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It is time I, Merrick Andrews, clear the air on behalf of my small but hardworking team here at St. Lucia News Online regarding the Dylan burial fiasco. I have decided enough is enough. Our aim is not only to bring news as it happens, but accurately. Our aim is also to shed light and help the less fortunate.
So no doubt on Jan. 30, 2014 when a concerned resident of Micoud contacted us, we wasted no time to jump into action to help. On that date, “a concerned community member” said “an investigation needs to be launched to ascertain why the pillion rider (Dylan of Ti Rocher, Micoud) who passed away on the motorcycle accident near the River Bank in Micoud last year have not been buried.”
We too were concerned. We believe everyone deserves a quick and dignified burial. We wondered: what was the reason behind the delay in his burial. No sooner, we found out it was a financial one, after contacting Dylan’s mother, Shirley Barthlemy, on Jan. 31, 2014.
I personally, Merrick Andrews, contacted Shirley on that date, and after identifying myself, my news company, and my intentions – like I always do – she spoke freely. She noted that a deposit of $1,000 was made at Rambally’s Funeral Parlour where the body is kept at present. She added that about $3,000 more was needed to finalise the burial of her son.
After getting her side of the story, as an experienced journalist, with over 12 years experience, I considered it my duty to contact Rambally’s Funeral Parlour to clarify mainly that: 1.The body is indeed at their parlour 2. That Shirley needs $3,000 more to complete the burial process. I also needed a photo of Dylan, and the mother told me Rambally would have one.
I thought it would have been fair to contact Rambally’s. After all, they are running a business, and it is no fault of theirs if they need the full amount of money before doing a burial.
I contacted Rambally’s shortly after, that same day. When the first person answered the phone, I identified myself and my organisation and my intentions. I was then transferred to another female (I will not disclose her identity).
I, again, identified myself and my organisation. I asked her to confirm if Dylan’s body is at the parlour and to confirm if a deposit of $1,000 was made as well as the amount of money outstanding to bury Dylan. I also asked her to give me the total cost of the burial and what is included in the package as well as a photo of Dylan.
The young lady was very kind and courteous. She confirmed ALL that Dylan’s mother said. She gave me the breakdown of the funeral cost for the burial and what it entails – which I thought was reasonable. For a package of $4,000-plus, Rambally’s was giving a good deal, I thought.
During the interview/conversation, I recalled that I spoke with a manager of Rambally’s on a separate business matter regarding obituaries late last year. I disclosed that to the young lady and told her I will be contacting them soon to discuss further. The conversation ended well. I got all the information I needed for the story: the mother’s side and Rambally’s side.
My intention: to write a story from the angle that people could assist Shirley to cover the cost of the burial.
However, not long after that I received a frantic call from one of the senior Rambally’s managers. She sounded cautious but not optimistic about us contacting them.
She said the young lady I was spoke to was a fairly new member of staff and should not have given any information. The Rambally’s manager told me sternly not to post anything regarding Rambally’s in our story. I did tell her our intention is to help Shirley, not to make Rambally’s look bad. I even disclosed what information we received from her staff member, which was basic info.
She questioned why we contacted Ramballys and why we could not have just taken Shirley’s word for it. I told her in journalism, we are taught to ensure we get both sides of the story and to ensure we verify as much as possible. She still wasn’t pleased that we contacted her company. She even mentioned that she may get her attorney/s involved. I told her that’s not necessary as we are only trying to help.
Then she said her staff thought I wanted info about an obituary based on a conversation I had with Rambally last year. She implied that I possibly misled her staff to give me information.
I explained to her that the conversation about the obituaries took place AFTER I received all the information about Dylan and that I was clear from the beginning who I am, where I was calling from and what information I needed and why. I told her as a journalist with over 12 years experience I do NOT need to mislead or trick anyone into giving me information.
Anyway, I told her that I WILL NOT quote her staff member directly. I told her all I will do in my story is to confirm that the body is still at Rambally’s and that a deposit was made. I promised her profusely that she had nothing to worry about because in the first place, the info I got was nothing controversial, just prices and clarifications.
