Earlier this month, an article on Dominica News Online lead with the headline “Timothy Blames Social Problems on Marijuana”. I wrote earlier on the the Minister’s seemingly lack of qualifications for the job.
However, I also wanted to write about the newspaper’s shortcomings.
Many articles appearing on the website read more like press releases than actual reporting. First, there rarely are any bylines with most attributed simply to Dominica News Online. Second, in instances such as the one noted above, I want to see more than the Minister’s words. Where are the counter arguments? Why couldn’t a DNO reporter get a quote or two from a public health or medical official on the island? And, if not a rebuttal from a health official, indeed follow-up questions to the Minister himself regarding how he came to those conclusions. Any of these approaches would greatly increase the value of information gleamed from the article as well as educate the public on what might indeed be a growing problem as well as give others an opportunity to design interventions to address those problems.
I am writing this now because another article appeared this week–this time on child abuse and from the Minister of Social Services, Community Development and Gender Affairs. Again, there are quotes from the Minister and nothing else. (I will address the issue of child abuse in a later post as well as how newspapers can educate the public on reported cases vs actual cases.) There are no quotes from the police department; nothing from the Minister if Health for indeed, child abuse is a public health issue. It is also a law enforcement issues.
I will say that I did not address this directly with the newspaper. I will attempt to do this in the future if this pattern continues. We need to educate those who bring us the news on how best to present them. It is particularly important for media and communications professionals to understand the best practices when reporting on health issues across the region.