We simply have to return to the iNews story of yesterday which declares there is a new government policy that the “Prime Minister’s Office (is) to approve all headlines in Chronicle Newspaper”.
While the article was met with shock and horror on social media, journalists know a flimsy story when they see one. This article basically only has two pieces of information. (the rest is bulked out with the remarks of Nagamootoo who indeed blundered in his comments)
- That Imran Khan “Director of Public Information was observed inside the newsroom on Tuesday evening, August 26, passing instructions”.
- And that “iNews has been reliably informed that General Manager of the Guyana Chronicle, Michael Gordon has been instructed to ensure that all headlines are sent” to Khan “before the paper goes to press”
Khan subsequently denied he was at the Chronicle on Tuesday night only a couple of hours after the story was posted. His denial was tagged at the bottom of the story. Later a reporter attached to the Chronicle was asked if Khan was there and he replied he wasn’t there. It seems very clear now that Khan was not in the building and as such that part of the story is factually incorrect. As for the meeting with Gordon, that was scheduled since Monday as Khan has since mentioned and it was meant to be at the Chronicle, but Gordon said he was in the area and could drop by Khan’s office. Hardly a summoning.
So where would iNews get such information? Obviously from someone inside the Chronicle, an organisation which is so riddled with political syphilis that one should be skeptical of every word anyone in there says or writes. Could it be engendered by this message which circulated to other media houses the same day?
Well we now know Khan was never there, so the second part that “he directed what the page one should be like” is also erroneous..and then… hold on…the source is citing “unconfirmed reports”? This does not rise above the level of gossip let alone form the basis for a news story stating emphatically that “Prime Minister’s Office to approve all headlines in Chronicle Newspaper”.
Now let’s say they have more or separate information – although their story does not provide any more details than that contained in the above message- but let’s just say they spoke to the deposed editor-in-chief Mark Ramotar or Raschid Osman or Michael Gordon, any one of who might have gripes over the impending changes at the newspaper, is it not in the interest of journalistic fairness that iNews first get a comment before declaring point blank “Prime Minister’s Office to approve all headlines in Chronicle Newspaper”? (Incidentally all headlines? Or just the front page, or just political? The story does not say. and apparently Khan will be making sure the WICB gets good press).
What exactly is the rush to post a story with tremendous consequences in terms of how people perceive the new administration’s approach to the state media? Nagamootoo has said previously his office would not interfere and indeed they want the Chronicle to cover all view points including the PPP’s. This supposed new policy of approving headlines flies in the face of that. And that is why it was essential iNews waited for a comment before publishing. And since there is no real deadline in new media, in contrast to newscasts and newspapers, the assertion that iNews could not wait on Khan and had to go to press is spurious.
Khan finally told the media after questioning by Gordon Moseley last night that he is “not aware of any such decision (to review headlines) being taken …or any such directive being issued”. That is a flat out denial of the article’s sole thrust which by now has more holes than Swiss cheese: Let’s recap:
1) He said he was not at the Chronicle Tuesday night and this was confirmed by a reporter.
2) He is not aware of any such policy or any such directive of headlines needing to be approved being issued.
At this point, it would be in the interest of iNews’ reputation for fairness to either retract the story or write a new one that reflects the comments of Khan. Tagging his comments on the bottom of the story is simply not good enough. As we know a lot of people only read the headlines, and legally a headline in and of itself can be libellous even if the story it sits upon is not. (NB: This is not a matter of libel)
It’s ok, sometimes journalists screw up and in fact there is something to be said for pushing the limits and to “publish and be damned”, rather than holding back information. But in this case it was a blunder.