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Philippines: The ‘Big Bad Blogger’ controversy

What other journalists tagged as an article to be ignored as it is a badly-written one, Margaux Salcedo's story about an irresponsible blogger who is allegedly in cahoots with a public relations firm in an extortion racket targeting an unnamed restaurant owner has caused a great stir among Filipino bloggers.

In her article entitled “Please Don't Give Blogging a Bad Name” which was published in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine last January 23, Salcedo shares the story of how an anonymous restaurant owner was victimized by a so-called “Big Bad Blogger” and a PR firm that offered to make the former cease from writing negative reviews about her restaurant for a hefty price.

As a result, the anonymous restaurateur has become weary if not scared of bloggers and PR firms, fearing that another extortion gimmick might be pulled on her again.

It turns out that the so-called Big Bad Blogger has been around for a long while, Juned at Baratillo.net recalls:

There have been stories going around the Big Bad Blogger for months and perhaps years now. Unfortunately, most of the time the affected restaurants would decline to pursue it further because they would often claim that it would affect their business. No one was willing to come forward.

Now that it seems that someone has finally come forward, some bloggers have expressed dismay over the actions of the Big Bad Blogger and the PR firm.

Naturally, food bloggers have come out in defense of their niche. Chuvachienes gives a warning to the Big Bad Blogger and the PR firm that their time of reckoning will soon come:

So, for your sake Big Bad Blogger – Ms. Salcedo may not have mentioned or identified who you are – but time will tell. And for the PR firm? You will be exposed from the shadows as well and believe us “bloggers” when we say – this is not the end of this story.

Dementia the Elitist Blogger reaffirms that not all food bloggers are like the Big Bad Blogger:

I can only guess who this Big Bad Blogger is but that person is giving us a bad name. I am not a big name when it comes to blogging but I know my conscience is clear. I do get invited to some blog events, mostly food-related events, and I make sure that my blog posts about such events clearly express that I was there on an invite. In addition, I write an honest review as I could, whether I was invited or not.

I started this food blog because I love food and I want to share my foodie experiences to those who would read this. I have never been paid nor will I ever accept payments to write a positive review. Why should I? I have money to wine and dine in any restaurant I want. Sadly, some bloggers were not brought up with good principles and will stoop so low for a couple of measly GCs or even a free meal. I find it really disgusting. This Big Bad Blogger, and other bloggers like him/her, should be banned from ever blogging again and that PR firm should be reported to some regulatory board.

However, there are some that have taken Salcedo's article with a grain of salt given that it has failed to measure up to journalism standards.

Danilo Arao dissects Salcedo's article over at The Lobbyist:

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.

Carlo Ople takes a cautionary step and asks questions before making a stand:

Did the blogger really know that the PR Agency is “representing” him? For all we know the PR is just using his name and he really just did write a glowing review for the first restaurant and a bad one for the next. I strongly recommend that the restaurant and the writer of the article give the name of the blog because that would only be the fair thing to do.

Rowena Wendy Lei also joins on the side of caution:

What if, just what if… someone is out to ruin this PR firm? Maybe someone is out there indeed making these extortionist offers and then using the PR firm's name to do it. It has occured to people that maybe PR firm is using BBB's name to get some business via extortion, but what if it were the other way around? Maybe someone is using PR firm's name without them knowing it.

Others have taken it a bit further, putting to task Marguax Salcedo for an article that, as mentioned in the beginning, falls short of journalism standards.

Salinlahi opines:

The writer nonetheless decides that it is news worthy not recognizing that it would affect the Philippine blogosphere as a whole even if she sought to defend it. That ‘bloggers’ and ‘blogging’ in general would suffer the blame until the people involved are revealed. And so I hope you dont fault me when I say that the first problem here is the writer.

Clearly, this incident of an alleged blogger misbehavior, with a PR firm involved, has brought back discussions about imposing or following a prescribed set of conventions for bloggers to follow, like Tim O’ Reilly (O'Reilly media founder) proposed the Blogger's Code of Conduct.

This idea is welcomed by IT Pinoy who sees value in imposing or adopting such guidelines:

although regulating blogs might raise questions about freedom of speech, having these rules if it would help would be good esp to those who abuse this medium and thus give blog a bad name.

Until more details about this incident surfaces, everything would just be side comments, second-guesses and the worse, fear, mistrust and divisions in the Filipino blogging community.

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