In the past few months I have often felt that food blogs have become a much stronger influence on mainstream media. But more importantly, I have also asserted (as I am sure many of you have noticed) that the internet as a SOURCE of information, has become so alarmingly essential (almost a crutch) for many writers and researchers, from bloggers to food writers to my 11 year old daughter doing research on a native plant species. And I cannot emphasize enough how careful you have to be when using and citing internet sources as they are often inaccurate, incorrect or incomplete. Now, I have a personal view of food bloggers compared with mainstream food writers. A personal food blog, such as Marketmanila, is essentially the collective posts (something akin to diary entries) of an individual, usually one with a passion for the topic he/she writes about. He is often, as I am, NOT a professional writer. And more likely than not, a food blogger has no phalanx of writers, editors, proofreaders, legal teams or anti-plagiarism departments to support him. In Marketmanilaâ€™s case, the blog is a totally NON-REVENUE and NON-PROFIT site, which means that I have never EVER made any money out of this endeavor. Up until now, I have never charged subscription fees, never sold advertising or sold my content despite several inquiries and lucrative offers to do so, and never charged for the use of my material or photos. And yet, I personally feel it necessary to be careful about how I source my data and try to give credit where credit is due. But I will be the FIRST to admit that I may have lapsed in that respect in some of my posts, but I try harder and harder not to let that happen. I post up to 3 times a day or 20x a WEEK, and yes, my writing quality definitely does suffer. But I have a reasonable responsibility to my readers to be as factual as I can, to identify opinion as opinion, to be, essentially, a reasonably CREDIBLE source of information. And over time, I suspect that readers who feel I am full of caca simply will not come back to the blog, but others who do return, effectively display/place some trust in what I writeâ€¦ And yet, I DONâ€™T REALLY HAVE TO FOLLOW ANY SET STANDARDS at all, I do so because I choose to apply some parameters to myself. Over the past two years, I have worked with journalists, magazines, websites and other forms of media and have always offered to help without asking for remuneration. Many mainstream food and lifestyle writers and magazine editors and publishers READ my blog and I am indeed flattered, sometimes even exchanging occasional emails with some of them.
But my view of mainstream media food writers, on the other hand, is that they MUST possess a higher set of PROFESSIONAL and ETHICAL standards of journalism for the simple reason that they are supposedly professionals, and their newspapers and companies are often FOR-PROFIT, sell millions of pesos worth of advertising, charge for their content, vehemently defend their copyright on their â€œoriginalâ€ materials, possess a phalanx of writers, proofreaders, editors, legal teams, etc. So professional food writers and amateurs like myself are so totally NOT in the same LEAGUE at all. So it irks me no end when I do come across poorly written, sourced or edited articles in publications that I personally PAY for. And I know they are isolated instances, and please, do not take this as a personal assault on all professional food and lifestyle writers, but I just have to rant on an article I read with my breakfast this morningâ€¦
Before I get to the article, let me disclose I have a â€œhistoryâ€ with this publication, and I do not think I am singling them out, after all, I subscribe to them to this day. In April 2004, this newspaper was kind enough to feature Marketman in a full-page spread that brought me lots of readers, then in February 2005, the same paper featured our â€œanonymousâ€ beach home in a two-page lifestyle spread. In November 2005, the same paper figured in an incident where they published one of my photos of yema which was stolen by a contestant and it took several days before they issued an erratum and lukewarm quasi-apology (after I had written them, written a strong post on the episode, and discussed the situation with folks related to the owners of the paper). But as my regular readers know by now, I am likely to speak my mind when something bothers me, and this time is no differentâ€¦
Is it so hard to take a clear photo of a fruit in season?
The article by a well-known chef and weekly contributor to the paper this morning is about mangosteen. Anyone who has been to the markets lately knows we are probably at the peak of mangosteen season (at least for those grown in Mindanao). At the top of the article is a fuzzy photo, clearly taken from an internet source, and thankfully, properly credited to the source, a commercial site that sells mangosteen juice. Considering that this is a national newspaper publication with millions of readers, extensive budgets, in-house photographers and relatively long lead times before articles are published, my minor question here is, were they just so LAZY that they couldnâ€™t send someone out to buy Â¼ kilo of mangosteen for say 20 or 30 pesos, whip out a digital camera and use a much clearer and original photograph? This is only my opinion, and just that, but geez, for the cover of a SECTION of a MAJOR newspaper, they simply download a photo from the internet and blow it up to fuzzy proportions? Yet the REST of the section has well taken and clear photographs for the other articlesâ€¦ Hello, where are the editors on this?!?
