The Guyana state newspaper, Guyana Chronicle, was ethnically biased in its composition and hiring practices during the tenure of the APNU led coalition regime. There was blatant discrimination against people of Mixed, Amerindian, and Indian ancestry. Over three quarters of its staff was of only one ethnicity (Africans) with Amerindians, Mixed and Indians severely underrepresented; there was no one of Chinese or Portuguese background employed in the media house. The electronic broadcasting arm, TV and radio, of the state was also almost exclusively of one ethnicity although it had a slightly higher percentage of Mixed in its staff than in the Chronicle. The newspaper and electronic arms of the state are urgently in need of ethnic equity in employment practices. The state arms must reflect the rainbow composition of the nation if people are to have confidence in its reporting and on reading or watching state media entities.
Dr. Vishnu Bisram, eminent pollster and prolific writer/researcher,I conducted an investigation into the ethnic composition of staff of the newspaper during the APNU led regime (May 2015 to July 2020) and since the change of administration on August 2 when the PPP was returned to office after a free and fair election. He found the below ethnic distribution of staff of Chronicle for the years 2020 and 2015 when the APNU+AFC and PPP respectively left office. The findings reveal Africans were/are over-represented in the workforce of the paper during the APNU administration and it was more ethnically balanced under the PPP. He recommends that more Amerindians, Indians, and Mixed must be brought into the production of the newspaper.
The percentage numbers clearly show that under PPP governance, Chronicle had a fairly fair distribution in the composition of its staff vis-à-vis the proportion in the national population that Africans were over-represented. The editorial department under the PPP, with Mark Ramotar as Editor-in-Chief was very balanced with around 55% Africans, 35% Indians and 10% others. The management and finance departments were also fairly balanced with 40% presence of Indians and 60% Africans. The varied columnists under the PPP also was reflective of the ethnic composition of the population with a balance between Africans and Indians and Mixed. However, under the coalition (June 2015 to July 2020), the editorial department was 85% Africans, 10% Indians and 5% others and also included a dominance by Africans in management, finance, marketing, library, security etc. There was only one Indian in the management section of the paper during the APNU administration.
In terms of total workforce, production of the paper, Africans were slightly over represented under the PPP (56% of staff when they accounted for just under 30% of the population) and Indians slightly under-represented (30% of staff when Indians accounted for 42% of the population) as were Mixed and Amerindians. The PPP inherited a staff in 1992 that was 90% African and brought some degree of racial balance, bringing in Amerindians and Mixed in addition to Indians to make it reflective of the composition of the population. Because they were not employed in the state media, Indians, Mixed, and Amerindians did not pursue training for a role in media. But once hiring in the media opened up to all ethnicities, members of all backgrounds proceeded to qualify themselves for hiring, leading to an increase in the percentage of Mixed, Amerindians, and Indians.
The Indian presence in the state publication was significantly reduced under the coalition (from June 2015) from 35% to a mere 15% when Indians accounted for 40% of the population. The presence of staff from other ethnic groups was also significantly reduced to a mere quarter of their proportional representation in the total population. It was akin to a return to the Burnhamite days during the coalition that pursued total domination by one ethnicity, accounting for 77% of the staff of some 72 employees. If cleaning staff and drivers and all employees are included totaling close to 100, Africans would be in excess of 82% of staff when the African composition of the population is only 29%. News coverage in the media also centered around one ethnicity and one political party, PNC or APNU during the tenure of the racist coalition. Much has changed since August with the change in administration with more balanced coverage in the state media as well as in hiring of staff and contracting of columnists.
Under the coalition, preference in hiring practices was given to Africans at the expense of Indians, Mixed, and Amerindians. Newsroom diversity is very important. The present management of Chronicle should seek to restore greater equity and balance in the composition of the workforce hiring more Amerindians, Mixed, and Indians – in the editorial department, contracting of columnists, production unit, library staff, secretarial, and in other departments. The paper must seek to attain full integration of newsrooms and balanced coverage of the varied groups in the nation. Since the change in administration in August, there has been an attempt to bring equity in composition of the editorial staff and management, but more needs to be done. Almost all the columnists were of one ethnicity under the coalition. But over the last month, there has been an effort to bring some kind of balance with the introduction of a few Indians columnists and in the editorial management.
Compared with Chronicle, the other three daily newspapers, Stabroek News, Guyana Times, and Kaieteur News have had a fairly balanced distribution in ethnic composition of management and overall staff as well as columnists.
The ethnic composition of staff would have a negative effect on production of a media unit. Lack of diversity de-motivates staff at any workplace. A balanced ethnic distribution of staff is likely to lead to greater work ethic and productivity. A discrimination free environment is an incentive to work harder. The Chronicle must recruit, train, and employ a diverse staff that looks like Guyana. Ethnic distribution of workforce at Guyana Chronicle in %
|% of Pop*.||29||40||19||11||01|
- % Population Estimated for year 2020
- For May 2020 percentage figures, when cleaning staff and drivers of vehicles are included in the staff numbers, the percentage of Africans climbed to nearly 82%, Indians declined to 12%, Mixed 4%, and Amerindians 2%.