19 Sep 2011

The Tanzanian media has had a bad crisis

It seems I wasn't entirely fair when I recently complained about the inaccuracy of a couple of photos circulating around Tanzania's social media scene following the tragic MV Spice Islander disaster. The mainstream media has done no better.

First, a brief reminder. The photos below are not of the MV Spice Islander, but rather photos from previous ferry tragedies elsewhere in the world, and yet they were both posted widely on facebook, twitter and various blogs over the weekend of the disaster. For an explanation of where the photos were originally taken, see my earlier post.

Yes, the social media users I highlighted got it wrong, but then so did several mainstream media outlets, many of which have published the first of these photos in print and/or online.

Mtanzania included the photo on Sunday's front page (11/9/2011).

HabariLeo had the photo on their website on Saturday, from very early after the disaster struck (seemingly even before dawn broke, given the time stamp on the article). At the time of writing it's still there.

Nipashe printed it full page on Wednesday (14/9/11):

Even the highly respected Mwananchi got it wrong (14/9/11):

And worst of all, Daily News printed the photo on Monday (12/9/1) as their "photo of the week", even publishing the clearly false statement that it was taken "by our photographer"!

In other words, all the big print media houses - the professionals - have made exactly the same mistake that social media's enthusiastic amateurs made. IPP, MCL, TSN, these are the companies that produce newspapers claiming to be the best, most reliable, most accurate in Tanzania. And yet they all published an inaccurate photo that bears no connection to the MV Spice Islander.

I posted previously that social media risked becoming no better than a new platform for gossip and redio mbao. But it seems even the professionals can't always be trusted to check the facts. What with all the criticism that TBC and other mainland TV stations have also received for their slow and minimal response to the disaster, the Tanzanian media has not had a good crisis.

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Update: Even the great BBC failed: (H/T Subi Nukta)