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Avoid mauvais langue says LA Times editor

Sunday, October 28, 2012
Los Angeles Times Media Group Editor Davan Maharaj, left, receives an Honorary Doctor of Letters Degree (DLitt) from Chancellor of the University of the West Indies George Alleyne.

Avoid mauvais langue. Journalist par excellence, recipient of the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters (DLitt), Honoris Causa Davan Maharaj encouraged society to strive for the truth. Maharaj, editor of the Los Angeles Times, as well as doyen among local journalists Therese Mills (DLitt) were both honoured during the presentation of graduates 2012, at UWI Spec, St Augustine, yesterday.


Elegantly attired students from the Faculty of Medical Sciences were anxious about moving into professional life. They were commended for seeking higher learning. Offering kernels of wisdom, Maharaj said, “We all heard of mauvais langue, a penchant for gossip, for spreading lies, hearsay, or in my world as a journalist, to report a story without the full set of facts, a half-story. It is something my grandmother (growing up in Palmyra) warned me about.”


Maharaj added:

“As journalists we are often left to wonder how our trade can survive in democracies that espouse freedom of speech, where freedom of speech is both celebrated and abused. The question is all the more profound if you are like me and you believe in the power of stories, narratives to connect people to events, to trends and to one another. Now as ever before, we need the press to hold a mirror up to society, to moderate discussions about race and money, privilege and disadvantage.”


In an effort to rid society of mauvais langue, Maharaj became a custodian of the Fourth Estate (journalists). “It was an opportunity to dispel gossip, tell the truth, and to tell truth to power.” Maharaj did not discount the influence of the Internet which was forcing all professional trades to change.


“Journalists hear from readers who have heard a different account of the news. Lawyers hear from clients who have heard the laws. Architects hear from customers who might have drawn their own building plans. Very soon doctors would be hearing from patients who have diagnosed themselves on the Internet. They would ask them to e-mail the prescriptions.”


On a lighter note, Maharaj said he would boast about being from two places (T&T). “Now with UWI’s backing, I can say I belong to 18 different places—from Bermuda to Belize.” Quizzed on how she felt about her doctorate, Mills, Newsday Editor-in-Chief, said “Very happy. I would advise budding journalists to work hard.” 


Valedictorian Maryam Mohammed paid kudos to dean Samuel Ramsewak for the improvements made at Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex. She reminded her fellow graduands they had accepted a calling to one of the noble professions. Cherian Woodruffe, president of the UWI Alumni Association led graduates in reciting the pledge to ensure UWI’s place as a Caribbean icon: the catalyst for Caribbean development and change.


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