On a slow news day (Sunday), a journalist opts to write about an irresponsible blogger who allegedly conspired with a public relations firm to extort money from a restaurant owner.
It would have been a good story, except for three things: (1) No names were given; (2) minimal details were given on the circumstances behind the restaurant owner’s allegations; and, to make matters worse, (3) the author used only one source (i.e., the restaurant owner named Georgia) in writing her article.
In an article “Please Don’t Give Blogging a Bad Name” published in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine last January 23, journalist Margaux Salcedo interviewed an anonymous female restaurant owner who fell victim to a so-called Big Bad Blogger (BBB) and an unnamed public relations (PR) firm that offered to make BBB stop writing negative reviews about her restaurant “for a price.” The full text is available online at http://showbizandstyle.inquirer.net/sim/sim/view/20110122-315972/Please-Dont-Give-Blogging-a-Bad-Name.
Under ordinary circumstances, I wouldn’t waste your precious time by calling your attention to an article which is better off ignoring. But the reactions of many bloggers on Salcedo’s article prompt me to give my two cents on the issue as there are angles that need to be discussed in the context of standards of responsible writing.
Bloggers have every reason to demand that Salcedo name names and not hide characters behind catchy aliases like BBB. If divulging the identity of the blogger and PR firm is impossible, then it is the responsibility of the journalist to explain why this is so.
At this point, I only need to briefly analyze the form and content to make better sense of the article’s shortcomings. In terms of content, the article provides very limited information and context. As regards the article’s form, Salcedo’s diction needs to be analyzed: For example, the use of the phrase “big bad blogger” gives the impression that the blogger in question is indeed being paid by a PR firm that, in turn, allegedly tries to coerce the restaurant owner to give money.
Salcedo is actually not sure of the connection between BBB and the PR firm. What more can we make of this paragraph written by Salcedo which is full of speculation? “Maybe Georgia is overreacting to a negative review. Maybe The Firm was only claiming to have relations with Big Bad Blogger for their own sinister purposes, unbeknownst to Big Bad Blogger. Or maybe the suspicions are true and Big Bad Blogger bows to the highest bidder. Whatever the case, one thing’s for sure: Georgia is now afraid of the blogging community. And this fear resonates among other restaurateurs who have had the same experience.”
In reading Salcedo’s article, “one thing’s for sure” (to borrow her words): Her uncertainty is due to lack of in-depth research as she failed to get the side of BBB and the concerned PR firm. Even if the journalistic output is packaged as a column article (Menu) in the Sunday magazine, it must be stressed that columnists need to share opinions based on research, particularly multiple sourcing.
A single-sourced article like Salcedo’s, not surprisingly, presents only one side of the story, important details of which are even wanting. There was no effort, for example to get the circumstances behind the restaurant owner’s reaction to the alleged negative review written by BBB.
Unlike some bloggers who argue that the article puts blogging (especially food blogging) in a bad light, I would rather reserve my judgment until more details are provided. While I share their assertion there are indeed irresponsible bloggers in our midst, I don’t think a badly-researched journalistic article like Salcedo’s serves as evidence of this.
The article mainly serves to titillate rather than inform, which can be perceived as “jagged” in the sense that it is of rough quality (or, simply put, a rough draft that should have been improved by meticulous researching and rewriting). One cannot be blamed if Salcedo is also described as “jaded” because of perceived exhaustion to unearth significant data.
Indeed, it is the jagged, jaded journalist who created the big bad blogger on a supposedly slow news day. The basic challenge for bloggers and other concerned readers is to objectively criticize it and not engage in subjective, knee-jerk accusations that do nothing in raising discourse to a higher level.