but to raise the standards. If we do not, then we will certainly be the bastard children of several of our media houses.

Hubert Lawrence (l) and Lance Whittaker are two modern day journalists in Jamaica who are highly respected in the field of sports journalism.
(Photo source: Jamaica Gleaner & Barbados Today)

In closing, I must pay due respect to my colleagues who conduct their work with dignity and pride. They are the true descendants of Atlas, holding up the seemingly mystical sports and opinion journalistic world on their shoulders. As for me, and unlike the Apostle Paul, I am not even the least of the sports journalists or columnists in Jamaica. I consider myself simply a concerned observer: just call me a scientist.

Until next time…

© Zaheer Clarke

Zaheer E. Clarke is an award-winning opinion journalist, blogger and author of the award-winning blog, Zaheer’s Facts, Lies and Statistics.

Zaheer was last seen in his dungeon pouring over statistics trying to determine why Donald Trump loves alternative facts and fake news. He found the answer in the 2016 US Presidential election polling numbers.

He can be reached at zaheer.clarke@gmail.com. Follow him on Facebook at Zaheer Facts, Lies & Statistics, or on Twitter at @zaheerclarke.

This blog article was republished in the Western Mirror on April 3, 2017.

Zaheer Clarke & ZFLS cops recognition at 2016 PAJ Journalism Awards

By Zaheer’s Facts, Lies and Statistics

Published November 28, 2016

2016-paj-awards-zaheer-kim

Zaheer E. Clarke (left) and his elated wife, Kimsacha Williams-Clarke, at The National Journalism Awards function on November 26, 2016.

Last week Saturday, the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) recognized Zaheer’s Facts, Lies and Statistics (ZFLS), and its editor-in-chief, Zaheer E. Clarke, at the National Journalism Awards function for outstanding work in journalism.

Though Clarke was a little disappointed to miss out on the major awards this year, he and Jamaica Gleaner’s Michael Abrahams were recognized with Certificates of Merit for their outstanding pieces in the Opinion Journalism section while ZFLS was the sole recipient of recognition – a Certificate of Merit – in the Best News, Sports or Current Affairs Blog category. Interestingly, Clarke and Abrahams were the only columnists recognized in the Morris Cargill Award for Opinion Journalism category, thus inadvertently sharing the unofficial 2016 Columnist of the Year title. Additionally, for the second year running ZFLS copped the Blog of the Year title. Continue reading

One of Jamaica’s greatest nights reduced to bigotry

By Zaheer E. Clarke

Published August 23, 2016, in the Jamaica Observer

On one of the greatest nights in Jamaica’s athletic history, the good, sad, and utterly despicable elements of the human psyche were fully or secretly displayed on the social media platforms of Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp.

Jamaicans in Half-Way-Tree square celebrate the successes in the recent Rio Olympics. (Kenyon Hemans)

Jamaicans in Half-Way-Tree square celebrate the successes in the recent Rio Olympics.
(Kenyon Hemans/Jamaica Observer)

On the night of August 16, 2016, I went to my sister’s house to pick up my four-year-old daughter and saw history for Jamaica being made. Twenty-two-year-old Omar McLeod – and Jamaica – won Olympic gold for the first time in the 110m hurdles.

My daughter was beaming with pride as she raced around, with her index finger pointing to the sky, shouting, “Jamaica! Jamaica! Jamaica land we love!” She was like an athlete doing numerous victory laps around the 400m track at the Olympic stadium, albeit, her 400m track was situated around her aunt’s coffee table. Continue reading

Refugee Olympic athletes restore hope in humanity

By Zaheer E. Clarke

Published August 6, 2016
Republished August 7, 2016, in the Jamaica Observer

10 refugees, from war-ravaged parts of the world, will compete together on one team at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Their stories of triumph offer hope to 65 million worldwide.

Rose Lokonyen carries the Olympic flag and leads the Refugee Olympic Team during the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Games in Rio. © UNHCR/Benjamin Loyseau

A proud Rose Lokonyen, carrying the flag, leads the other members of the Refugee Olympic Team at the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Olympics.
© UNHCR/Benjamin Loyseau

On Friday night, during the opening ceremony of the Olympics, ten athletes walked out with the Olympic anthem playing in the background, to the joy, tears, and dreams of 65 million refugees displaced across the world. Continue reading

Jamaican women who are likely to win medals in Rio

By Zaheer E. Clarke

Originally aired July 23, 2016, via Zaheer’s Zone on Sports Nation Live
Published July 31, 2016, in the Jamaica Observer
Republished August 8, 2016

 

34 Jamaican women will participate in the 2016 Olympics in Athletics, Swimming and Gymnastics. Who are the likely candidates to take home Olympic medals?

Merlene_Ottey_-_2._Memoriał_Kamili_Skolimowskiej_-_Warszawa,_2011-09-20

Jamaican-born Merlene Ottey (centre) is the most decorated woman to compete in the Olympics. She has won 9 Olympic medals which include 3 silver and 6 bronze medals.

The Olympics are less than two weeks away and unsurprisingly, experts, on the streets and in the studios, are predicting the medal hauls for their respective countries. Of interest to many locally are Jamaica’s medal prospects at Rio. Thirty-four women will be representing Jamaica in Swimming, Athletics, and Gymnastics at the 2016 Rio Olympics. In reality, only a small fraction of the number of the Jamaican female athletes in Rio will return as Olympics medallists. Truthfully, the expectation is that the Jamaican women will snatch approximately six to seven medals. Therefore, who are the Jamaican women likely to medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and in which events? Continue reading