Publishing unverified claims
I agree with Mr. Adam Harris (“Plight of a Reporter”, March, 20) that the life of a reporter is never easy.
And the life of an editor is not any easier, except that the editor should know “better” than a reporter to publish “unverified” claims.
As someone writing and publishing in the media since 1978, I know that responsibility for published articles (reports, letters, commentaries, editorials) fall on the editor (Chief or Executive or Associate or Assistant).
And so the editor(s) who allowed the hoax to be published (Kissoon’s column, March 18) claiming that the government planned to move squatters are as culpable as the writer (Mr. Kissoon).
It is the editor’s responsibility to verify the claims made by the writer and so any attempt to blame only the writer is unacceptable. That is passing the buck.
The publisher, Mr. Glenn Lall, is embarrassed, according to Peeping Tom and media reports. And he has every right to feel disgusted by the unverified (false) report. But Glenn is not culpable of the wrong doing as he is not responsible for editing Kaieteur News.
He is the owner and hired people to do the job for him and they let him down. The editors as well as the writer should have apologised and offer their resignations as is the norm in journalism when these faux pas happen.
But in Guyana, no one takes responsibility for their blunders and anything goes in the media. That has been the standard for decades ever since the British left the shores.
Mr. Harris’s column is instructive reminding reporters that stories need to be checked out and patience is a virtue. But the serious issue that Adam should have addressed is how was the unsubstantiated claim, made in Kissoon’s column able to get pass editing without being verified.
And Mr. Harris has not addressed that controversial issue. Instead, Adam writes: “… publication of a story from an individual whose qualification was not even checked out.
What this individual had to say sounded good, but subsequent investigation revealed that everything said was a figment of the imagination.
The reporter lacked patience and the paper got the story wrong”. The editor bears no blame here. If it is only the reporter’s fault, what is going to be done to the reporter? Is he going to be sanctioned?
Adam is the most experienced journalist in Guyana employed in the media. He is no two by four. He is competent and among the best in the business and he simply danced around the issue of verification of news allowing Kissoon and his editor to get away. If this had happened in the US, heads would roll.
The editor would be held to task. And the writer won’t see a column again. As Adam noted, in a hoax at the prestigious New York Times, heads rolled.
But in Guyana, anything goes even if it cannot be verified. Nobody is held accountable for failures but we hold everyone else responsible for their failures.
For years, Kissoon has made unverified claims in his columns and Kaieteur News has published them.
For years, I advised Kaieteur News to get responsible editors to vet Kissoon’s columns before publishing them.
My advice was ignored and Kissoon continues with his unverified claims, misstatements, misinterpretations, and inventions.
This one about the squatters has particularly irked the nation and the management of the paper because it has brought the paper into disrepute. Kissoon’s claim was irresponsible and could have led to violence.
As a social activist, Kissoon should have known better than to pen information that is basically provocative.
This is not like giving an opinion as in interpreting a social science theory.
It has to do with whether a claim was a fact or not. And it has turned out to be non-factual. And we are yet to hear Kissoon’s apology.
Only Adam and Glenn have expressed regrets and remorse because Adam knows the business as a longtime newsman and Glenn feels embarrassed that Kissoon got him in an unneeded mess.
This would have been avoided with sound editing. It comes with standards and rules and is further developed from experience in the trade, and reading and writing. I will suggest that the paper consults an expert in Kissoon’s usage of scientific terms, technical ambiguities, foreign language (especially German), and interpretation of social theories for most are incorrect. The paper needs to ensure that news and commentaries can withstand truthful scrutiny. In Kissoon’s case, it did not.