Last week a Beaconite went to take photographs of the fire at the incinerator in Pockwood Pond. To get there, he walked up a public road leading to the facility. As he neared the building, however, a well-known policeman began shouting at him and asking how he got there. When the Beaconite explained that he had walked up a public road, the officer accused him of crossing a police barrier. The Beaconite explained that he had not noticed a police barrier. So the officer escorted him to the junction at the main road and showed him a few traffic barrels that had been set up across part of the entrance to the road. The Beaconite pointed out that there was room for a car to pass through — which in fact happened as they looked on — and no police tape. The officer was good-natured, but argued that the journalist should have known better than to walk past the traffic barrels, which were far from the fire. The Beaconite respectfully disagrees. He understands that police need to ensure the public’s safety, but if they wish to cordon off an area they should do more than put down a few barrels, which are used for various purposes in the territory. Police also should do their best to give reporters space to do their job.
Checking the facts
A Beaconite recently went on JTV Channel 55 to discuss media coverage of the coming elections. Though as a print journalist he tends to feel a bit uncomfortable behind the camera, host Cathy Richards made him feel right at home. He encourages readers to check out the discussion on JTV’s Facebook page. He also wants to repeat here a point he made on the show: As the campaign season gets under way and questionable claims began to fly, he hopes that residents will help VI journalists with their fact-checking by consulting resources like the archives at bvibeacon.com. In this digital age, there is plenty of easily accessible information that can be used to assess the oftentimes wild claims that politicians make. The Beacon will do its best to keep up, but media outlets need all the help they can get from the public. So anyone who smells a whopper can get in touch by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 494-3434.
A Beaconite’s story about the BVI Tourist Board posted on social media recently garnered dozens of comments about what needs to change in the territory to make it more welcoming for tourists: everything from adding more ferries, lowering customs fees, making the territory’s airport more attractive and ensuring customs and immigration officers are friendly, not to mention finding a new home for the Willy T. These are legitimate concerns. However, some tourists apparently don’t understand that many such issues are outside the purview of the BVITB, which is primarily a marketing arm and has no power over customs or ferries or airports or harbours that range across multiple ministries and departments. The BVITB understands the issues and is working to get visitors back, but it has no power over many nuts-and-bolts concerns without central government stepping in. And that, as in many things, can be a slow and frustrating process.
Almost every time a Beaconite returns to Tortola after being abroad, Immigration officials in the immediately assume that she must be a tourist. Those interactions typically begin along of the lines of: “Excuse me miss, this queue is for residents only,” and end with a bewildered expression on the official’s face after hearing that yes, in fact, the reporter does live here. This weekend, an employee even glanced over her declaration form — managing to miss the fact that she was in the residents’ line and the box clearly ticked “resident” — and stamped the Beaconite’s passport with a visitor stamp before asking how long she planned to stay. In the grand scheme of things, these particular assumptions about residency are not a big deal. And the Beaconite knows that she has likely jumped to conclusions about others in the past, and has had to evaluate her own biases after having assumed wrong. The reporter is sure that Virgin Islanders have also had to deal with a slew of stereotypes from visitors and expatriates. But everyone — including the Beaconite — should try to avoid generalising about people, even if it’s just within the Immigration line and on one small island.