by a Blog Reader

This blog post cannot understand how the relatives and friends of The Times’ hogged the judging panel for the national journalism competition and gave the trophy case to The Times’ reporters. It was pointed out that one judge, Ariadne Massa, is the ex-wife of Herman Grech, the Times’ editor-in-chief. Ariadne used to work at The Times for over 20 years. Another big cheese, Matthew Xuereb, the assistant editor of the same newspaper, selected the judges for the competition. What’s there not to fume about this? Just like the same nonsense where government ministers stick their wives and ex-wives on government boards. Bias in competitions and government assignments is evidently the norm in a land gripped by Joe Debono Grech’s philosophy of patronage.

Each journalism judge was presented with folders filled with press releases modified by journalists who added their names to them. It is hard to read all the articles from scratch. When we encounter a vast amount of information, we might employ bias as a tool to understand better in a shorter time. For instance, we might resort to stereotypes to promptly classify journalists. This can facilitate a faster processing of a significant volume of information. The judges rely on stereotypes to cut through. If an article comes from the Nationalist Party press, the judge knows that anything Labour in it is presented in a disparaging light. If it’s from The Times, pre-Hillman, it’s as paid for, and ordered, by the sponsor, Keith Schembri. But only post-Hillman articles were judged this year.

Being part of the larger Times family serves as a motivation for the individual members to disprove of others and attain greater achievements that any of the same people could attain on their own. The label “tat-Times” incentivizes the Massas, Xuerebs and Grechs to strategize harder, to demonstrate that they are more capable than anyone else. Bias motivates them to achieve more and give personalized attention to their own. This creates a more supportive and nurturing environment for their preferred journalists.

Bias can unite people who may not have otherwise formed a connection. For instance, individuals who share a bias against the man in the street and against conservatives may unite to establish an elite community of Maltingliż or Pepè wokesters. That’s how Herman met Ariadne at The Times and how the friendly wink-wink journalism competition keeps them joined at the hip. It’s not as if Ariadne Massa makes a secret of this. Her company is called Media Insiders (yep, insiders). She couldn’t be more honest. She has gone on record saying that her company makes your “organization stand out [through] reputation management.” As a conservative it gives me great joy to see married couples scratching each other’s back. This is why ministers stuff their ex-wives on government boards. Love endures all tribulations unless the minister is putting his ex-wife on the public payroll to cut down on his alimony payments.

If The Times of Malta wants to salvage its reputation, it should open an investigation about this year’s competition. Demonstrate a sincere willingness to fight bias in journalism competitions. However, its fight will not be won by hounding the judges or those that selected them. Instead, the Times should foster honest discussions within its columns about why the powers that be held biased views. It should expose the flawed logic behind the selection of the winners. And it should propose that for the future, journalists shouldn’t be allowed to judge journalists on a tiny island where journalists know each other too well for our comfort. One doesn’t have to be a journalist to qualify as a judge for a competition that values high quality articles in the press. Press on for future judges who don’t have a conflict of interest. Bias at The Times is nothing new but a bias recognized is a bias sterilized.

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