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Food blogger ethics

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The blogger Tommy visited Zinburger recently, and clearly came away with mixed conclusions. He found the place clean, the bar tender friendly (a very big deal in Tommy's assessments), and the wine selection appropriate.

 

But, he found the burgers inferior to what he expected. Failling apart, cooked rare rather than the medium rare requested, no char, in a bun several sizes too large.

 

Tommy also aimed a shot at the bloggers etc who reported uncritically on the invitation only preview. As is often the case with such events, the reality for paying customers differs from the preview version for influentials.

 

Perhaps if bloggers and yelpers waited until they spend their own money, bringing a more critical eye to the table, rather than filling their egos with "VIP" treatment and bellies with free food, their opinions would be more insightful and ultimately more helpful. No offense intended here, of course

 

 

Zinburger

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The blogger Tommy visited Zinburger recently, and clearly came away with mixed conclusions. He found the place clean, the bar tender friendly (a very big deal in Tommy's assessments), and the wine selection appropriate.

 

But, he found the burgers inferior to what he expected. Failling apart, cooked rare rather than the medium rare requested, no char, in a bun several sizes too large.

 

Tommy also aimed a shot at the bloggers etc who reported uncritically on the invitation only preview. As is often the case with such events, the reality for paying customers differs from the preview version for influentials.

 

Perhaps if bloggers and yelpers waited until they spend their own money, bringing a more critical eye to the table, rather than filling their egos with "VIP" treatment and bellies with free food, their opinions would be more insightful and ultimately more helpful. No offense intended here, of course

 

 

Zinburger

 

I think to some extent that makes sense. Now, I am not speaking to the ego aspect, but more to the critical eye; and also the fact that many of these are preview type events. Does ego come into play? Yes, I think it does. Just my opinion. There are bloggers who I might listen to, and others who I might not. Do I think some bloggers let their ego come into play? Yes, I do.

 

Let me preface my comment(s) on the fact that I am not "in the business" -- I am not a reporter, blogger, critic, or anything of the like. I am -- plain and simple -- a consumer. That said, I attended the "preview" event at the new Capital Grille (Paramus). I wanted everyone there to have their major dress rehearsal and/or practice run. They didn't expect, nor should they be, to be critiqued on this performance -- not in the public domain. Yes, the managing partner, chef, etc., want to see what needs to be improved, changed, worked on, and so on. That's the purpose! I've attended many "grand openings" or "preview" type events. Yes, sometimes they are "soft openings" or something of the like. But let's remember what these events are for. There are so many aspects to a brand new operation that need to be addressed, but must be done so "live" so to speak.

 

I don't see "professional" critics do their reviews at a soft-opening or preview. There's a reason for that and we all get that. What's the slant or orientation of the visit? A critique? An "FYI" or to inform people? Of what? What the place looks like, what the menu is like, etc. -- sure, of course the food has to be part of it. It's a major part, but not from a critical perspective. I want a place to work out the bugs, both on and off the menu. I want the servers, chef, kitchen staff to do their dress rehearsal so to speak. They have to.

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Perhaps if bloggers and yelpers waited until they spend their own money, bringing a more critical eye to the table, rather than filling their egos with "VIP" treatment and bellies with free food, their opinions would be more insightful and ultimately more helpful. No offense intended here, of course.

 

I think Tommy is painting bloggers with a pretty big swath here. I have to assume that I'm one of his targets, given my standing and presence in the NJ food blogging community.

 

Firstly, I don't believe it is my responsibility nor the mission of my blog to "review" restaurants. I can't even pretend I can review them anonymously with the same criteria that would be reserved for a newspaper restaurant reviewer -- I'm far too well-known and easily recognizable that my own experience will never echo that of the average diner on most occassions. If you take my writeups for what they are -- accurate pictures of food as it is served and observations of what I've sampled, then I think I've done my job. It is up to the diner to comment on my blog posts and report on their own experiences, which I let everyone do. I do not expect a restaurant to perform balls to the wall every time a diner visits a particular establishment, and I also expect them to flat out fail on occasion. It happens.

 

Tommy seems to be under the impression that food bloggers ask for free food and special treatment. Do they? Maybe they do, but that's not how I personally operate. I don't associate with many other food bloggers on a regular basis, so I can't say I know how everyone else operates.

 

In the case of Zinburger, they invited a large amount of media and friends/family to their "Soft Opening". Some of those folks were food bloggers such as myself. They asked us to order a variety of food so their kitchen could be tested with a full house. That's the purpose of this kind of soft opening, to "Stress Test" the front and back of the house.

