Following my exposure of H-Metro’s fake lead story on Thursday, the newspaper has owned up to the facts today.
I do not believe in a centrally-regulated media, where journalism is criminalised. I believe in a code of media ethics, in self-regulation and responsible resolution of issues.
One of the issues of self-regulation is the notion that a correction should be commensurate with the original error. So, if the error occurs on page one, then the correction should be given similar prominence.
H-Metro obviously don’t.
Instead of apologising for a publishing a false story, and explaining whether they were hoodwinked or simply created it, they are trying to spin the whole issue as a social media lesson.
Their editorial talks about how members of the public should beware when faced with social media profiles. At no point do they discuss how they rushed to print this story before checking the facts.
Likewise, the actual story seems like an exercise in deflection, where they talk about doing a “forensic probe” on Friday (a day after publication) only to discover that the pictures were fake.
My first problem is this; how do you launch a “forensic probe” into a lead story after the fact? That is admitting that your stories are both poorly-researched and subjected to poor editorial scrutiny.
If you tell me that Nigel Pfunde managed to get this story on the front page simply by submitting it, then you have a very poor way of managing your newspaper. What evidence did he provide to the editor that his story was true? A Facebook profile? Or maybe he didn’t even have to.
Secondly, now that you know the story is fake, is it beneath you to offer a complete retraction? It’s well and good to fool about being hoodwinked in an editorial. It’s fine to write a story laying out the actual facts.
But at no point does H-Metro issue a mea culpa; saying sorry for publishing false information is BASIC, but even the basics seem to be lost on these guys.
The positive outcome here is that whatever shred of credibility this tabloid rag had left is now gone, and people see it for what it is. H-Metro is a lie-peddler, and if they can publish something as false as this, what else have they been lying about?
They’ll lose readership for this, and all the better. Until some semblance of ethics and basic common sense enter their newsroom, they have no right to call H-Metro a newspaper.
Who’s exposed now?