Contrasting interviews with Sherod Duncan and Ruel Johnson
Wednesday morning, I spoke with Bert Wilkinson after I learnt he walked out of the Chronicle Board meeting to discuss the Hinds/Lewis issue. Early in the afternoon, I sought an interview with Ruel Johnson after I was informed that the said meeting upheld the decision of the editor in chief (EIC) to discontinue the columns of Hinds and Lewis. I wanted Johnson’s views as to what was his future on the board.
Bert said he had had enough of what was taking place at the meeting, and since it went in the wrong direction, he chose to leave. Johnson intoned that he has handed in his resignation because he feels deeply regretful at the attitude the Chronicle manifested; it hits at the heart of his ideological beliefs about the right to express a dissenting opinion, and he could no longer function with such a board. He asserted that the state-owned media must have differing viewpoints.
My interview with Johnson was the exact opposite to Sherod Duncan. I told Duncan what he was saying to me I found deeply disturbing. My dialogue with Duncan lasted for ten minutes. It was clear to me that he stood by his position and three times said to me, “I hear your words of wisdom” but at no time retracted the position he took at the Tuesday Chronicle board conference.
Duncan put forward the view that he believes and accepts that the editor-in-chief has the right to make decisions and the board should uphold that right. He intimated that he, Duncan, was not concerned with any other issue but accepting the right of the EIC to carry out his functions. He said Nigel Williams, the EIC, had the authority to act, and his vote at the board meeting was to concede that.
I took Duncan on a journey into law, morality, history and philosophy, about the right conferred on an actor, but that actor can use that right to make decisions that do away with people’s freedom.
But Duncan seemed unmoved. This was not the Duncan I knew when he was a radical student at UG and I was a radical lecturer. People change, and though I would say I haven’t changed, I am convinced after speaking on record with Sherod Duncan, that he is not the champion of justice that I saw him as when he was a UG student.
I spent about five minutes talking to him about the rights conferred by law on the Mayor of Georgetown and the Town Clerk, yet he (Duncan)would like to see both of them removed. I cited the example where the Mayor was legally advised that Duncan’s motion of no-confidence against the Town Clerk was legally improper, and asked if he would apologize to the Town Clerk and the Mayor.
He did not answer. I pointed to the recent development in the City Council in which a motion was passed to discipline him. I indicated that the motion was based on the legal right of the City Council to discipline him and if he would accept being disciplined. He did not answer.
I told Duncan that he has lost credibility, but at no time in the interview did he ever hint that maybe he didn’t understand what he did at the board meeting or wanted to move away from his original position. He cut short the interview saying he didn’t want me to think he was hanging up on me when his credit is exhausted, so he preferred to go.
This was certainly not the Duncan I knew when we were members of the UG community, but I knew since I was a lad in Wortmanville, and I still know, that power changes people. Four board members of the Chronicle plus Lincoln Lewis told me this week that Duncan is about to be named the new general manager of the Chronicle.
I am in receipt of a very perturbing public letter written by Chronicle Board member, Troy Edmonson, asking for the Board to discipline one of its members, Bert Wilkinson, for the shape of his participation at the Tuesday meeting. With reference to how Wilkinson may have argued in his presentation, Edmonson wrote; “we are not barbaric creatures living in the Congo.”
I may be wrong, so I should be careful how I word my sentences. Is Edmonson referring to humans in the Congo as barbaric creatures? Is he referring to the civil war in that country and wants to make a point about human bestiality? Why not refer to Nazi Germany or Serbian atrocities against Bosnian Muslims? Why an example from Africa?