There has been a recent hashtag, #ShameOnReuters, criticizing the impartiality of Reuters reporting in Yemen. This critique concerned ‘Mohamed Sudam’ who has been a ‘stringer’ (non-staff correspondent) for Reuters for a few years. During this time he also worked for the Yemen government as interpreter and secretary of state. This facts were known by Reuters but a decision had been taken to allow him to keep working as a neutral reporter for them.
These dual jobs had not been known by the public until the recent event where Mohamed Sudam had been kidnapped by the opposition to the government. When the public found out they didn’t take the perceived bias in a Reuters reporter good and started tweeting about this under the #ShameOnReuters hashtag. As late as Thursday afternoon Reuters was still defending ‘Mohamed Sudam’ before the #ShameOnReuters forced them to rethink. On Thursday evening the following statement was released by Reuters:
Statement from Reuters regarding Mohamed Sudam: Sudam’s work as a Reuters stringer over the course of many years has been fair and accurate. When he became a translator for the president, he disclosed his role to Reuters. On reviewing the matter, however, we believe it’s not appropriate to use a stringer who is also working for the government. He is no longer reporting for us from Yemen.
I believe that if Mohamed Sudam’s double jobs had not been criticized in Twitter he would still have worked for Reuters reporting in Yemen today. This leads us to ask if social media will be the watchdogs for impartiality of traditional media in the future?
I was able to ask this to Eric Auchard, editorial innovation director for Reuters, during one of his lectures on Thursday. He responded with it definitely being a good idea and also said that it was “always good to look at weaknesses”. He also mentioned a blog, Regret the Error, dedicated to finding “media corrections, retractions, apologies, clarifications and trends regarding accuracy and honesty in the press”
[pic: CC-BY, Shaun D Metcalfe]