The Wisdom of an Outsider’s View

A visiting journalist recently drew my attention to a cutting from The Times newspaper, taken from the 24th April, 2008, in which a reporter who had briefly worked for the local television outfit here in Jersey, wrote of just how “dismal, embarrassing and shaming” the experience had been.

I re-produce the article below.

Patrick Muirhead, after working for BBC Radio 4, came to Jersey to take up a job with Channel Television. I remember his brief time in Jersey, but I hadn’t come across this particular article before.

It’s amazing just how quickly – incisively – some people can grasp the fundamental truths of a place; often in ways that entirely elude most of the local population. When the visiting journalist showed me this press-cutting, I read it, and said of the author, ‘That’s it. He has absolutely nailed it. That – in a nut-shell – says all you need to know about “The Jersey Way” and the toxic, corrupt and suborned local media.’

You see, it isn’t only me and virtually everyone who possesses a non-establishment view, who can see those who work in the Jersey media for the collection of posturing, vacuous shysters they so obviously are.

The co-host Mr. Muirhead refers to, was one Kristina Moore – mockingly known locally as “Mrs. Ozouf” for the amount of time she spends at the court of the aforesaid Phil; the man with about as much grasp of sustainable economics as an Enron accountant.

Channel Television is itself a wholly toxic propaganda device of the local oligarchy – run as it is by Karine Rankine, and her husband Glenn Rankine – spin-doctor to oligarchy politicos and the person who was leaking my direct communications with Channel Television straight to Frank Walker.

I complained about that gross breach of the Data Protection Law, to Emma Martins actually. Needless to say, she flatly refused to take any action – the Data Protection Law not applying to the Jersey oligarchy, and especially not Ms. Martins cocktail party circuit friends.

To readers who are not familiar with “The Jersey Way”, reading the brief article below will serve as an excellent primer on the toxic, lawless and scarcely democratic environment so may of us struggle against.


Jersey’s culture of concealment

By Patrick Muirhead

From The Times
April 24, 2008

They have a saying on the island of Jersey: “If you don’t like it, there’s always a boat in the morning.” Four years ago I gladly took those directions – by air, if not by sea – and departed the island and, in so doing, also my TV news career.

After seven years as a BBC Radio 4 newsreader, I was briefly the anchorman of the nightly local ITV news in the Channel Islands, an experience etched in my memory as dismal, embarrassing and shaming. I was shackled from pursuing any punchy journalism in a laughably amateurish TV outfit for fear of upsetting the station’s friends, outmanoeuvred by an ambitious co-host and unwelcome in an island where I was an outsider.

The implicit message in the morning boat maxim is that Jersey islanders do not entertain criticism or complaint. And that is how we arrive at the unsurprising revelation that institutional child abuse was covered up for all those years.

Now, as the sinister layers of the island’s secrets are unpeeling, and the awkward questions I wished were mine are being asked, I wonder how differently the lives of those at Haut de la Garenne might have been if the media had done its job.

In an island of 90,000 souls, one is only removed from another by the smallest step of separation. The island’s Chief Minister, Frank Walker, had a cameraman son at the TV channel where I worked; a senior politician’s mistress was a TV reporter on the island. My co-host’s home became a popular salon for politicians and decision-makers. In such an atmosphere of closeness, any meaningful challenge becomes impossible. “You rub people up the wrong way,” she said, primly dismissing my methods.

After I left, my integrity, professional ability and popularity were trashed by a hostile and defensive Jersey media and island population. It is the aggressive defensiveness of Jersey people that may undo any attempt to reconcile the past wrongdoing at Haut de la Garenne. The unwillingness to invite outsiders to probe or criticise is almost insurmountable.

Jersey is entrenched in a concealment culture dating from its wartime Nazi collaboration, reinforced by its shadowy banking industry and confirmed by its new notoriety as a cradle for rampant paedophilia. In such a whisper world, the only audible sound is the gentle rustle of nests being feathered. There are simply too many there with too much to lose.

If Jersey stands any chance of rebuilding the public’s shattered affection for an isle of flowers and sandy shores, Bergerac and pretty dairy cattle, there must be expiation, demonstrable remorse and a change in the island’s executive.

Perhaps more importantly there should be change in the media that failed to hold the powers to account. Because when the voices of the vulnerable are not heard by authority, the influence of an attentive media is perhaps their last hope. The frightened children incarcerated at Haut de la Garenne must have dreamt that they too could board that boat in the morning.

Patrick Muirhead.

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