There is little research on the role of journalism in Caribbean countries. However, Juliette Storr (2014) has argued that ‘Caribbean journalism is constrained by political, economic, and social forces that limit its effectiveness in upholding the ideals of democracy.’
For Storr, the importance of journalism that is commercially profitable has negatively impacted the importance of ‘social good’ as an outcome in Caribbean journalism.
Storr interviewed persons working in journalism in the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. She found that since the late-1980s, ‘Media has become big business in the Caribbean’, as many state-owned companies were privatised. Bucking the trend in regions like Europe and North America, Caribbean newspapers experienced an increase in circulation in this period, and a growth in profits as media markets became increasingly more competitive.
The privatisation of news and the increasingly competitive marketplace resulted in the formation of large media conglomerates. For example, Barbados has two daily newspapers, the Barbados Nation and the Barbados Advocate. In 2005, the Nation merged with the Trinidadian media company, ‘Caribbean Communications Network’, to become the largest media conglomerate in the region. The Advocate too has since been purchased by a media company from Antigua. In Trinidad and Tobago, the market is dominated by ‘Caribbean Communications Network’, which owns the Trinidad Express and a host of other media outlets.
Storr is critical of the lack of anti-trust legislation which could keep such commercial monopolies in check. Storr writes that having broken state control of the media, market forces may actually be a more frightening prospect.
Many of those interviewed by Storr were critical of the content of Caribbean journalism. The journalists interviewed believed that profit came at the expense of falling standards:
‘Many of the interviewees believe there is a greater emphasis on sensational, tabloid style journalism, increased mergers, and layoffs.’
In this context, tabloid style journalism refers to ‘the old formula: if it bleeds it leads.’ Storr writes that ‘The formula is simplistic and sensational coverage, not complicated, in-depth information.’
Storr concluded that:
‘To feed a 24/7 news cycle, news organizations publish more sensational stories to get the audience’s attention.’