Think partnerships, it's much better than threats of silly lawsuits

Let’s think about this for a minute. The weather forecast is something everyone takes an interest in. Whoever you are and regardless of what you do, the weather report is a critical part of everyday life. It’s a given.

But for those reports to be accessible by the public, the partnership between the media and the Met Office is extremely critical. You see, long before there was social media and the internet, the only way to communicate those weather forecasts was for the Met Office to use radio, TV and the pages of the newspapers to get their message across.

It’s a win-win partnership in the sense that the Met office achieves its goal of disseminating critical accurate public information that allows people to make important decisions about what they do on a daily basis.

The media medium on the other hand also wins because they fulfill their function of being the carrier of such important accurate information. It goes without saying that such a partnership is a vital part of everyday life.

Up until this day, this is continuing.

But there is reason to believe that such a critical partnership between the Met Office and the media is under threat. A story titled “Bill to enable Met Office to make money, sue media” published on the pages of this newspaper two weeks ago certainly raised eyebrows and rang the alarm bells.

No one would object to the Met Office’s attempts to make money. If that’s what they need to do to improve their service, so be it.

But the threat to sue media outlets for “incorrect reporting” of weather reports is petty. It is unnecessary.

In explaining the bill, the Assistant C.E.O. of the Meteorology Service, Mulipola Ausetalia Titimaea, said inaccurate reporting and the use of outdated forecasts by media organisations are major issues faced by the forecasting body. Fair enough. We understand that.

“For now, the media outlet, they can do what they like, such as media reporting, graphic designs, information that does not reflect well on the Met Office," Mulipola said.

“For example, when we provide information, it should be up-to-date;  sometimes [there is incorrect] pronunciation of technical terms that people don’t understand, so that is why we have this in place.

“Once it [the bill] is enacted through Parliament than we can be able to sue any media outlet for wrong reporting and providing people with wrong information.”

Now slow down a bit Mulipola. These are very serious allegations against the media in general. Perhaps he should identify which media organization or groups he is referring to. Who in their right mind would set out to deliberately publish or broadcast wrong information about the weather?

By the way, media people are not meteorology experts. How can you sue someone for mispronouncing a technical weather term? If it sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is.

What Mulipola and whoever drafted this silly bill need to start thinking about is partnerships and how to improve the delivery of services to the people that matter. They need to stop thinking about lawsuits and all these silly threats that do nothing but instill fear and stifle the free flow of information, critical to members of the public.

What are they going to do with their technical weather information tomorrow if all the media organisations wake up and collectively say no more weather stories or updates?

Of course that will never happen because for the media, this is such a vital service to all members of the public, which both the Met Office and the media exist to serve.

We all have an obligation to our community we have pledged to fulfill.

The President of the Journalists Association of Western Samoa (J.A.W.S.), Rudy Bartley, is a voice of reason.

“I believe [we should] educate [rather] than legislate. Rather than spending that money on legal suits, they should spend it on media training. In that way there is continuous development and the media will know there are issues that need to be fixed, that’s much better than suing the media, which will not get anyone anywhere and things just get messy,” he said.

Asked about the threat to sue a reporter for mispronouncing a term, he said: “It’s counter-productive and it doesn’t help anyone. How will it help the journalist who didn’t get the pronunciation right? How does it help the Met office?”

We couldn’t agree more. Today, what we need to think about is partnerships and how to make them stronger. In terms of weather forecasts, the Met Office needs to partner up with the media and use them as a tool to advance their work. The potential is endless. And members of the public will only benefit as a result.

What do you think?

Have a wonderful Wednesday Samoa, God bless!

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