Stupid questions

To ensure credibility in their reporting, someone with authority needs to verify

pic credit:

EVERYBODY wants to be a reporter these days. The moment they receive any new information, it is immediately shared in every WhatsApp group they are in.

In the quest to be the first, very few took the time to verify the facts. The Covid-19 outbreak is proof of the widespread and impact of fake news.

The other concern is that, despite the information may contain some truth, the message often gets lost in translation after the many levels of transmissions.

One interesting subject that is making its round is about “ikan singgang”, a Malay fish soup dish that certain people claimed could cure Covid-19.

It all started when a lecturer from a public university said the ingredients in “ikan singgang” may have the properties to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Although the lecturer stated that the university had not conducted any study on the matter, many decided to share the information without any reservation, especially those who rely on social media as their sole source of information. And coming from a lecturer, what is there not to be true, right?

A reporter recently asked about the matter during a Health Ministry press conference. The reporter got a bashing from a doctor on social media. “Why can’t you all just stick with facts? Don’t report nonsense and mislead the public,” the doctor wrote.

Even some fellow media practitioners had not expected that question to be asked at the press conference. However, in the spirit of solidarity for a comrade, we took a step back and remembered why sometimes we ask “stupid questions”.

Often, based on further research, journalists already know the answers to their questions. And while the man on the street wants those answers, journalists cannot give them by simply quoting themselves.

To ensure credibility in their reporting, someone with authority needs to verify.

Let’s not forget that 27 Iranians had died of poisoning, after believing in unverified news that alcohol could kill Covid-19.

The doctor had asked the media to not mislead the public.

Some journalists are willing to be made fun of, chased out of media briefings and even attacked, for the public to get the right information.

They do not want fellow Malaysians, who are also their families and friends, to continue believing and spreading fake news.

In defending the comrade, a fellow media practitioner addressed the doctor on social media. An extract from her posting read: “When an expert in food science (the lecturer) states that ‘singgang’ can help prevent Covid-19, who are we to deny it?

“When we journalists do our jobs, we are called stupid but if we don’t, we are accused of hiding facts and concealing truths.”

This is only one of the many netizens — both media practitioners and not — who stood up for the reporter.

There were also many who sided with the doctor, but she had — since the incident — disabled the comments section on her public posts.

The media had consistently highlighted Malaysia’s medical staff’s commendable efforts in handling the virus outbreak.

In return, the latter should let the former do their job, for what is seen as a silly question, could just be the information that an average Joe needs in order to calm his panicking family.

Farezza Hanum Rashid is the assistant news editor of The Malaysian Reserve.