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Editorial Transparency in Qatar

A misunderstanding around the safety of bottle water in Qatar (it's fine!) has led to an interesting conversation about the quality of the English language press in Qatar. Comments were passed back and forth between between a commenter on Qatar Living (tallg) and the Managing Editor of a local English newspaper in Qatar.

In a comment tallg noted that

The press here do have a habit of printing anything they hear without checking the facts. The Peninsula had to run an apology the other day for saying that the museum on the corniche was going to open on the 22nd Feb, when in fact it isn't opening til 22nd Nov. They then went on to blame whoever they heard this information from, rather than accepting that they should have clarified the information themselves. Very amature.

It seems that Rachel Morris, the Managing Editor of the Peninsula keeps an eye on the social web in Qatar and responded to the tallg's comment and explained how incorrect facts had come to be printed in her paper:

… Perhaps you may benefit from hearing the full story.

The Qatar News Agency ran an item the day before saying the opening was in February.

Given it came from the OFFICIAL news agency of this nation, it's pretty fair to assume the information is correct. For those who don't know, all official news from the Emiri Diwan down is transmitted to all media here using the QNA (Qatar News Agency).

It turns out QNA had made a mistake in the copy. The information went out on the Arabic wire, was translated into English then re-transmitted.

We picked it up, ran it because it was from QNA. The following day, it was revealed QNA has put the erroneous report out. I have since had a clarification and an apology from the QNA English Editor and ran the clarification so our readers did not think we were misleading them.

In the end was all very maturely dealt with and not as you charge, a case of assigning blame. Having worked in the media in the Gulf and Australia for 17 years, I know mistakes are made. In this case QNA admitted it and we informed our readers.

It always helps to know the full story.

After apologising for calling the actions of the paper “very amature”, tallg explains that he still stands by what he said and that

…My issue was not with the original report being incorrect, and I realise that mistakes will be common in a newspaper which collates most of it's articles from other sources. But I do believe that once a newspaper decides to run with a story it becomes their responsibility. It is good that a correction was printed in this case (and I wish this happened more often), but in my opinion that was all that was needed. To then go on and explain how it was actually someone else who made the mistake in the first place did not read very well to me, and to be honest it sounded like the newspaper was passing the buck.

To write an article about how The Peninsula receives it's news stories would have been informative and interesting, and would have offered a chance to explain why articles sometimes carry mistakes. I think this would have been a better way of informing readers, rather than putting it in a correction column.

I hope you'll understand that my offending comment was borne out of frustration with the lack of quality information in Qatar, a frustration that many people here share…

Ms. Morris replies to tallg in a very honest manner explaining that

We struggle everyday trying to get accurate and informative information to our readers so I appreciate your frustrations.

All your points are valid. The reason I replied is because I do believe journalists have a job to do in terms of educating the public about how we form our news values and stories and sometimes, how mistakes can be made. Despite our view sometimes to the contrary, we journalists are not perfect!!

I am really glad to see a newspaper editor engaging with her audience online – it's a brave step that will help enhance trust amongst an often cynical expatriate audience.

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