Editor: a person employed by a newspaper, whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to see that the chaff is printed.
~ Elbert Hubbard, from The Roycraft Dictionary of Epigrams (1914)
Well, today’s maritime press seems to be doing a good job of turning out more chaff than wheat. Every story, as journalists learned in school, should be able to answer the Five W’s: Who, What, When, Where and Why. The first four are easy enough to handle. The last is more challenging. It requires an inquisitive mind and a certain amount of cynicism on the part of journalists. Here are some questions the maritime press has not been asking:
1. What’s behind the call of the Sailors’ Society to make wellness training for seafarers mandatory?
2. Why is the annual ‘Day of the Seafarer’ spearheaded by the International Maritime Organization (IMO)? Why not the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN agency dealing with labour standards and promoting decent work for all women and men?
3. What is being done to address the training overload on seafarers?
4. Why has no woman ever been elected to the post of IMO secretary-general?
5. Why are gender equality and racial and religious discrimination not covered by ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 — the so-called “bill of rights” for seafarers?
6. What is the real significance and practical value of the IMO ‘white list’?
7. How does the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) decide which particular training institutions to inspect?
8. Why is it taking so long for the European Commision to rule on the proposed derecognition of Philippine seafarer certificates?
9. Why are shipowners who abandon their crews not being held to account?
10. Why are strict rules being imposed on ship emissions when cows are more polluting than ships? (International shipping accounts for about 2.2% of all global greenhouse gas emissions as againt 14.5% for the global livestock).
That such questions (and many others) are not being asked is hardly surprising. The maritime press in general has become an echo chamber for the maritime establishment and the PR firms. It will not, and dare not, rock the boat by going beyond the facts and asking questions that could well disturb the status quo.