Property and publicity

news: Property and publicity

Judy Sharp reflects on life and her world – as she sees it.

WELL NOW, there’s a thing! This real estate issue has obviously touched a few nerves, to judge from the responses I have already had. Someone, who introduced himself as Jim, who has worked in real estate here for many years and who speaks Portuguese, told me, basically, I had got it all wrong.

Another real estate agent e-mailed and offered to explain how he is putting all his staff through the exam I mentioned. Various other people e-mailed to express their views about local real estate agents, which ranged from good to, um, not so good!

So, to follow up – yes, I am talking to IMOPPI, the government association that controls construction and real estate, and to APEMIP, the association of real estate agents. I will, as Jim advised, be talking to a wider selection of real estate agents and to some lawyers. It is a subject that impacts on most people here in the Algarve – be they property owners, agents or developers – and it deserves a good airing! I shall keep you informed…

But, my real topic for today is publicity – those who shy away from it and those who actively seek it for whatever reason. Here in the Algarve we have both; and I find it interesting to observe how they both work.

Shortly after the break-in at her home, which tragically ended in the death of her husband, John, I spoke with Helen Turner. She found it hard to come to terms with the fact that she is, at least for now, a celebrity for all the wrong reasons, and she deeply resented the media intrusion into her private life at a time when she has quite enough to cope with. Physically and emotionally, she is licking her wounds right now and the last thing she needs is hounding.

There are, however, people who have a totally different relationship with the media. When it suits them, they seek to hush up any adverse publicity, but, when they feel it is appropriate, they seek an outlet in which to put forward their side of a situation – often a variation on the “poor little me” syndrome.

There has been an example of this recently in our own, glittering, Golden Triangle. From what I understand, there was a bit of a fracas in a local nightclub a while ago, and someone’s fist made contact with the nose of a well-known businessman. The owner of the bloody nose has gone public in a carefully prepared statement to a local paper under the heading “Nightclub Nightmare”. The opening sentence says: “A violent and unprovoked attack on a prominent local businessman has shocked Quinta do Lago residents.” Well, yes, I’m sure it has – or perhaps not – but compared to Helen’s ordeal, I would hardly call a bloody nose a nightmare and, on a scale of one to 10, this “violent and unprovoked attack” rates about 0.5 when compared to a break-in during which an innocent person died.

He, whose nose was bloodied, says that the psychological wounds will take a long time to heal. It is interesting (isn’t it?) that psychological effects of a physical attack are now being recognised as real and valid. I am told a man in Vale do Lobo was dragged from his sick bed a while back to face some aggressive, intimidating debt collectors, who forced their way into his home and demanded payment of a non-existent debt. There is another clear case of psychological effects as well as physical and emotional trauma.

In Helen’s case, of course, the psychological effects are enormous and will take time and, probably, professional support to overcome. She is coping with her situation with a quiet dignity and plea for privacy that would put some to shame. Interestingly, in the “Nightclub Nightmare” incident, the owner of the fist has remained silent, preferring to bide his time and tell his story in court – the only sensible way to respond.

Of course, publications have a duty to report what is happening and, as a journalist (though not from the “shock, horror” school), I am a staunch supporter of freedom of the press and defending sources of proven information. What I don’t like is gloating over someone else’s grief. Don’t you wince when a TV reporter stuffs a microphone in the face of a weeping mother and says, “so how do you feel now your young daughter has been raped, murdered and chopped into little bits?” Oh please! How the hell do you think she feels? How would you feel?

Sadly, it is part of the phenomenon of “bad news is good news” that pervades TV, radio and newspapers today, and which I found totally depressing. When was the last time that you saw a banner headline talking about the building of a new school in Iraq to provide much-needed education for the next generation? Or the success of a business generation scheme in a group of villages in Africa to give people the opportunity to live with dignity? No – what we see are stories of disasters, corruption and greed: the other side of humanity, which, it seems, is being glorified and honoured above sharing, caring and compassion.

I continue to think that it would be wonderful to have just one page a week in a leading newspaper dedicated to good news – what a positive move that would be!