MATT suffers from the challenges that affect small voluntary associations: lack of funds, manpower and resources. Few of its members are willing to contribute the time and energy needed to keep the organisation running.
It's ironic that an association made up of journalists is as little known and so much misunderstood as the Media Association. Its members are in the business of communication, and yet they have struggled for the past two decades to get their message across and to rally their colleagues to the cause.
The aims of the association are to defend the interests of journalists and to promote high standards of journalism. No one can deny that those are worthy aims. And yet the association's executive at present finds itself without a quorum, and is thus unable to put any of its plans into action. For several years now, too, MATT has found it impossible to hold the gala awards ceremony which was once the highlight of the journalistic calendar. The sponsorship needed to host an event on such a grand scale has simply not been forthcoming.
Worse still, the corporate citizens who give so generously to other groups are reluctant even to contribute towards the relatively minor cost of the seminars and workshops that MATT puts on for its members from time to time. Aimed at improving the skills and knowledge of the media community, these events are intended to compensate as far as possible for the worrying absence of training offered by most media houses.
It is possible that these organisations share some of the widespread misconceptions about MATT, and are under the impression that the group has some regular and substantial source of income. There is also a mistaken belief that the group is a trade union, and that it possesses disciplinary powers.
Even within the profession, there are misunderstandings about it: for instance, that only reporters are eligible to join. In fact, membership of MATT is also open to photographers, cameramen, subeditors, and all the practitioners of other specialised skills who populate newsrooms, as well as freelancers.
MATT suffers from the challenges that affect any small voluntary association: lack of funds, manpower and resources. Few of its members or potential members are willing to contribute the time and energy needed to keep the organisation running, and it depends on the work of a few stalwarts.
But a media organisation has special problems. Journalists, by inclination and training, are not believers or joiners. As practised in this country, their profession requires them to be sceptical and to refrain from supporting political and social causes, in case they are accused of bias. It was for this reason that a chorus of disapproval ensued after the last general election, when a number of journalists left the field for more lucrative jobs in the employ of the Government and the ruling party.
Journalism in Trinidad and Tobago, however, is not a well-regarded profession, and this lack of respect is reflected in the remuneration offered by employers.
As a result, within the sector, there is a high turnover and little professional self-respect, and so it is a difficult task to recruit new members for MATT and to maintain strength of numbers. Nevertheless, when there is a crisis that affects journalists, or an incident involving issues of journalistic standards, the cry goes up: "What is MATT doing about it?"
Sadly, it does not seem to occur to those members of the media who are critical of the organisation that if they wish it to reflect their views, they need to join it and make those views known; or that if they want it to do more, they should offer their time and their skills to make that feasible. It would be a pity if MATT were allowed to die now, through the apathy of those whose interests it has tried to promote for 20 years, often at times when there was no one else to speak out on behalf of the media.