~ By Cheong Yaoming ~
The story about the SMRT train door remaining open as the train was moving first appeared on The Straits Times run website STOMP. It was featured in The New Paper yesterday (21 June 2012, Thu) as well.
The STOMP article relates the account of STOMPer wasabi:
“I was on my way home from Boon Lay MRT to City Hall MRT last night. At Lakeside station at 10.15pm, one of the doors started making noises during ’Doors Closing’ and remained stuck open even while the train started moving.”
However in The Straits Times article today (22 June 2012, Fri), it was revealed that the STOMPer wasabi is Ms Samantha Francis, a content producer of STOMP. According to SMRT officials Ms Francis “was not actually at the MRT station that day” based on CCTV footage and Ms Francis’ EZ-link card details. Furthermore “the railings of the train tracks visible in the picture do not match those at Lakeside MRT”.
Kudos to SMRT for quickly investigating and following up on a potentially dangerous situation for its train commuters. For all the brickbats it received since the major December 2011 breakdowns, it seems SMRT is taking positive action to restore confidence in Singapore’s public transport.
Nonetheless, this raises serious questions of legitimacy and accuracy of the information allowed to be published as well as the editorial standards of STOMP.
Why was the reporter’s identity not revealed?
It is standard journalistic practice to put a name behind the story if one actually reported on the story. By using the moniker ‘wasabi’, STOMP misleads readers into thinking this story was just a contribution by an ordinary member of the public.
Where did the pictures come from?
SMRT has verified that Ms Francis was not at the scene of the incident based on CCTV footage and her EZ-link card details. Ms Francis stands by her version of events, which contradict the second piece of evidence by SMRT – the railings of the train tracks visible in the pictures do not match those at Lakeside MRT.
Therefore it raises serious doubts as to whether Ms Francis was actually at Lakeside MRT or that the photos were taken by her at another MRT station.
Why the distancing from STOMP?
“We have verified the details with her and she stands by her account of the incident.” said STOMP editor Azhar Kasman. The term 'content producer' is ambiguous – does this mean Ms Francis is working for STOMP or just an ordinary member of the public? If STOMP fully believes in Ms Francis would it not make sense to say "We have verified the details with her and we stand by her account of the incident"?
If SMRT is correct, does this mean a content producer of STOMP has possibly fabricated evidence to impugn the credibility of the public transport provider?
Understandably, citizen journalism is near impossible to monitor perfectly unlike print media. STOMP puts out dozens of contributions online in good faith. While readers should accept some lapses from time to time, especially if the news outlet wants goodwill to continue, lapses should not come from any of the news outlet’s own staff.
TOC has contact STOMP to request for clarification and verification of their story.