Does the writer simply not know the rules for quoting materials from others, including internet sources?
The article (on-line version) appears to be heavily written after some basic googling was done. This is my impression because if you google â€œmangosteenâ€ or â€œhealth benefits mangosteenâ€ or other variations, you are led to several articles where some similar information is provided. It is, I suspect, how the photo of the fruit was found, and how this direct and accurate quote from a Dr. Ray Sahelian, MD is sourced â€œmangosteen has compounds xxxxx xxxx x xxxxx xxxx.â€ But here is the rub, despite copying the quote EXACTLY and providing CREDIT to the doctor who supposedly wrote it, nowhere is it said that this was taken from a website and better yet, how does one confirm if this dude is a bonafide doctor at all? AND, by quoting and naming the source of the sentence here, the writer seems to FULLY UNDERSTAND that using anotherâ€™s words does require attribution to avoid the dreaded P word (for Plagiarism)â€¦
Is it worse to change the order of the words or to do THAT and likewise CHANGE the meaning of the words so that I nearly gagged on my tea with amusement this morning?
Here is the part that really annoyed me no endâ€¦
The writer of the article in todayâ€™s food section writes, and I quote:
â€œSince 600 AD, mangosteen has been known as a healing agent and was used by scribes in Southeast Asia.â€
If you follow the google sources, you will be directed to the site of Xango juice drink and it states, and I quote:
â€œAs early as 600AD, scribes in Southeast Asia recorded the use of mangosteen as a general remedy and healing agent.â€
Does that look familiar? Is it close enough a sentence to be considered possibly plagiarized? Was permission sought and given by the source? Did the writer think moving the words around a bit would sufficiently qualify it as a new take on the subject matter? Why am I making a big deal out of this? Because of the following reasons…
1.The sentences are remarkably similar in the content of words used and the intended ideas being communicated (or attempted to be communicated).
2.The WORST PART is, the newspaper writerâ€™s take on the sentence MEANS SOMETHING TOTALLY DIFFERENT BECAUSE OF AN APPARENT UNINTENDED MISUSE of the words!!! In her version, only the SCRIBES appear to use mangosteen, rather than the SCRIBES recording the USE of the mangosteen as a general remedy of CITIZENS at large. This is a MAJOR editing faux pas, in my opinion, and if it is true that she simply re-arranged the words of another source, and in the process inadvertently changed the meaning, the sentence is now not only â€œborrowedâ€ without attribution, but also INCORRECT and INACCURATE, then yes, someone should be taken to task for this!!!
3. Where is the author in all of this? Where are the editors?? What kind of quality control goes into the content that is read by millions of fellow Pinoys not only here, but also around the world on-line? How are they going to weasel their way out of this one?
I can so buy a writing error, even an editing error, but this a double whammy that clearly indicates what to me smacks of laziness, sloppiness, poor editing, poor adherence to sourcing or attribution, and possibly a case of plagiarism. This is NOT the first time this has happened in local papers (I just alerted Sassy Lawyer to one of her recipes being used in another large Manila newspaper a few days ago) and unless someone raises the issue and the paper and its editors do something about it, these instances will likely go unnoticed and uncorrected. Look, I should be one to speak, right? I have errors in my posts up the wazoo. But most if not all of the time they are typographical errors or poor use of English, wicked spelling, or omit a step, or bad grammarâ€¦ and because it is a blog, I can correct it almost instantly if it is pointed outâ€¦ but this is a well thought of NATIONAL BROADSHEET NEWSPAPER!!!
Shame, shame, and triple shame for writing something without exerting much effort to research the topic sufficiently, for possibly taking information without proper attribution, possibly taking a sentence and not only slightly re-arranging it but inadvertently changing what it says, for poor editingâ€¦ Geez, you only have a food section ONCE a week, with perhaps as many as 7 articles by as many as 5 different writers. These sections garner as much as a half a million pesos in ad revenue (not counting other sections) and untold revenue from website exposureâ€¦and are read by hundreds of thousands if not millions of people and you canâ€™t be a bit more careful and hold yourselves to a HIGHER STANDARD of PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISM and ETHICS? Boo. Boo. Boo. Even if I werenâ€™t a food blogger, I would probably be annoyed enough about this article to have written the newspaper directly! If I only wrote one article a week less than 1,000 words in length, instead of the 20 I do on this blog (not to mention responding to comments and emails), I think it would be a little more credible than this one about mangosteenâ€¦