BRIAN CANAVE WRITES – Media lesson learned in Taiwan this week: don’t let tainted cooking oil taint your responsibility in reporting.

In light of recent reports on the sale of bad cooking oil in Taiwan, the media had a frenzy covering this controversy, including speculation causing an increase in worry for the Taiwanese public. This did not impress US journalism expert Kathleen Culver.

Culver, who was visiting Taiwan to conduct workshops, talks, and professional exchanges on media issues said, “If Taiwan media are increasing fear and uncertainty, that ultimately works against the public’s interest.”

What prompted these comments to begin with? Culver’s visit coincided with escalation in anxiety from the media over supposed mixture of recycled kitchen waste, industrial grease, and animal feed oil. According to Reuters, Taiwan prosecutors have detained Wei Ying-chun, an executive of Ting Hsin International Group, the company responsible for selling the alleged tainted cooking oil. Ting Hsin International Group is currently under investigation.

After spending a brief time in Taiwan, Culver is under the impression that there is a strong need for more responsible reporting. There should be more depth and variety of stories reporting on public interest matters and less focus on breaking news and scandals, a trend we here at Asia Media International have noted in the past. Culver stresses the “importan[ce] to report [on] what we know as we know it, but not to guess at what we don’t know, because that ultimately increases fear.”

For the sake of the Taiwanese public, let’s hope the media listens to and executes Culver’s advice or she will not have accomplished what she set out to do in the first place.