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SPJ's Diversity Blog » Blog Archive » P.S. Blogging from Belize | A Society of Professional Journalists Blog

P.S. Blogging from Belize

(Begging Leo’s pardon for interrupting his flow as blogger, I hope he and readers don’t mind this postscript from Belize).

I had a great visit at Channel 5/Great Belize Productions on my last Friday in Belize.  As I said in my previous post, I worked there back in 1991-92. It was great to see some old friends and meet new ones!  I had a good chat with the boss, Amalia Mai.  She previously served as publisher at the Belize Times, which shares a building and point of view with the People’s United Party (now the opposition).  She was also a civil servant in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Belize Ambassador to Cuba under the PUP and has served as a lightening rod on various issues. Recently, she found herself at the center of the controversy over  $10 million the government of Venezuela gave Belize.  It appears that Sir Michael Ashcroft — himself a lightening rod — tapped her to head up Channel 5/Great Belize Productions not long after that.

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I found Ms. Mai to be courteous and professional.  When I told her about the journalism workshop I am working on with UWI in Belize, she immediately expressed interest in having News 5 reporters attend. I also asked her if she’d be interested in taking part in the opening forum on journalism in Belize and she answered in the affirmative. A Channel 5 employee told me she’s a can-do person who recognizes good ideas when she sees them, and wastes no time in implementation.

Later, I was escorted by my friend William Neal (who has been with Channel 5 on and off since the 1990s) on a tour of the new building on Coney Drive.

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I saw the newsroom, the brand new News 5 studio, master control, the Open Your Eyes studio (William is co-host of the popular morning show), and the production facilities.  Impressive!  Granted, it’s not hard to be on the leading edge when you have Ashcroft money behind you.

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Just as American broadcast managers often wonder just how much influence cutting edge technology and fancy sets have on viewers, it remains to be seen whether Belizeans who are loyal to Channel 7 will make the switch. I suspect not.  The quality and quantity of the actual journalism remains competitive.  And, as I’ve said elsewhere, viewers seem fairly firm in their preferences.

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Speaking of Channel 7, I was impressed by news director Jules Vasquez (whom I sat next to in primary school back in the day) and his in-depth interview with some of the players in what I think of as the Belize “fruit fight.” It’s a complex dispute among citrus growers which I am still not sure I quite understand.  At any rate, Jules is a journalist who does not pull his punches. While his studios and set may not be as pretty and cool as Channel 5’s I suspect the journalism he and his team do will keep viewers coming back for more.

So, that’s all for now.  I am back from my trip and looking forward to the next one!  By the way, below is a snapshot of the original Channel 5/Great Belize Productions facility.

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