Saturday, December 14, 2013 Perpetuating Faleomavaega Fraud?

Following hard on the heels of a story Wednesday about the U.S. House considering Faleomavaega's proposal to study the feasibility of establishing a National Guard unit in American Samoa , the Radio KHJ-FM-run website published a follow up story yesterday that the House had approved the legislation. Both stories quoted and paraphrased the delegate and each story was accompanied by a photo of a healthy, robust looking Faleomavaega. The story was written as if the comments were made to the reporter. For example, one of the stories said "The congressman said he’s pleased that the U.S. Congress supported efforts to construct a new $20 million U.S. Army Reserve Center in American Samoa, and is hopeful that the Congress will now give serious consideration to the establishment of a National Guard unit in the Territory as he believes that it is in our national interest for the United States to increase its military presence in American Samoa." Did he really say that to the reporter? That's the way it is written. There is no qualifier such as "according to a press release" or "according to a statement issued by his office." Moreover, were the photos accompanying the stories contemporaneous to the events? There is no label such as "file photo," which is how most reputable media would qualify photos not taken in connection with the stories they accompany.

If indeed Faleomavaega made these statements to a correspondent, then by all means it is a pity the correspondent did not ask him about his miraculous full recovery from his unidentified illness, since the public is increasingly asking questions about his lengthy, apparent disappearance from public view. But if these stories are based merely on press handouts, the photos are file photos and none of it was identified as such then Radio KHJ-FM/ would be guilty of perpetuating the fraud that all is well and normal with Faleomavaega and it is business as usual.

Whether Samoa News also will continue to carry on with this seeming charade remains to be seen, but at least they had the integrity to run a story based on our questions saying they had the same questions. KHJ-FM, on the other hand, has continued to ignore these questions. It is most surprising considering the station's news director is a well-respected, professional journalist who served a number of years ago in the prestigious position of president of the Pacific Islands News Association. PINA most definitely would frown on any publication carrying on a practice that is as deceptive as using fake quotes and unrelated photos. It is just bad journalism and we would think the news director would not want questions raised about journalistic integrity that has been hard earned over a lengthy career.

We repeat what we have said before: all news outlets should refrain from publishing any stories that are no more than press handouts from the delegate's office that suggest business as usual until that office answers to the media's and the public's satisfaction the status of Faleomavaega's health:
  • What felled him here in November? Was it food poisoning, as some reported? 
  • Was it a stroke, as some--including us--have speculated? 
  • Did he nearly die at Tripler, as has been suggested? 
  • Where was he taken from Tripler and when? 
  • What kind of rehabilitation is he undergoing?
  • When is he expected to return to full duty? 
These are fundamental questions that any reputable news organization would ask before running press releases that include comments and quotes from the delegate. If Faleomavaega did give those quotes to, then needs to let the public know that all is well with him but the public still wants to know the answers to the questions about his mysterious illness. Now that Samoa News has published our speculation that the delegate has had a stroke and possibly has suffered paralysis and loss of speech, and may either now may be or was in a coma, why has the delegate's office not issued a denial? Issuing a press release stating Faleomavaega is pleased with passage of national guard legislation is no substitute.

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