I told her I am still interested in further discussing the other matter from 2013. She agreed. The conversation ended politely. I even promised to call her when the story is published so she could see for herself that I am a man of my word.
During the entire ordeal I was relaxed, calm and respectful, but I was very assertive. I am experienced enough to know my rights.
Anyway I wrote the story, published it and called her as promised. I did not get a negative feedback about that story from Rambally’s. I respected her decision, even though she was a bit harsh in the beginning, probably fearing negative publicity. As a businessman as well I empathised with her and decided I wouldn’t use any info, no matter how trivial. Mind you, I did NOT have to do that.
Since St. Lucia News Online broke the Jan. 31st story and a subsequent one (Feb. 5) stating that Dyan is still not buried a week later, people and organisations in and outside St. Lucia have been sympathising with Shirley and offering their assistance. Two of those organisations are SLAP (St. Lucians Aiming For Progress), a Facebook group, and Crick’s Funeral Home.
SLAP mobilised quickly to set up bank accounts so persons can make donations to Shirley. Crick’s offered to bury Dylan free of charge PROVIDING Rambally’s release the body.
We published two stories on Feb. 7 revealing SLAP’s very helpful gesture as well as Crick’s offer of assistance.
I recalled during my conversation with the Rambally’s manager where she did note that Rambally’s have made MANY donations over the years. She said the company rarely publicises its good deeds, but they have been very good corporate citizens. She did note that she runs a business and sometimes she cannot always make donations to similar situations. I do agree with her because SNO also receives a lot of requests for donations and free ads, and sometimes we can and sometimes we cannot. That’s just how it is.
I however wished I could have expressed Ms. Rambally’s gesture about donations in my first article so people do not think they are not good corporate citizens. I also understood that Dylan’s body was being held at the funeral home free of charge. I did not see anything wrong in what she explained to me but I respected her choice and decided I would just post what I am allowed to AT THE TIME.
Anyway, I have now reached close to the point of the reason I am writing this article.
Today, I instructed a reporter to follow-up on Shirley’s situation to find out if she will take up Crick’s offer and if she had received all the monies needed for the burial.
My reporter called Shirley in the morning but the phone rang out. However, my reporter finally got Shirley around 12:40 pm. During the interview Shirley said: “Rambally has the body now and since I had deposited some money already, I find it was a little drastic to take the body from them and give it to another company even though it is for free. So I didn’t take the offer.”
Our story further stated: “According to her, the Welfare Division donated $1,500 towards funeral expenses, but more money was needed to pay Rambally’s Funeral Parlour. She also informed that Rambally’s Funeral Parlour was no longer accepting donations on her behalf due to difficulties and that all will have to be done through her account. Shirley said she hopes to bury her son next week, “but since I am still short (on the funds) I was hoping that whoever it is can donate whatever they can for me because I am a mother of seven and I have six (of them) alive.”
Our reporter did not contact Rambally’s because we were warned from a previous occasion not to get them involved directly regarding quotes etc and they would not be divulging any information.
We however tried reaching Crick’s but this was futile. The story was written but without Crick’s comment. I told my staff to hold the story some more so that we could get Crick’s comment. I further instructed my staff that if we do not get Crick’s at a certain time we will go ahead and publish the story and state that we were unable to reach Crick’s.
The story was eventually published. Of course the feedback was negative towards the mother. That was expected.
But not long after the story was published I got a call from a Rambally’s senior manager, who asked to speak with the SNO manager who is responsible for posting stories. I told her I am the manager but I am not the only one posting the stories as I have staff, but she can speak to me. She then told me the story we have online is inaccurate and she has NO IDEA where we would get such information.
I asked her what information is incorrect. She said everything is incorrect. She said Dylan’s funeral expenses have been fully paid and he is scheduled to be buried next week Wednesday.
