Did The Media Miss “The Third Side” At MICAT On Mary Broh’s Refusal To Wash Hands?

Last week, following reports that the Director General of the General Service Agency (GSA), controversial Mary Broh blatantly refused to wash her hands, which is one of the measures to curtail the spread of the Ebola pestilence; I wrote an article, detesting the way and manner in which Madam Broh acted, especially as a public official and more importantly, as a member of the Ebola Task Force, that she has been insisting on these anti-Ebola measures.

Unsurprisingly, the Minister of Information, Mr. Lewis Brown was yesterday quoted in the media as taking issue with madam Broh for her behavior. In his reaction, he did not mince his words when he termed the action of Madam Broh on the so-called “dirty faucet” as “rude and disrespectful action.” He was quoting as saying, ‘don’t disrespect us like that again; we will not let you get away with it the next time.”

Like me, most of those who call on talk shows, have also taken issue with the Director General for the way and manner in which she approached the matter. Some said she should have quietly informed officials of the Ministry, instead of going public, something that brought the Ministry to public disrepute and ridicule. However, others said the response of Minister Brown was also inappropriate.

However, this piece is not intended to dwell into the childish play by these government officials, as both of them have now brought about the “naked man in the bathroom” scenario. In that article, entitled: “Why Mary Broh’s Derogatory Response Overshadowed Her Press Conference,” I recounted how last Thursday, at the usual Information Ministry press briefing, Madam Broh shocked many media persons who attended the occasion when she egregiously and blatantly failed to abide by the Ebola preventive measures given by the Ministry of Health and its partners in order to contain the spread of the virus in the country.

As an upcoming female journalist, Antoinette Sendolo of this paper reported that Madam Broh, a member of the force to combat the disease, while entering the building deliberately refused to wash her hands, which is one of the measures to fight Ebola, on grounds that she had her personal hand sanitizer which she preferred to use. Noticing the flouting of the Ebola measures, it was then she was asked why she did not abide by the washing hands measure. It was then she said the faucet was dirty and that she had her personal sanitizer.

Rightly as expected, the media reported the action of Madam Broh, which was the “side bar” of the event because the cardinal reason or purpose of the press conference was to report on measures to curtail the abuse and misuse of government vehicles and other properties. However, because of the news value of her action, the issue of not washing hands overshadowed the entire events, with few media focusing on the purpose of the press conference.

Also in that piece I even said that it was also wrong for a journalist to have told Madam Broh to “shut up” only because Madam Broh spoke in similar way, as two wrongs cannot make a right. Madam Broh reportedly responded to the reporter’s inquiry by saying, “Shut-up, because you don’t know about sanitation as compared to me.” And the reporter in response said,” shut-up too”.

Today, my focus is whether or not media practitioners at the Ministry at the time Madam Broh made the allegation, were able to exercise what is known as the “third side of the story.’ That is, whether the journalists took off time to cross check as to whether the claim of Madam Broh was true or only packed up their belongings and left the Ministry, in that they got a big story. I say so because one of the basic requirements of the profession is to always find out the truth, which should be the guide of any media practitioner.

In all fairness, it would have been prudent and professional had the journalists ascertained what Madam Broh said, no matter how one felt about the way and manner it was said. This is one of the simplest forms of news gathering because it was in the same vicinity and that there was no additional cost to be borne by the journalist. It was just a walking distance. In fact, the faucet was just at the entrance of the main entrance of the Ministry and so there was nothing difficult in observing it. As it is known, ‘”observation” is one of the means by which journalists sometimes get stories.

Let us assume that the Ministry said that the faucet was not dirty as Madam Broh claimed, what can the media show in this matter to prove or disprove the Director General or the Ministry? Certainly, nothing concrete because the media failed at the appropriate time to verify that, which is the bone of contention, or the “issue,” as it is said in the legal profession.

The Third Side refers to the journalists own efforts to ascertain the truth. This is where “Investigative Journalism” comes in, meaning going extra mile to discover the truth, and not only relying on what one has been told. Sometimes people say ‘there are two sides” to a story. While this is also true, there is a Third Side’ which is more investigatory that may discover other issues, as we are still talking about the Michael Allison’s citizenship.

As I said before in the maiden publication of this column, it would fundamentally deal with issues relative to the media, whether it is based on ethics or other aspects of the profession. Indeed, for the issue at bar the media, especially those at the Ministry at the time Madam Broh acted goofed. I Rest My Case.