Mon | Jan 21, 2019

NEEDED: Better news reporting in 2015

Published:Monday | January 12, 2015 | 12:00 AM


When the inevitable scandals of 2015 arise, I hope for the sake of journalism that we'll do a better job of reporting on them than we did last year. The examples are plenty but I'll use the Outameni saga as one.

Coverage of the scandal highlighted our media's shortcomings of poking pins and listening to the response rather than fully investigating and then reporting. First, they declared that "the NHT purchased the Outameni attraction", then quickly corrected with legalese that it was "the Orange Grove property housing Outameni". Then they implied that National Housing Trust (NHT) contributors financed the purchase and then revealed it was actually acquired using funds the NHT earns from investments and interest-yielding deposits. The entire coverage was sloppy.

Responsible journalism dictates that a media house first obtains contracts and records of a transaction before breaking headlines; giving it the ammo to steer the debate in the public's interest. But it was perhaps the desire to be first at breaking the news why they all printed front-page stories without substance (poking pins) and then stepped back, allowing the NHT to lead the narrative (hearing the response).

Unfortunately, the entity only brought focus to the legality of the purchase and interpretation of the clauses in the NHT Act, drowning all other discussions. We missed a great opportunity to debate, for instance: Can the NHT survive on interests in lieu of 'contributions'? Are ministers sufficiently attentive to their portfolios? Should we reform inter-agency information flow?

It seems we were so hungry for a scandal that we sacrificed responsible journalism just to meet press.

Year 2015 has just begun and the scandal hiatus is upon us, but when another agency or official slips up, will the fifth estate rise as a cadre of true investigators and leaders of the public debate or will they just stand as sloppy storytellers?