I have been quite ill lately and haven’t checked my Marketmanila emails for two days… so I only saw this response from the Reader’s Advocate of The Philippine Daily Inquirer a few minutes ago, and I quote:
“Thank you for your feedback, Marketman. I’m sorry that since I don’t come to the Inquirer every day, I was unable to reply immediately. I wish to assure you that I have looked into your complaint and have checked the “mangosteen” website as well, and that I shall take up this matter with the Lifestyle editor. Please be assured that the Inquirer takes feedback such as yours seriously.
Thank you, Ms. Kalaw-Tirol, for that email, and I look forward to your follow-up on this issue.
So, there you have it. The first official communication from the paper… let’s see where it leads. If you will recall, I first wrote about the scribes issue nearly 10 days ago, here, and followed it up with a second post, here. Also, I had been planning to write (but have been so sick) a longer email to several folks at the paper because a cursory check of just 3-4 months in articles by the same author yielded at least two other questionable sets of sentences or paragraphs without apparent attrbution to an apparent favored source, Wikipedia, it would appear. For those who are interested, you may want to check out these instances, aside from the original Scribes who consume mangosteens:
Example # 2
What was the source of the information stated in first THREE paragraphs of an earlier column by the same writer on spaghetti squash from 01 August 2007? While it is substantially different from the Wikipedia write-up, it does really beg the question if the writer used Wikipedia as a source but didn’t bother to credit it either… after all, even Marketman, who has written about lots of vegetables, would normally be able to write straight off of the top of my head that spaghetti squash is an “American Native” or that is was called Sharkfin Melon by Chinese folks and list out its vitamin content (naming several specific vitamins), and how to cook it by boiling, baking or steaming it, or could I, or even figure out “squaghetti”???
Example # 3
In a column by the same writer on August 29, 2007, the writer answers a question on figs, and I quote her answer verbatim (from on-line version) here:
“Figs are flowers of the fig tree, not the fruit. Also known as a false or multiple fruit, they come from clusters of flowers and seeds that grow together to form a single mass.
Dried figs are high in dietary fiber and are a rich source of calcium. They are also said to be antioxidants, substances that fight disease causing free radicals.”
But if you look at the Wikipedia entry on the topic of figs, you get these two sets of pieces of data, and I quote:
“The fig is commonly thought of as a fruit, but is is properly the flower of the fig tree. It is in fact a false fruit or a multiple fruit, in which the flowers and seeds grow together to form a single mass…
…figs also have higher quantities of fiber than any other dried or fresh fruit, and are high in calcium.”
Now the sentences here are substiantially different, yet all of the same thoughts are covered. And this begs the question which source was indeed used as it does not appear that the writer completely claims these thoughts as her own, even including a “they are also said” in her sentences, so who said it???
At any rate, I appear to be splitting hairs… but not really. I think any writer who has a regular column in a national newspaper should take care to follow some basic rules about attributing the source of his/her information, particularly if the amount of research done to respond to readers questions appear to be nothing more than a simple “google” and “wikipedia” read. I could list out a half dozen excellent reference books for food that may augment the google search capability on food writers’ computers to broaden the information sources used to reply to questions… Certainly with the newspaper garnering millions in advertising revenue they could afford some reference materials. :)