Opinion: Outstanding journalism award

POSTED: 11/1/11 12:20 PM

We advised against it, but the organizers of the Crystal Pineapple awards decided to go through with it anyway. On November 18 one of the following news organizations will receive an award for outstanding journalism: AVS News, SXM Island Times, Pearl FM or PJD2.

We have nothing against the good people that work for these organizations and we are sure that they all, in their own way, contribute to the free flow of information.

To earn an award for outstanding journalism, one has to establish of course a definition for what outstanding journalism really is.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary is not really helpful here, because it only gives a description for journalism: the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media.

The same dictionary defines outstanding as “marked by eminence and distinction.”

Eminence is defined as “a position of prominence or superiority.”

Distinction is defined as “an accomplishment that sets one apart.”

A news report about a traffic accident that does not contain any mistakes does therefore not qualify as outstanding journalism, because any doofus is able to do that.

We may have to correct this statement, because the Merriam-Webster defines a doofus as a stupid, incompetent or foolish person. The conjunction or suggests that somebody does not have to be all of these things to qualify for doofus status. Let’s say that any writer with half a brain is able to do this.

All this does not answer the question what must be understood as outstanding journalism.

The Merriam-Webster does not have a definition. It does have something to say though about checkbook journalism. This is the practice of paying somebody for a news story and especially for granting an interview. This does not occur in St. Maarten.

We’d say that, for instance, Woodward and Bernstein did some outstanding journalism with their Watergate-stories in the seventies. Their stories in the Washington Post brought down President Nixon.

What other examples come to mind? Nobody in the Caribbean has probably ever heard of Günter Walraff. In 1977 Walraff, posing as Hans Esser, became an editor at the German tabloid Bild Zeitung. He kept it up for four months and wrote two excellent books about his experiences: Witness for the Prosecution and Der Aufmacher (a German term meaning both lead story and the one who opens. That, ladies and gentlemen, was outstanding journalism.

So we are really curious to see what our local brethren will present as outstanding journalism when one of the four candidates receives that Crystal Pineapple Award on November 18.

Please, do surprise us.

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Comments (1)


  1. irie says:

    They should just make an award each category:

    1. professional journalism,
    2. citizen journalism

    This delineation helps your definition issues, and offers due attention to the excellent work done on both branches of journalism.

    Now, only if the Crystal Pineapple awards had any significant value…