Literary revolutions and after
There is a tendency in every third world country that revolutions spring up every now and then, and often in the form of military coups, one after another. The objective of such revolutions is to rid of an old regime. But the outcome of each remains the same: the new replacing the old. The very people for whose rights such revolutions are fought see no remedy beyond the fact that even they remain the same old underdogs through and through. Nothing happens by way of improved infrastructure, social reform and cultural redemption.
By the same token, literary revolutions abound – particularly within the world of media. And the focus of attention is on those handling cultural enterprises through the supplementary pages of well-established major dailies. It is those individuals that come out to the scrutiny of the reading public as men and women of power. The positions they occupy as editors of such supplementary pages therefore carry a great sense of responsibility. And the onus is on them: to publish or to perish.
An editor sitting behind such supplementary sections of a newspaper has very much the same responsibilities as a TV or film producer. It is up to that editor to ensure that his/her newspaper sells. If an editor is seen to be performing rather poorly then the management of that newspaper has the prerogative to fire that editor on the spot. If, however, it is deliberated somewhat that the same editor has been hired on the basis of a contract with the management of that particular newspaper, or some other mysterious arrangement, then that is yet another story. But nine times out of ten, and ethically speaking, that is, he/she should be fired – with or without a contract in place.
In Papua New Guinea such circumstances surrounding supplementary editors and their given management personnel do not readily apply, notwithstanding the fact that their associations are not usually conspicuous. This is a poor indicator if a newspaper wishes to maintain its credibility as an important daily to the society within which it has been licensed to operate as a newspaper at all.
Now we all read the National newspaper. And we all read the Post Courier. Behind these two important dailies we are also aware of who is doing what as a journalist, as an editor, sub-editor or a supplementary editor.
By supplementary editors we mean those taking care of weekend magazines of a daily – quite an important enterprise – real estate and associated company supplements, health, education, women and youth and, of course, cultural programs such as literature, art and music. A newspaper must make itself accommodating enough to cater for all these segments of a society which allows that newspaper to operate and profit at all. And that newspaper must be willing to answer that society’s needs that way at all times, failing which might set us into thinking that even that reputable newspaper’s lot may not be a happy one after all.
That brings us to the question of finding a reasonable kind of association between supplementary editor and management of a newspaper. While that editor strives to keep the society informed of all aspects of its own activity and existence the management must ensure all this is properly focused and in place. And the editor must be well versed in what he/she is dealing with, be it real estate, cultural activities or other. Here, of course, it would be nicer if some focus lay on both parties ensuring a fair representation of cultural activities of that society.
But we must stress on seeing a happier kind of relationship between editor and management of a given newspaper. If the relationship between the two parties is poor, or corrupt in many places as we well know, then the resultant product seen on the supplementary sections of a newspaper will be found wanting. The quality will turn out disagreeably repugnant for the intelligent reader and in many cases simply force even an inexperienced reader to flip over to cartoons, word puzzles and gambling lift-outs. This will mean precisely that because of this poor relationship, albeit lack of communication, between editor and management, the artsy and intellectual needs of the society will be left unanswered. That can also allow a newspaper to become more of propaganda than anything else.
What the whole of PNG media needs right now are those editors of supplementary editions who know their stuff, who snoop around for the best there is that the society itself has to offer. And a very attentive kind of management of each newspaper which can respond readily and positively to what these editors propose to publish.
At this point, some crucial questions need to be asked and answered. Why is there so much lack of cultural representation in the pages of the National and the Post Courier newspapers, particularly in the weekender supplements of each? What happened to the Writers’ Forum of the National Weekender? What is Post Courier doing about representing Papua New Guinea writers, both new and established? What is Post Courier’s story on its lack of coverage of the Crocodile Literary Competitions, an important event for Papua New Guinea writers observed in September of each year? And what is the National’s story regarding the same, especially after sacking several worthwhile writers and columnists for reasons that are too frivolous to mention here? As far as culture and the arts go why are both newspapers so ill-informed, so stubbornly insensitive and illiterate to and about the cultural undertow of the very society they claim to be serving through media?
Indeed these questions need answers. Literature and the arts remain the main backbones of cultural, economic, industrial and political development, albeit revolutions, transitions, transformations, evolutions and change. Both the National and Post Courier must see to it that these important questions are answered successfully for Papua New Guinea. Storyboard could not have thought of a better title for our article than this.
First published in Keith Jackson’s PNG Attitude, 2013.