Free meals, fake doctors, and journalistic ethics

By Mabel Doge Luhan

Just like the time a gentleman suitor on SilverSingles asked me whether I speak Greek, I think the Saipan Tribune might be in the midst of a misunderstanding! For almost as long as I’ve been slightly (only very slightly) incontinent, the Tribune’s “business” section has been very much unlike any other business section I’ve ever seen.

A newspaper’s job, the Tribune may not know, is to serve the public interest. The business section, specifically, should report about business, for the interest of the public. Not for, nor on behalf of business.

Yet every “business” article n the Tribune is like this little doozy published on November 17th: “Bourbon Street rolls out Sunday lunch buffet,” by Mark Rabago, who is the EDITOR, which is pretty much like being captain of the shuffleboard team!

In this “article,” Rabago writes cringey advertising prose such as “Just some of the items in that expansive spread…” The entire article sounds like an eighth-grader trying to make a sales pitch. At least Rabago goes light on the usual purple prose of these articles; some of his predecessors would have laid it on heavy with the “scrumptious delicacies” and “mouth-watering delights.” 

And so when the public has entrusted Rabago to be the public’s agent (again: the public’s agent, not the business’s agent), it wants some questions answered. Most basically, is the buffet any good, and most importantly, how much does it cost?  The cost question, the most important thing the public on this island of economic struggle wants to know, is completely ignored. As for the evaluation of quality: can the public trust this guy? The article goes on and on raving about this wonderful buffet — how does Rabago know how wonderful it is? Did he try it? Was he an anonymous paying customer, or did he get a freebie? 

There are two possibilities here. EIther Rabago (the EDITOR) doesn’t know about the most basic obligation of a journalist, to serve the public interest. Or he thinks raving about this buffet, and not even mentioning how much it costs, nor providing an honest evaluation of it, is serving the public interest. Either way, it doesn’t look good.

Perhaps my good friends at DEAD PREZ (they are marihuana addicts, but quite clean and well-spoken) put it best:

“If that don’t work then kick the facts.

If you a fighter, rider, biter, flame-igniter, crowd-exciter,

Or you wanna just get high then just say it,

But then if you a liar-liar, pants on fire, wolf-crier, agent with a wire,

I’m gonna know it when I play it.”

Here’s a tip, Rabago: You put EDITOR next to your name, and yet show that you have absolute disregard for your readers. If they can’t trust you to evaluate a buffet, how can they trust you to be honest about real news? Chew on that — and report back on how scrumptious it is.

By the way, a menu is a listing of food items, not a single food item. Look it up. Your mind will be blown. Read a restaurant review written by a real newspaper. Your mind will be blown again: they actually say whether the food was good or bad, and how much it costs.

At least the Variety no longer does these disguised advertising pieces. It discloses the “Business Edge” advertorials. Fine. Everybody does advertorials these days, and there’s nothing wrong with them, though the disclosure could be made a little bit more obvious FOR THOSE WITH 143-YEAR-OLD EYES AND EYEGLASSES THICKER THAN RAFET’S (ALLEGEDLY PENDING) FEDERAL INDICTMENT!

Not that the Variety gets off scot-free in serving the public interest. Besides their absolute failure to hold the powerful to account, they have long been serving as the mouthpiece of actually physically dangerous misinformation.

A November 17th article, “Atalig, Taisague, others to be subpoenaed today,” is competently written. Nice job, Arnold. No complaints there. But down below the article? We see an unhinged rant imploring people not to get vaccinated, and spreading lies that are absolutely dangerous to readers’ health. 

Is this “free speech,” Zaldy? In a comments section where people aren’t allowed to say “stupid” or “idiot” (afraid they’re talking about you?), but can spread absolutely poisonous ethnic hate (some of the dog whistles require a high school education to understand, so you’re excused), and actually physically dangerous health misinformation? What’s next — are you going to run articles telling people to stop taking their cancer meds? Oh wait, you’ve already done that! You used to happily run a “health” column that told people to stop taking their heart and cancer meds, not to trust their doctors, and to drink a spoonful of baking soda for any ailments.

You have blood on your hands, Zaldy. You’re munching on a Snickers and thinking I’m being a DRAMA QUEEN, but you absolutely have blood on your hands. Not only would no actual, functioning newspaper print this kind of physically dangerous misinformation, but you might want to talk to a lawyer (not a “document processor” or a “notary”) about the legal liability for publishing misinformation that will kill people. Even when it’s free content. Even when the contributing author has a stack of fake credentials almost as unimpressive as a “Best Editorial Writer Award.”

Dandan and especially Rabago should take a look at the journalistic code of ethics:

Most of these will be an absolute shock to you, because telling a Saipan journalist to refuse free meals, admit mistakes, give voice to the voiceless, and hold those in power accountable is like telling a dog to meow. But read these rules over. Ask Si Vince to help you with the bigger words when he comes by to check your articles.

It’s Sunday, and I just had my hole bleached, so let’s end on a happy note:: Zaldy’s Friday editorial was actually thoughtful, interesting, and well-written. More like this, please. Mabel’s watching.


Mabel Doge Luhan is a woman of loose morals. She resides in Kagman V, where she pursues her passions of crocheting, beatboxing, and falconry.


  • islasCorrupt

      11/22/2023 at 12:34 AM

    Just like fake NGO (Non-Profit) members who have no authority to make decision! They are not legally able to vote beyond advisement purposes. Ai even coachroaches are involve in such scams! Drama queens are involve.

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