I am a former Secretary of the Media Association of Trinidad and Tobago, MATT. I served under Marlan Hopkinson and he is in huge part responsible for me having agreed to run for the post when I did. It was tumultuous and interesting.
On Saturday MATT is hosting a General Meeting at which an Executive is to be elected. It is beyond obvious that commitment to the organisation, even if gauged just by meeting attendance is low. The executive at any given time I believe does its best but still hardly seems able to do what is necessary to engender more than a passing interest in its goings ons.
MATT fell prey to its own personality last week. You see it has become no more than a source of sound bytes and so when an internal matter involving executive members erupted at the Trinidad Guardian himself seemed to speak for himself. Personally I have no problem with how the events unfurled as I believe you really can only work with the information at hand at the time in responding to a matter.
This is not its biggest concern at the time, though, as I see it. Under our executive the question of inclusion came up. I was never comfortable with it because my view was in the minority, that MATT remains as an organisation open primarily to journalists with Associate membership open to others including new media and radio disc jockeys and announcers.
My feeling is that journalists are governed by different and established ethics while those other areas of media are not. How with one broad stroke would an association with a history of agenda and principles now serve to represent a more inclusive set?
At the beginning of our term the fire storm raged over the comments by an announcer at a media house that prompted a visit by the then prime minister. In fact it was the same day our team was elected and just some meters away on Abercromby Street that Mr Manning and his detail "stormed" into the media house. Yes MATT had to have a position. We subsequently, much to the disapproval of many commentators, met with Mr Manning about the state of the media in the country. At that meeting I asked the Prime Minister if it were a positive comment made about the proposed CNG conversion if he would have "visited" the media house to which he answered yes.
Many saw our visit to the Prime Minister as weak and pandering. It was the wish of the President and while as an executive we were guided by consensus suffice it to say we were never sure we agreed with our critics. This is how MATT operates as an executive that is charged with responsibilities and with the power to determine its course.
In our time we held less than well attended but valuable workshops and powerful luncheons that saw better attendance and more interest. We were prudent with spending and responsive as necessary.
Im not sure I'm attending Saturday's meeting: I haven't paid dues and I'm not sure where I stand on the matters now before field.
The issue of membership is thorny. It seems the organisation is poised to sell its soul in the pursuit of fresh blood that may again make it relevant beyond providing sound bytes. There are the matters of MATT Awards, fund raising and scholarships, all hallmarks of successful executives. MATT can't be all things to all people. It must remember its moorings while growing and defining its course. My fears may be unfounded in this regard in that new members may also provide the manpower and energy needed to achieve anything. They must first make their presence felt though and I guard against banking on the promise of support that is so lacking from the current body the organisation serves.
There is a question though about if MATT can survive without expanding its membership. The question will also arise what does MATT offer members. Its a quagmire and a daunting and sometimes seemingly thankless role, working to sort it out.
Its not easy serving on a MATT executive and its not easy not serving either but it may be because for whatever reason, to me, MATT matters.