BitDepth#824 - March 06

How the National Carnival Commission almost succeeded in chasing the Reuters news network away from Carnival 2012.
Carnival coda
Photographer Andrea De Silva (right) among masqueraders in Tribal Connection's The Iruqouis Nation. Photo by Mark Lyndersay

It’s time to wrap things up with 2012 Carnival. The costumes have been trashed, the music, buried and forgotten, the animosities stirred by judges’ placings fading and the indication is that Carnival is well and truly over.

Still, I’d like to put something into the pot for consideration when the post-mortems of the festival begin, and yes, I acknowledge the optimism in assuming post-mortems exist.
Given what I saw happening stageside on Carnival Tuesday, a hearty drink-up at the NCC offices is likelier, as the leadership of that noble body congratulate themselves on getting away with it for another year.

Here’s the thing. Since I have a podium, those folks might think that I’m being uniquely curmudgeonly. After all, nobody else seems to be complaining about the national party, except maybe for Tribe’s masqueraders who still can’t get over spending most of Tuesday wining for the residents of the Mucurapo Cemetery and the empty compound of the Jamaat al Muslimeen.

On Carnival Tuesday, I got an earful from Andrea De Silva, a photojournalist working in Trinidad and Tobago for most of her life. Disclosure: De Silva is a good friend of mine, someone I’ve fired once and hired twice over her 27-year career in the newspaper business.
I couldn’t hear all of her passionate invective that sunny, colourful day over the blaring orders to variously pump and/or roll, so I asked her to e-mail some of her thoughts for me.

Andrea De Silva currently reports for Reuters, filing images daily from this country and as a proud national, has, over the last five years, been working hard to get access to the events of Carnival to file on the global Reuters network.
This has not been easy, because Reuters doesn’t pay to cover the news and the NCC insists on charging media for access to Carnival.

Reuters News Pictures Editor for Latin America, Rickey Rogers, sent me a note on the matter through De Silva.
“The purpose of an international news agency is to inform readers of the global media about public events, whether they be of political and general news, entertainment, or sports,” Rogers explained.

"Paying for access to events is against the journalistic ethic, because a journalist or photographer might be considered obliged to report on a story in a certain way if money changes hands, either from the organizers to the photographer or vice versa. We have strict rules against payment for access simply because we do not consider it ethical.”
“Having their event published in international newspapers, magazines and websites is in their own interest, and they really have no need to charge photographers simply to do their job.”

De Silva managed to get photographs and file them for the service, but she wasn’t accommodated the way that someone more clearly foreign might have been.
The young photographer is familiar, local, credentialed and pleasant, assets which apparently do not work in her favour with the NCC.

This year might be the last straw for her. She’s never had an easy time with access to Carnival, but fighting the NCC to put their event on international newswires has left her exhausted.
“Photographers continue to be affected by the lack of proper accommodation, particularly on the Grand Stand stage,” De Silva explained via e-mail.

“Once there was a platform from which accredited photographers could take photos of the masqueraders. Now we have to jostle with police, band security, NCC security, boyfriends and girlfriends to get good photos.”
I’m pretty sure that Iwer George’s No Pain was playing when I caught a fragment of her Tuesday afternoon rant: “I’m going Brazil next year.”

De Silva’s benchmark for media appreciation is the St Lucia Jazz Festival, which she has covered for the last 11 years.
“All accommodation and accreditation is handled by them because they recognise the value of the local and international media in promoting the event.”
“They do the same for their Carnival and I think everyone should take a page from their how-to-treat-the-media handbook.”

“The main organising committee should seek the advice of media photographers on stage lighting and on where to position photographers in relation to the main stage at the Savannah for the pre-parade shows and on Carnival Monday and Tuesday.”
“With all the other competing Carnivals around now, they need to seriously reconsider how the media are treated to generate maximum mileage from our unique Carnival.”

Curious about where Reuters pictures end up? Look
here and here.

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