Tonight saw one of the worst examples of news reporting I have seen in my career.
It all revolved around the story of a three-year-old boy from an Istanbul village, who went missing on Monday. A massive search operation involving the gendarmarie was launched, but by Wednesday evening there was still no news. As residents helped with the hunt, the media went into overdrive. Turkey’s plethora of news channels were all reporting live from the scene; at one stage, when there was nothing fresh to cover, they appeared to be taking it in turns to interview the boy’s family.
On Wednesday evening, Kanal D, one of the country’s “big four” stations, sent a reporter into the boy’s family home to provide live two-ways and speak to the family during the main evening news bulletin. During one interview, the reporter, Özay Erad, announced (to camera, not to the boy’s mother) that she had just been informed that a child’s body had been found a few kilometres outside of the village. The boy’s mother is seen to collapse into a frenzy and, as the camera pans in upon the family trying to calm her, the reporter shouts over the commotion that she had misheard her earpiece, and that it was a child’s voice that had been heard outside the village.
The boy has since been found safe and well.
A recording of the incident is available on NTVMSNBC, but be warned: the scenes are distressing.
It is journalism at its very worst – causing distress, spreading incorrect information – but all too common among Turkey’s mainstream bulletins. So often the news on all four big channels is car crash television: presented by elderly men to an epic film soundtrack (ATV opts for Gladiator), sensationalism is their main ingredient. A typical bulletin may begin with a graphic footage of an overturned lorry on the motorway, followed by close-ups of the blood on the ground from a midnight neighbourhood brawl, interspersed with pictures of the prime minister walking in and out of buildings as a voice drones about proceedings in parliament, before finishing with shots of female European tourists sunning themselves at a Mediterranean resort.
There was plenty wrong with Kanal D’s broadcast tonight, not just that the reporter misheard what she was being told by her director. Ms Erad should not have been in the house in the first place: if she had to be near the scene, she should have stationed herself outside. If she had an inkling of doubt, she should have asked the gallery to repeat the report to her. She should have emphasised that the report she was communicating to the viewers was unconfirmed. The first time the boy’s mother heard the rumour that her son might be dead should not have been from this reporter. None of it should have been on live television.
Kanal D should be ashamed. I certainly would be.
Last modified: Saturday 6 June 2015