There’s only one Net News

Editor’s Note: We normally do not criticize other members of the local media, but when false allegations are made about our newspaper, we feel we must set the record straight with facts.

An editorial in Monday’s Cayman Net News pointed out that since Hurricane Ivan, the Caymanian Compass has written articles that contradict earlier Net News stories.

The editorial preposterously suggests this has been done because the Compass is trying to imitate Cayman Net News.

It is indeed unfortunate the Compass has to often write articles refuting another newspaper, but when that newspaper consistently gets basic facts of stories wrong, or writes only one side of a story, it becomes necessary for the public good to set the record straight.

Contrary to whatever the editors of Net News might speculate – something which they are ever-so- prone to do without any basis in fact – the Compass’s actions have nothing to do with personal vendettas, and everything to do with bringing good, honest journalism to the people of the Cayman Islands.

Net News claims its stories are ‘accurate, well-researched and factual’ but its recent track record belies that statement, and there are plenty of examples to mention.

Earlier this month, Net News cited an anonymous source saying Deputy Commissioner of Police Rudolph Dixon’s name was on a list of officers that would soon be leaving the RCIP.

Mr. Dixon responded by saying publicly that the article contained ‘numerous inaccuracies, innuendo and sensational statements’ and ‘a catalogue of errors’. He also said he had no intention of leaving the RCIP at this time.

What’s more, Mr. Dixon said no one from the Net News called to ask him or a responsible source about the contents of its story.

The Net News story was published amid one of the worst crime waves this country has ever seen. Instead of putting his full attention on crime, Mr. Dixon had to take time out for rumour control caused by poor journalism.

In June, Net News made headline news of an alleged RCIP investigation into MC Restoration. The article insinuated the police were looking into wrongdoing on the part of MC Restoration. The officer in charge of the case referred to in the Net News article categorically denied MC Restoration was the subject of any investigation and further said MC Restoration was actually assisting with the inquiry.

Also in two other articles in June, Net News reported that MC Restoration left approximately 20,000 cubic yards of toxic ash/dirt that was going to cost an estimated $5 million to remove. Both figures were subsequently refuted, and said to much less, by both the government and MC Restoration.

Then there’s the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman that has been the consistent target of negative, and often inaccurate press by Cayman Net News.

In April, Net News reported that the Ritz-Carlton developer owed $10 million to subcontractors.

Not only did Ritz-Carlton developer Michael Ryan deny the report, but so did the subcontractors listed in the Net News story.

‘What’s in the paper is wrong,’ said one of the subcontractors Net News reported was owed money by the Ritz-Carlton developer. ‘They paid me off a long time ago and have been paying me ever since.’

Most disturbing about the report was the fact that Cayman Net News had not even bothered to pick up a telephone to ask Mr. Ryan or the subcontractor about the veracity of its report.

All this from a newspaper that claims its stories are well researched.

Net News has taken its attacks on Mr. Ryan to ridiculous levels, even stating in one headline ‘Ritz developer to surrender’.

The headline would give most rational people the impression of wrongdoing, yet the story was about a court order in law suit in New York in which applied to both parties.

The examples go on and on. McKeeva Bush and Cayman National Bank have both been the subject of later-refuted Cayman Net News stories citing the ubiquitous anonymous source.

Most professional news agencies in the United States and many other countries, as well as the Caymanian Compass, will only use anonymous sources on rare occasions, and then only under certain guidelines. Other than that, standard journalism practice requires news stories be attributed.

Yet Net News routinely cites anonymous sources, even in stories that smear the reputations of others. Sometimes these Net News stories turn out to be untrue, but not until damage to reputations is done.

Mr. Bush is currently suing Net News for one such falsehood that appeared in its newspaper.

Then there’s the penchant for Net News to use sensationalism to the detriment of the public.

Take the case in late December, when the country was still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Ivan and the world was still trying to get a handle on the scope of the Asian tsunami disaster, and Net News rolled out a sensational headline declaring ‘Cayman faces a tsunami threat.’

The story under the imminent headline was based on a several years-old and previously-reported theory by an English scientist concerning the possibility a landslide on an eastern Atlantic Canary Island could create a giant tsunami that could travel across the ocean and hit the US coast and the Caribbean.

The scientist’s theory had been refuted by other prominent tsunami experts, but Net News either did not do the proper research, chose to ignore the fact, or did not think it important to balance such a terrifying theory that could make a nervous Caymanian public even more nervous.

What’s more, had anyone of the good researchers on the Net News staff cared to simply consult an atlas for reference, they would have seen that lying between the Canary Islands and Cayman Islands is Cuba, which would shelter this country in the event of the scientist’s theory coming to pass.

As if all the sloppy, inaccurate journalism weren’t enough, Net News often only reports on side of a story, especially if the other side of that story throws its allies in a bad light.

It is interesting to note that although Net News carried the entire House address of Minister Charles Clifford concerning a report that recently appeared in the Caymanian Compass, it didn’t carry one word of the rebuttal House address made by Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush on the same day on the very same subject.

Maybe there’s a reason why Mr. Bush and Mr. Ryan get such bad press from Net News these days after enjoying such good press in times past.

The public should question whether there is any correlation between the fact that it was only after Mr. Bush and Mr. Ryan let large monthly contracts with Net Nets or its sister company MCM Consultants lapse that good press turned to bad press.

The public should also question why, after MCM was engaged by Indies Suites owner Ronnie Foster, Net News has, for the most part, stayed away from the Indies Suites story ever since.

Mr. Clifford last week called for a responsible press, and that is something with which we totally agree.

Responsible journalism means reporting accurately, fairly and impartially, and it’s something we at the Caymanian Compass strive to do.

It seems, however, that in its zeal to undermine its political opposition and see itself painted in a good light, the PPM government has chosen to criticize us, and at least tacitly condone the journalism practices of Cayman Net News.

This should be seen as a disappointment for the entire country, for this is not what we expected from the PPM.

Bad journalism does a disservice to any society, especially a democratic one as Cayman purports to be.

Like propaganda, it insidiously sways public opinion and keeps the truth in the shadows.

Cayman is a trusting society, and many people tend to believe what they read in the newspaper. To use the substantial power of the press to further personal agendas or for political gain is the epitome of irresponsible journalism.

As a public service, therefore, the Caymanian Compass will continue to refute Cayman Net News whenever one of its stories obscures the truth or the other side of the story.

According to its editorial, there’s only one Net News. All we can say is thank heavens for that, because this country probably couldn’t take more than one of its dubious ilk.

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