Take a rumor, repeat it confidently enough to the right audience and it becomes fake news. No facts or evidence are needed. Just suggestion. Trump-America’s media trends have landed and have taken root firmly. Fake stories aren’t just originating on platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook, we now have traditional media leading the charge with stories that are either riddled with errors or are flat out fake.
Last week Guardian Media Limited gave the public two stories that had no basis in fact. On Sunday July 16th the country woke up to the news of Devon Matthews’ sudden passing at Tribe’s Festival of the Bands event. On Monday July 17th, before an autopsy had occurred or a toxicology report produced, Bobi-Lee Dixon of the Trinidad Guardian confidently reported that diet pills were linked to the cause of death. Within a day of Matthews’ death rumor and speculation surrounded his memory and passing because of a Guardian lead story written on the strength of one anonymous source.
The Guardian has yet to issue a retraction or apology.
But the media house wasn’t done there. By Wednesday July 19th Guardian Media was back at it again, this time with a photograph in hand to establish the veracity of a new story.
A photograph was circulated on social media on Wednesday July 19th, one day after the historic meeting between the Prime Minister and Opposition Leader at a private room in Tower D, normally used for diplomats, in the Office of the Parliament. It was the official start-of-meeting photo opportunity of the two leaders shaking hands, making friendly and smiling for the cameras. One of the cameras they were smiling for was the brand new 360-Degree camera that Parliament had recently acquired and was very excited about using to capture the moment.
So how does a 360 Degree camera become fake news? Easy, through the use of innuendo.
Our political landscape is a tense and suspicious one. There are equal amounts of “unconfidence” in both the Opposition and the Government for various reasons. Add that to the tribal nature of our politics and you have the perfect environment for a half-baked story to spread like wildfire.
During the 7pm news on July 19th, CNC3 (Guardian Media’s television station) ran a story which asked about the presence of the 360 camera and queried whether or not the Opposition Leader knew about the camera’s presence. The story implied that the camera was present in the room during the meeting, that both the government and the Office of the Parliament knew about the camera’s presence and that the Opposition was in the dark. To further emphasise the importance of the story, CNC3 then used it for its poll question later on in its newscast asking whether the Opposition Leader should have been told about the camera’s presence in the room during the meeting.
But here is the problem. There was no camera in the room during the meeting. The Office of the Parliament gave its account of the event here.
The camera, like all other camera equipment and photographers, was in the room for a photo opportunity. The Office of the Prime Minister gave permission for the photoshoot on the condition that everything and everyone be removed from the room after photos were taken.
That’s it. Punto finale.
The weird thing is this was told to the CNc3 journalist, not once, but three times that day, long before the news cycle. And yet it became a lead news story. The Office of the Prime Minister and two senior members of the Office of the Parliament have all confirmed to Newsauce that they spoke with journalist Kristy Ramnarine at times that range between before 9 am, before noon and by 5pm on the day the story was broadcast.
If the camera was removed from the room before the meeting, then what camera did the Opposition Leader need to be made aware of? If a reporter gets assurances from 3 sources that the camera was not present in the room during the private meeting, then why run with the story?
A story like that only served to undermine the Parliament’s integrity, lower public confidence in one of our strongest state institutions, and cause more wild rumor and speculation. Unless, of course, that was the intent in the first place?
If it was not the intention, then Guardian Media needs to issue an apology with the quickness or change its tagline.