SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: Nixing de Pano

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/16 July) – The uproar caused by a blog post about the state of animals at the Manila Zoo – and the discovery that the writer, 20-year-old Nix de Pano, had used old photos taken by other persons to build her case – should rekindle the discourse on how to deal with the ever growing role of blogs as a source of information.

It reveals one drawback of the web’s having turned into a minefield of potentially a lot of unverified information being peddled by aspiring writers desperate to get attention from readers who, as the case with de Pano’s article shows, prove as reckless as these writers are by reposting such article.

Of course she admitted the photos were not hers. But apart from that all we got in the end is a remorseless disclaimer from the blogger who said she did it as part of a school project. De Pano wrote: “…I have not been to the zoo myself, so this only from an outsider’s point of view. Anyone who has been to the zoo recently, do correct me if anything in this entry is off.”

Here’s a classic case of irresponsible armchair blogging with “facts” drawn from her rich imagination. You’re off.

“This blog was written for a school project and was not meant to directly attack the zoo or its employees, but only to get the issue known and hopefully spark some action,” de Pano added.

Wow, did her professor tell her there’s nothing wrong in writing erroneous articles for public consumption if it’s only meant for a school project? Worse, she wanted people to act based on grossly inaccurate facts. She must be relishing no end the attention the article has generated from readers who love to flaunt their concern for the welfare of animals especially the caged ones. I’m inclined to believe however that much of this “concern” is simply hitching on a bandwagon.

I also don’t support the practice of holding animals captive for the sake of recreation. But the main issue concerning de Pano’s article is not animal welfare but the pitfalls of an overly liberalized information environment. This is not to suggest censorship but to make web users, bloggers in particular, realize the need to practice prudence and sound judgment even if unlike professional journalists they’re not bound by any ethical norms and standards. Not being beholden to editorial policies is no excuse for publishing articles that may unjustly malign persons and institutions, or worse, spark hatred and violence.

Blogging may have expanded the meaning of democracy in media by enabling non-journalists to participate in discourses on just any subject – from politics and economy to more mundane topics like recipe, hobbies and even personal angst. The danger however is the absence of accountability and the fact that many readers tend to believe the information they get from blog sites at face value, and pass it on like manna from heaven to friends hungry for news they don’t usually get from corporate media. And like the few loaves of bread and pieces of fish that the Christ shared during the Sermon on the Mount the number of unwary readers of such sources of information would soon multiply.

Is the Information Age reaching the point of implosion? (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])

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