Granville Ampong's 'Leviticus' Blooper and On-Line 'Ukay-ukay' Journalism
By Manny Piñol
18 May 2012
The controversy generated by an internet blog posted by a Fil-Am writer where boxing icon Manny Pacquiao reportedly expressed his views against same sex marriage and condemned gays to death is a clear indication of the problems besetting On-line Journalism.
Time was when the rules of journalism were inscribed in stone and these were religiously followed as there were only three major media outlets - print, radio and television.
"No stories could be written without proper attribution; direct quotes are preferred; writer's opinion has no space in straight news; language must be clear and words must be understandable even by a grade school pupil."
Any news item written in brown newsprint that did not meet these rules was sure to land in the editor's wastebasket.
Not everybody could write for newspapers. The appearance of a reporter's first byline was cause for celebration.
Each media outlet, especially the respectable ones, had their in-house ombudsman who looked into infractions on journalistic standards committed by writers and reporters.
These strict tenets in journalism are ignored now.
With the internet offering a new medium for expression, anybody can now just open a blogsite, post an incomprehensible article and offer this to readers as a work of art while at the same time proclaiming themselves as "respected journalists."
Granville Ampong's "Leviticus" article posted by the Examiner.com, a blogsite where writers are paid according to the number of hits their articles generate, is a perfect example of journalistic irresponsibility on the part of the writer and the blogsite.
What made things worse was that other writers, including one from a prominent American newspaper, took liberty in lifting parts of the article and wrote subsequent reports about the alleged "death to the homosexuals" quote from world boxing icon Manny Pacquiao.
Ampong's write-up which he calls a "literary piece" mixed up a few quotes from Pacquiao on his reaction to same sex marriage and spiced this up with a verse quoted from the Book of Leviticus in the Old Testament which in effect said that a man to man a sexual relationship is punishable by death.
Now, Ampong is saying that the Leviticus quote was his and not Pacquiao's, absolving the Filipino boxing champion of any fault in the anti-gay article which has caused a tremendous backlash not only from the gay community but from liberals as well.
But Ampong does not take all of the blame. The Examiner.com should also be scored for failing to exercise its editorial obligation.
A simple scrutiny of Ampong's article would have made the editor realize that the grammar was atrocious and the construction of the sentences was simply a mess. Even a high school paper editor would have decorated that "literary piece" with red ink all over.
The Leviticus quote could not have escaped an editor's eagle eyes. He would have noticed that there was no attribution as to who made the quote.
But worse than Ampong and the Examiner.com were two other writers who lifted portions of Ampong's article and conveniently attributed the quotes to Manny Pacquiao without even double checking the facts with either Ampong himself or Pacquiao.
A respectable journalist would have had second thoughts on picking up the quotes and using these as the main topic of an earth-shaking story.
And this is the other serious problem with On-line Journalism now.
Internet news articles which would appear to have been written by reporters you would assume covered the events first hand are actually just collages of bits of information lifted from one website to another and them composed by the "author" who actually sits in front of his laptop 8,000 miles away.
Notice how many On-Line stories reporting accounts of boxing events, basketball games, and other sports events appear under the by-lines of writers who actually were not physically present in the venue of the events and composed the stories based on reports appearing in other websites.
At best this new phenomenon could be called "Ukay-ukay" journalism, or simply said "Second Hand Journalism." (Ukay-ukay is the word used to describe the second-hand clothes underground industry which is thriving in poor countries like the Philippines.)
This simply was unthinkable in the journalism days of old because the editor would have asked the writer: "Did you cover the event that you are writing about? Did you see the action yourself?"
Going back to the Leviticus controversy, Ampong committed a monumental blunder by writing an inaccurate article to project Pacquiao's views on same sex marriage and two other "Ukay-ukay" journalists committed an unforgivable crime by using an inaccurate report to write an inaccurate story.
It was a case of a dumb leading two other dumbs.
In a deeper perspective, the "Leviticus" controversy generated by Ampong and the National Examiner and fanned and stoked by two other equally incompetent and irresponsible journalists should prompt an immediate examination on how internet journalists should be held accountable.
Youtube.com is already doing this. It has established a set of guidelines which if violated could result in a "ban" from the site.
With just about anybody empowered to open blogsites and write anything, the world's netizens should band together to ensure that the internet would remain a venue to exchange great ideas rather than a garbage dump of misinformation spawning hatred and misunderstanding.
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