Time(s) to change

First hitting the streets in colonial Malta in 1935, The Times of Malta is an English-language newspaper with allegedly the highest circulation. In many ways it has been a point of reference to current affairs on these Maltese islands, but in recent times its monopoly and in some ways its reputation has somewhat faded. It is rumoured that during the dark days of the war when Malta gained a reputation as the most bombed nation in the world that The Times of Malta hardly missed an edition. Indeed The Times kept up the tradition of never missing an issue when twice hit by industrial action in 1973 and when arsonists burned the building down on October 15, 1979.

Today though the landscape of media not only in Malta but internationally of course has changed dramatically.  News and access to it has had a major overhaul and thanks to the Internet, broadcasting, rolling news formats and the remnants of print the face of reporting the news these days is a great deal different to that of some years ago.

Today, like most media, The Times of Malta enjoys an international audience online.  Instant (okay, almost instant) news stories from these Mediterranean islands can be beamed locally and internationally to a growing worldwide readership.  As a result one would have thought that an island with a population of just over 404,000 would have capitalised on this new technology especially from the viewpoint of highly competitive tourism and dog-eat-dog inward investment.  A national newspaper painting a positive and well considered view of the nation can pay huge dividends.

Over the past few years The Times of Malta it would appear has taken a somewhat tabloid-ish and downmarket route with this gleaming new technology.  Its almost ‘open door policy’ towards readers “comments” has led to extreme criticism of this once respected and much loved editorial vehicle.

For some strange reason (probably the desperate desire to boost readership) this newspaper, for which every political side in Malta clamours to have a headline, has chosen to allow “comments” from readers with apparently no vetting process whatsoever.  The result is a ghastly rather repulsive mix of unrepresentative comments, racism and general nastiness that seemed to fester nearly every section of their editorial on-line.  To the untrained eye one would be led to believe that these ramblings represent the general feeling is of this nation.  Only if you are a Maltese national or somebody who knows the nation well would understand that of course these bizarre and ill thought out, badly written snippets come from only the minds of an extremely tiny minority. Yet they gain such huge prominence through these pages and on to the desktops of the unsuspecting and naive reader.

Over the last couple of days through the pages of The Times of Malta the blame for the serious immigration crisis in Malta has been put at the door of the British (the favoured whipping stick!), the French and most nations in the European Union.

Great Britain, indeed France, has a substantial immigration problem and in itself has faced this crisis over a great many years.  Like Malta we in the UK are an island race and as such we only have so much space and resource especially in these times of hardship.  So before the Maltese ‘comment faction’ start throwing bricks at us through the pages of The Times of Malta they should understand one thing and that is that the European Union and your British friends fully support you and equally can fully sympathise with this current situation.

Because of Malta’s size and resources honestly this matter is proportionately larger in certain respects.  But the first thing that everybody needs to understand is that before pointing fingers at other nations, all of your friends in Europe do sympathise and will help in every possible way to alleviate the critical problem for the people of Malta and the government.  But as I say this matter is not helped by a national newspaper that continues to publish as ‘comments’ unfounded and unsubstantiated garbage based on speculation, and hearsay and rumour.  It does nothing for relations between Malta and the whole of Europe (and the rest of the world) at a time when we are all bending over backwards to show solidarity, compassion and friendship to those nations we feel close to us.

The owners and editors of The Times of Malta, should get a grip on themselves and begin to vet the ridiculous, sometimes hurtful, frequently racist and nasty comments that they allow to be published through their website and therefore read by the international community.

By writing this I am not necessarily supporting British attitude (past or present) but looking at this whole situation from an objective point of view.  The silliness and stupidity must stop immediately and make way for realistic, well considered and genuine comments through the pages of this once respected national Maltese newspaper.

Sadly by default, by publishing these comments read by the wider general public who only have a basic grip on Maltese life will view this attitude and opinion as the “norm” which of course is very far from the truth.  The Times of Malta should be a little bit more responsible.

It’s quite possible that this newspaper targets the lowest possible common denominator to increase its sales and readership.  I feel that in this highly competitive media world that we live and seemingly enjoy this policy might well backfire when the consumer finally realise they deserve something a little better than these gross, cock-eyed and downmarket comments that originate from the pits.

Ian Waugh