She sounded very concerned, and possibly, a bit upset. I asked her if she read the fully story, and she said yes. Then I had to ask her: “why would you say you have no idea where we got the information from?” I told her my reporter interviewed Shirley and that’s what Shirley told us.
I told her we interviewed Shirley sometime late morning to midday and held the story, pending an interview with Crick’s.
Then she said it appears as if Shirley is telling us one thing and saying another. I told her we stick to our interview and stand by our quotes. Shirley was not misquoted and we have proof of that.
Around that time, a member of SLAP also contacted SNO. The representative said, and I quote, verbatim: “Let me ask you that the story you run isn’t accurate Because mrs rambally met with miss Barthelmy this morning and agreed to buy the body for free. Plus gave her a check for 1200 to help the children….”
Below is the rest of the conversation with our SNO associate editor and the SLAP member:
SNO: I don’t understand how Ms Barthelmy could have reported that when Rambally is absorbing the costs.
SLAP member: What time did she gave you guys the info clearly it’s not right.
SNO: I got that story after 1 p.m. Is Ms Barthelmy absent-minded?
SLAP member: We need to get this story straight please if there’s a reaction to be made. its not correct guess it happen before the arrangement with ramballys.
SNO: Alright. So it’s not that the info is incorrect just that there’s been a development in the matter.
SLAP member: Yes that’s what lol. You need to update it quick because this is causing tension.
SNO: Because the impression you were giving me is that it’s inaccurate and a correction was required.
SLAP member: K. Sorry
I disclose all this to say that, St. Lucia News Online deserves more respect. It would have been courteous of Rambally’s or SLAP, to contact us and let us know of the developments before or immediately after it took place. Note, we were told the donation took place THIS MORNING? No one contacted us. And NOTE AGAIN, we spoke with Shirley at 12:40 pm. And she made no mention of a donation from Rambally’s etc. So what’s really going on here?
It is possible that Rambally’s does not want their efforts to be publicised, but what about in the interest of good public relations?
We have noted that some persons in the St. Lucian community are quick to tear us apart and label us as inaccurate, but when there is the need to contact us and clarify situations they do not do so. Some people appear to move faster to point out the negative than note our positive efforts. It is not only unfair to us who have had nothing but good intentions on this matter, but unfair to the general public who deserve clarity.
We have been attacked constantly every week about things we have no control of, or are no fault of ours. But sometimes we must speak out. Yes, in this type of business, we are told many times to grow “some thick skin and shut up”, but our reputation is NOT something I personally take lightly. Everyone who knows me personally, knows I do not take these things lightly, especially when it appears we’re being made into fools.
The media in St. Lucia has a very difficult job, even the most established ones. We are not even two years old yet, so imagine the difficulties we encounter daily with our small staff – a lot of disrespect.
Businesses and organisations must understand that sometimes it is good to speak up and make things clear than to shut up and allow confusion.
All we ask for is respect. If you do NOT understand how and why we get certain information, ask politely before judging our staff. If you speak politely to me, then you will get a polite response.
Sometime last week, someone lambasted us because we called St. Jude’s Hospital for information. They said it was “disrespectful” to try and get information from staff or management about the death of the woman and the birth of her twins. Oh really? Some people questioned “why is that news?” However, when the same story was published elsewhere on the TV, everyone went silent.
I believe moving forward we will have to devise ways in which we can sensitise the public about the role of the media and how we carry out our work, because obviously quite a few people do not understand, especially those who you expect to know better.
I will end by saying I am happy that Dylan will finally get to ‘rest’ and that Rambally’s and others have proven time and time again that St. Lucians are kind and loving people. I also say thanks to Crick’s for their quick response to assist Shirley when they got wind of the news of her financial difficulties.
This article is in no way meant to embarrass anyone. This is only meant to set the record straight because I have already note the controversy this has created unnecessarily because of poor communication on someone’s part. Definitely not on ours.
We are just appealing for more respect for our staff. Everyone has to start from somewhere. But we will get there.
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