Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Failing in the basics of journalism

I get more and more irritated that the media here think it's acceptable to publish half a story.

Simply print whatever an official says without asking obvious questions to provide clarification for their readers.

There's another example in 'Gulf News' this morning:

"Expatriates who are working in the UAE and are on vacation abroad will have to produce a medical certificate that proves they are not infected with H1N1 virus before returning to the country. The move will be implemented from August."

What certificate? Where do we get it from? Do the medical services around the world know of such a requirement and do they have such a certificate? Is a doctor's letter acceptable? What languages are acceptable, does it have to be translated into Arabic?

At which point do we have to produce the certificate, on boarding the aircraft? Are the world's airlines geared up for this? Do they even know about it?

Or if the point of entry is where we have to produce it, if we come through the e-gate who do we show it to? If we don't have a certificate are we denied entry? If we are, where do we go?

Mrs Seabee has to go to the UK for a couple of days of meetings in September. Is she supposed to add time to her trip to make an appointment with a local GP so that he can issue a 'certificate'?

Will the GP even know what she's talking about?

From writers to editors there's a constant and serious failure to do a basic professional job and provide information. What they actually do is create uncertainty and confusion.

It isn't rocket science is it, it's a fundamental basic of journalism, yet they fail on a regular basis.

Now having published this half information 'Gulf News' is duty bound to answer the questions it raises. Don't hold your breath though.

I suggest that it's a statement from an unauthorised 'official'. It was neither questioned nor checked and tomorrow another 'official' will deny it.

Whatever, it's sloppy, unprofessional and unacceptable journalism. But that's par for the course.

The half story is here.

Afternoon update

WAM, the official Emirates News Agency, is carrying a report: "'The news about this issue is completely untrue,' said Dr. Ali bin Shuker, Director of the Ministry of Health and Chairman of the Technical Health Committee for Combating Swine Flu.

You can find it here.


Mai Abaza said...

Interesting. Just scanned through the Arabic papers. Here's what I found:


Anonymous said...

Even the few facts they did report were apparently made up, WAM have refuted the story. "The reports of this issue are completely unfounded."


Anonymous said...

as usual Saebee:)
here is some help:

Anonymous said...

Jassim, I don't think you can thank AB for shining a light on this. The link says it all. This morning AB's story was headed: "Expats face swine flu ban after holidays abroad: Medical certificate will have to be shown on UAE return."

With no more clarification than GN's story they reprinted it without checking the facts.(obviously we now know clarification wasn't available because the story was rubbish).

They changed it this afternoon after WAM slammed the reports saying they were completely untrue.


Mai Abaza said...

I love how the Gulf News 'correction'is a straightforward WAM file, and doesn't say anything anywhere about "as wrongly reported by Gulf News" or "apologies for the misreporting"....


Seabee said...

Mai, very true. No reference whatsoever to the fact that it was their false story that was exposed, no apology for misleading their readers, no apology for being unprofessional journalists.

Nothing about making sure that it doesn't happen again either.

They keep telling us about their 'professional code of conduct' but all too often the 'journalists' don't check what they're told, don't ask the blindingly obvious questions, and editors and management allow unverified stories to run.

Anonymous said...

From writers to editors there's a constant and serious failure to do a basic professional job and provide information. What they actually do is create uncertainty and confusion.

It isn't rocket science is it, it's a fundamental basic of journalism, yet they fail on a regular basis.

What real incentive do local newspapers have to report things accurately? They are, after all, little more than mouth pieces of the Dubai government and are no doubt subsidised by it or otherwise coerced by it in various ways. I would guess that providing a public service is low on their list of priorities. Is there any "real" competition for readers in the local market that might encourage better writing or editing? It all comes back to a lack of accountability; the interests of local media are inextricably linked to the interests of the government. They are not in a position to hold it accountable. I don't think that local standards of journalism or editing can be viewed in isolation of these factors.

Anonymous said...

I think the problem is that there is no reliable source to verify anything.Different people from the same government departments say different things and no one knows if the statements made are official or not. Even if an official statement was made the next day they blatantly refuse thet such a statement was ever made.

Grace in Dubai said...

This just happens over and over here! I don't know whether to believe the story in the morning news or WAIT for a "clarification" later in the afternoon. Crazy stuff.

My husband who works for the travel industry was so stressed with the phone calls he got from his clients entering UAE as tourists. "Will tourists need the medical certificates too?" and "How about expats in the UAE who travel out for business trip, will they need the certificate when they come back?"

As usual, the paper just said the story was untrue, and you're right, no apologies, whatsoever for the confusion that THEY started!