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Bad journalism doing no-one any favours

Ask the right questions to get the facts

I have said if before, and I’m saying it again. When you communicate any information, to be complete you need to respond to the seven circumstances: who, what, when, where, why, in what way (how), by what means (with what). It was drummed into me at university that when you’re covering a news story, it’s your job to squeeze at least the 5 Ws, who, what, when, where, and why, into the opening lines, since that is about how far people read. Leaving facts out is simply lying by omission.

I’ve been really getting hot under the collar from the sloppy, sloppy, sloppy reporting I see in the press these days – incomplete, misspelled, rehashed articles on TV, radio and print. As a result of syndication, the same sloppily reported, incomplete story is repeated over and over again in different media. Do a Google search and you’ll see that the same opening lines are used over and over again.

Take the story about the coal mine accident in Turkey this week: the same words, repeated in 4,380 hits. Whoever originated that story did not answer the questions, they did not research the basics, and they sure as eggs are eggs are not following the money. “Turkey mine explosion: rescuers search for trapped workers as 200 confirmed dead. 232 miners reported to have been killed and around 200 …”

Who – Turkish miners, many dead, missing?
What – a coal  mine, Turkey
When – May 13, 2014
Where – Western Turkey, coal pit
Why – Explosion
By what means?

Who – really?

Who’s actually behind this? Digging quite a bit will reveal that the mine is in the town of Soma, it’s called Soma Mine, and it’s “100% owned by the Turkish Government, as of August 23, 2008” (info The operating company to which the Turkish government has outsourced production is SOMA Kömür İşletmeleri A.Ş. (SOMA Enterprises Inc.).

The US Department of the Interior – US Geological Survey Minerals Yearbook from 2008 to 2010, also lists the Turkish government as the owner: “Ege Linyitleri İşletmesi Müessesesi Müdürlüğü [Türkiye Kömür Soma Mine, Soma, Manisa Province, İşletmeleri Kurumu (TKİ)] (Government)”. Translation: Aegean Lignite Enterprise Management [Turkey Coal Mine Soma, Soma, Manisa Province, Property Authority (TKI)] (Government). (Table 2, p 56.9 – US Department of the Interior, US Geological Survey, Minerals Yearbook, Area Reports: International 2008, Volume III; 2009, volume 3, p. 56; 132010, Volume 3, p. 56.10)

The TKI is Turkish Coal Enterprises, and over 90% of total coal production in Turkey was from three state-owned enterprises in 2010, including Turkish Coal Enterprises (TKI).

News reports are focusing on the sadness and misery and showing people demonstrating at the headquarters of SOMA Enterprises, in stead of using their resources to get access to the facts about who actually owns this operation and who profits from it. Sure, if you don’t understand Turkish digging up the information is much more difficult. However, establishing the facts will tell a much more interesting story than just cutting and pasting what someone wrote in haste. And to make it harder to figure out what’s going on, the SOMA Enterprises website has shut down (14 May 2014).

Syndicated, careless news reporting

Understandably, the relatives of the victims are furious. Like the families of those on the missing Malaysia Airline flight MH370, they are looking for answers. They want the facts, and so do people around the world who feel connected to this disaster.

But readers should be aware that actually a very low percentage of the news they read on the internet is originally researched and written content. Much of what news agencies produce is syndicated to be endlessly reused. And if the source contents is not written properly then you have misinformation floating around the world ad infinitum. 


I used to work for Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the world’s biggest producer of platinum, which has hot, deep, dangerous mines and tens of thousands of workers. In 2010, we mourned the deaths of 10 employees, whose faces and names I knew. It was horrible to have to acknowledge our mistakes, to see the wreaths at the front door of head office, to have to let the families know, to discuss funerals. It was an improvement over 2008, when Amplats had 18 fatalities, and 14 in 2009. In 2011, the fatality rate increased again to 12 fatalities, then decreased to 5 in 2012 and 6 in 2013.  This issue was horribly contentious in the company. People lost their jobs over it, there were unrest and strikes and the media had a field day with every announcement, which rocked the share price. It was a deadly serious management and production issue and from top to bottom the company’s employees were bent on finding out the causes and preventing another occurrence.

So you can imagine what level of hell there will be to pay in the Soma disaster with so many workers dead. And so it should. Even one miner dead is one too many.

Anthony Bourdain, in recent episodes of “Parts Unknown”, has pointed out the invaluable role that good investigative journalism in Mexico and Russia has played in exposing evil and tumbling powerful people from their pedestals. Time for the journalists of the world to get to the truth about what happened in that mine in Turkey. Let the original voices be heard. 



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