Practicing constructive journalism in the current conditions of St. Maarten “not only risks reflecting the status quo but also may play into the hands of the ones in power”, a new study finds. Sanne Rotmeijer of Leiden University, explores constructive journalism in St. Maarten, an autonomous Dutch Caribbean island. The author spent months doing fieldwork at a local newspaper and interviewed 14 reporters, editors and bloggers.
St. Maarten is an interesting context to study. Similar to other small Caribbean islands, St. Maarten’s media is deeply connected to the community. The media environment suffers from vulnerabilities related to personal involvements, such as political affiliation, as well as benefits from possibilities emerging from current local journalism realities.
Rotmeijer finds that most local journalists use constructive techniques in their practices. These practices and motives are based on three ideals: to enhance local economic development, to promote engagement and belonging, and to foster social stability.
However, local political, economic, and socio-cultural factors create constraints for constructive journalism. Local journalism is dependent on commerce and is low on resources. Also, outspokenness is often feared in the small community.
Rather than constructive, news media’s role should be “disruptive, unsettling, and deconstructing of the hegemonic power dynamics in St. Maarten’s community”, Rotmeijer concludes.
The article “Words that work?” was published in Journalism and is available on the publisher’s website (abstract free).
Picture: Philipsburg, Sint-Maarten by MARELBU, license CC BY 3.0