Kingstown (One News St. Vincent) – Editor in Chief of Searchlight Newspaper, Clare Keizer has described as “dangerous”, recent headlines of stories published by iWitness News and News 784.
The headlines, published yesterday, were “SVG Now Covid-19 Free” published by iWitness News and “St Vincent And The Grenadines Now Coronavirus Free”, published by News 784.
The headlines were for stories the two media houses crafted in response to information circulated by the Ministry of Health that there were no more confirmed cases of Covid-19 in SVG after 31 tests were conducted which were all negative, save and except the lone confirmed case and one which remains outstanding.
CHANCE’S SIDE OF THE STORY
In a Facebook post, Kenton Chance of iWitness news and former Assistant Editor at Searchlight Newspaper stated “SVG had one confirmed case of COVID-19. The person tested negative at re-testing (two weeks later). A media outlet is chastised by another editor for saying “SVG now COVID-19 free”.Question: On what basis did we say there was COVID-19 in SVG?Answer: On the basis of a positive result.With all results in — as per the minister’s comments — on what basis does a media outlet reasonably conclude that SVG is NOT now COVID-19 free?Do you know something that other media outlets don’t?”.
KEIZER’S SIDE OF THE STORY
Keizer, of Searchlight Newspaper posted on Facebook: “Kenton Chance of iWitness News just made a post in response to my comment about the headlines on iWitness News and News 784 about SVG being Covid-19 free. I described those headlines as dangerous as they may cause a false sense of security. I still maintain this position”.
Chance, in his Facebook post had asked about the source of Keizer’s information.
“Why did your story omit important facts from the minister’s statement, but included things that he did not mention (your claim that one test was outstanding)? What is the source of that piece of information? In the absence of attribution, and with the minister as the sole source in the story, is it reasonable to conclude that the minister was the source?” – Chance asked.
In Keizer’s response to Chance’s post, she stated “In his post Mr. Chance asked certain questions including what is the source of my information that one covid-19 test for SVG remains outstanding, implying that I have information that others are not privy to”.
Keizer said Mr. Chance was attached to the email which was sent to media houses with the same information we recieved.
She said, however, her “opinion and firm belief” that the headline published by Mr. Chance and News 784 “has nothing to do with that outstanding test” but that it has everything to do with the nature of the virus which “remains asymptomatic in many people and that 80 percent of victims have mild symptoms”.
Up to press time, Ernesto Cooke of News 784 had not weighed in on the issue.
The Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment’s March 26 press release was headlined: “NO NEW COVID-19 CASES IN SVG”.
The second paragraph of the release stated: “To date 31 persons have been tested for COVID-19, with 34 swabs being done. Results for 30 persons have been received, with one positive result that of our index case on March 11, 2020. One result remains outstanding”.
But, the story published on iWitness News on March 27 was based the video address by Minister of Health, Senator Luke Browne which was aired on Friday.
WHAT DID THE MINISTER SAY IN HIS ADDRESS ABOUT TESTING?
“We have now done 31 tests in all. There is just, there is still just the one case. All the other results were negative, including the result for the patient who was recently transported to the Kingstown flu clinic in an isolation chamber by individuals wearing protective gear – Browne said”.
“There was also a repeat test for the patient who originally tested positive. I am happy to state that the repeat test was also negative. All but one of the test were done at the Caribbean Public Health Agency Lab in Trinidad and Tobago, and the other test was performed at the Best-Dos Santos Laboratory in Barbados” – Browne added.
Minister Browne, in his March 27 address did not mention that another test was outstanding. The March 26 press release from the Ministry of Health, however, did say that one test was outstanding.
The issue comes down to a matter of use of language and impact of language on audiences.