 

Do I get invited as a high-profile blogger to a lot of soft openings and other restaurant PR events? Sure. Do I get invited by PR firms to try restaurants out and get comped? Sure. Several times a year. Do I accept every invitation? No, not by a mile. Do I on occasion walk into restaurants on the first or a second visit, get "made" and then get treated special and/or get comped by the restaurant? Shit yes. Pretty much unavoidable. I'm walking in with a camera bag, a high-end prosumer DSLR and a giant $600 50mm lens for low light food photography. It's goddamn obvious I'm not an average diner even if they don't know who I am.

 

Is it my responsibility or obligation to inform the reader every time this happens? No. And if you and anyone else who has a problem with this can go shove a stick up their ass if you think I have to. It takes time and effort for me to blog and cover restaurants at the level I do. Effort which translates into personal cost, be it at cost to my personal time or direct financial cost. If it so happens that a few times a year I get comped, its a piss in the ocean in terms of compensation for the majority of the year when I'm spending a LOT of my own money to provide content for my readers.

 

Now, do I attempt to compensate for when I get comped by giving the staff really nice tips? Absolutely. Do I spend my own money most of the time when I'm dining out? More often than not, yes. Do I ever demand to get comped or get treated as a VIP? HELL NO. As a matter of fact I AVOID certain restaurants for months at a time for fear of being comped and then when I return I get the Jewish/Italian/Asian mother guilt routine from the restaurant owner for not having stopped in for ages. It's embarrassing, even.

 

As I said upthread, I think Zinburger offers good value for what they offer. Do I consider myself a hamburger expert? Probably not, although I've been interviewed extensively on the subject. Do I think it's a solid burger and a nice alternative to fast food? Absolutely. Tommy is entitled to his opinion, as is everyone else. That's why we have different food bloggers and the mainstream media so the diner can decide who they want to listen to. 10 years ago you didn't have these sort of options when it came to restaurant coverage. Today you do.

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given my standing and presence in the NJ food blogging community.

 

It's pretty easy these days to set up a blog with Blogger or the like, and take photos and upload them. No credentials needed.

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given my standing and presence in the NJ food blogging community.

 

It's pretty easy these days to set up a blog with Blogger or the like, and take photos and upload them. No credentials needed.

 

Yes, it is. However it's not easy to do it for four years straight and to consistently produce high quality content.

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Yes, it is. However it's not easy to do it for four years straight and to consistently produce high quality content.

 

Obviously, the "high quality content" matter is a subjective self-opinion open to discussion,(right on this thread) not to mention that humility is a very appealing human trait.

 

Are you trying to convince Mouthful-ites or yourself that you have "standing" and "high quality content"?

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Are you trying to convince Mouthful-ites or yourself that you have "standing" and "high quality content"?

 

I'm suggesting that I let my work speak for itself. And my conversation with you is over. You want to have a referendum and discussion on who is producing the best restaurant blogging in New Jersey, go right ahead. But I'm not wasting my time with you.

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Once again, a good discussion has taken a turn -- personally, might I say -- for the worse.

 

That said, I think some clarity might not only bring the discussion back, but also be important.

 

What Tommy -- who I do not personally know -- said might make sense to some of us and might not to others. It might offend some, and not others. No offense, but so be it. Whether or not he is casting a wide net, to me, is not the point. His comments were made in a dead medium and he certainly doesn't need me to defend or interpret. Thus, who really knows what he meant? Personally, I don't think he meant "all" -- as he didn't say it nor did he infer it. At least not to me, or I misread it.

 

Now, I can't speak to someone feeling as if they were one of his targets and whether or not that's right or wrong (to feel that way). No one has that right, and if OTB feels that way, he feels that way. Period. However, OTB, if you feel that way exclusively because of your "standing and presence" in the blogging world, and that topic comes here in this forum, now it's another story. So, if you feel that way because of your standing and presence -- then I'll agree with you only about one thing you said -- and I'll point to your words -- "you have to assume" and that's all it is, an assumption. Nothing more.

 

Whatever one's view of their "responsibility" is -- in part could be moot as it's a self-proclaimed responsibility. We all write our own job descriptions for unpaid work. Start a blog, it's your decision and job description. Again, I didn't read Tommy's comments in totality, but I thought based upon what he wrote, the "asking for free food and special treatment" comment had nothing to do with "the ask" or whether or not there is one. To me, that's a separate discussion. OTB, whether or not you ask for free food, wasn't the point until you made this the point and made it about yourself. If Tommy did in fact do that, I guess he can say so, but again, I didn't read it that way.

