We encountered a situation that surprised us yesterday. After posting a story on Econet’s move to the Comviva platform for the core technology powering EcoCash, one of the key sources of information for the story posted the following comment:
This report is not accurate, and not approved by myself. I referred you to Econet staff for the full detail and that is why I would not provide you detail. Your comments are also distorted – I noted I was confused as to why Econet would tell the market they migrated because PMT had capacity issues. Your reporting is not factual. M Schorn, CEO.
This was followed by a tweet that basically said the same thing. The tweet was deleted shortly afterwards. My response:
We then went into a back and forth exchange of emails with the PMT CEO as both sides made efforts to make the other side understand how they viewed this. Suffice it to say, we didn’t agree.
As part of explaining how we gather information and make it into an article for publication, we have decided to post this article so you, the reader, can know the process and how this situation came to be.
Basically, if we contact an official and ask for information pertaining to the products or services their company provides, we consider the information provided in the response to be on record and available to be used in our stories, unless the official mentions that they would like to have the conversation off the record. We highly respect such requests and do not compromise on this. If we ever betrayed this, our sources and officials would simply stop supplying us information.
Sometimes an official inadvertently gives more information than they intend to have in the public domain. In such cases we use our judgment and usually remind the official that they are speaking on record so they know what will be published. We sometimes also have to filter out what we suspect the official may have disclosed unintentionally.
But sometimes, this process just goes all wrong. An official we contact for information assumes that the responses they give are off the record without them saying so.
This is what we see with the Econet/PMT/Comviva story. We contacted both PMT and Econet for more information about the new features that had been introduced with the ‘upgraded’ EcoCash. Econet did not respond. They usually don’t when they have nothing to say or are just not ready to speak.
The PMT CEO responded. And in his response “replied to all” copying the Econet official we had copied in our original email. He didn’t say that he was responding to us off the record and because he had also copied the Econet official we took it he was not. We exchanged a few more emails with him and when we detected he was mentioning some things that he would probably not want published, we asked if he would like to provide a separate official comment or if he was ok with us just using the contents of the email thread. He did not respond to this message.
We sent another email about an hour later to check with him again and this too wasn’t responded to. Another hour later we took a decision not to include the additional information he had provided in the subsequent emails and just use the first email, which had been copied an Econet official. This appeared on record enough for us.
A few hours later, we were met with the comment above accusing us of inaccuracies and distorted information as well as a tweet accusing us of unethical reporting.