 

 

The other aspect I disagree with is someone looking at the "responsibility or obligation to inform the reader every time this happens" (a comp). OTB, no offense, but who said you did? To take such an position, again, no offense, is unnecessary. I think you are being overly defensive, and now tying it to a point of entitlement, vis a vis, "It takes time and effort for me to blog and cover restaurants at the level I do. Effort which translates into personal cost, be it at cost to my personal time or direct financial cost. If it so happens that a few times a year I get comped, its a piss in the ocean in terms of compensation for the majority of the year when I'm spending a LOT of my own money to provide content for my readers."

 

You are right. You will get no argument from me. However, those decisions were your choice. Simply put, I don't care if you tell me or not. I don't care if you do get comped or not. However, your have to be prepared to have people think that. Is there objectivity and integrity in the process? I am sure there is. Yet, not everyone knows that. You don't have to like it, but be prepared for it. You decided to spend your own money, not anyone else. We appreciate your work, but it shouldn't come with me being saddled or being held to some standard that you created.

 

As far as the rest of this, let's not make this a "one up" thing. If you were offended, take it up with Tommy off-line if you wish. Going public compounds this entire thing, and you, nor anyone else deserves that.

 

Thank you.

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The other aspect I disagree with is someone looking at the "responsibility or obligation to inform the reader every time this happens" (a comp). OTB, no offense, but who said you did? To take such an position, again, no offense, is unnecessary. I think you are being overly defensive, and now tying it to a point of entitlement, vis a vis, "It takes time and effort for me to blog and cover restaurants at the level I do. Effort which translates into personal cost, be it at cost to my personal time or direct financial cost. If it so happens that a few times a year I get comped, its a piss in the ocean in terms of compensation for the majority of the year when I'm spending a LOT of my own money to provide content for my readers."

 

Perhaps this was an emotional reaction on my part, but food bloggers are so frequently accused of not disclosing their comps that I felt it was finally necessary to explain what the realities of being a food blogger and my own personal experiences with this matter were. Not everyone operates the way Tommy purports that they do. That was my point.

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I'm suggesting that I let my work speak for itself. .

 

Apparently that's not what you do. Your long defense of yourself and rant hardly makes that a true statement. It almost sounded like a politician defending a payoff for a quid pro quo.

 

Tommy's blog is quite refreshing, entertaining and in stark contrast to yours. Tommy is quite humorous, self-deprecating, and does not take himself too seriously, certainly never to the point of self-aggrandizement. His blog is very enjoyable to read.

 

And ironically, by way of a third party quote, Tommy has generated over a thousand words of defensiveness from you. He even said "nothing personal", and never even mentioned you. And the quote of Tommy's cited here is right on, and quite logical as well as sensible.

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The other aspect I disagree with is someone looking at the "responsibility or obligation to inform the reader every time this happens" (a comp). OTB, no offense, but who said you did? To take such an position, again, no offense, is unnecessary. I think you are being overly defensive, and now tying it to a point of entitlement, vis a vis, "It takes time and effort for me to blog and cover restaurants at the level I do. Effort which translates into personal cost, be it at cost to my personal time or direct financial cost. If it so happens that a few times a year I get comped, its a piss in the ocean in terms of compensation for the majority of the year when I'm spending a LOT of my own money to provide content for my readers."

 

Perhaps this was an emotional reaction on my part, but food bloggers are so frequently accused of not disclosing their comps that I felt it was finally necessary to explain what the realities of being a food blogger and my own personal experiences with this matter were. Not everyone operates the way Tommy purports that they do. That was my point.

 

I understand. Got it. And, thanks. As I said, I don't think Tommy is purporting that "everyone" operates that way, again, at least I didn't read it that way. Regardless, thanks again.

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I understand. Got it. And, thanks. As I said, I don't think Tommy is purporting that "everyone" operates that way, again, at least I didn't read it that way. Regardless, thanks again.

 

Actually, I had a conversation with Tommy this afternoon and he really only meant it in general terms and not directed towards me personally. So yes, I did overreact, but this was the trigger that set me off. Sometimes that's all it takes.

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So yes, I did overreact, but this was the trigger that set me off. Sometimes that's all it takes.

mad-as-hell.jpg

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I understand. Got it. And, thanks. As I said, I don't think Tommy is purporting that "everyone" operates that way, again, at least I didn't read it that way. Regardless, thanks again.

 

Actually, I had a conversation with Tommy this afternoon and he really only meant it in general terms and not directed towards me personally. So yes, I did overreact, but this was the trigger that set me off. Sometimes that's all it takes.

 

Not a problem at all. Unfortunately, I understand your point -- vis a vis people questioning the objectivity, integrity, comps, etc. Like I said, that will always be part of it, at least for some people.

 

Many industries, publications, etc., have the very same issues. It's inherent. Thanks again.

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So yes, I did overreact, but this was the trigger that set me off. Sometimes that's all it takes.

mad-as-hell.jpg

 

Exactly.

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