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Rail Paul

Food blogger ethics

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1. Some of them run their sites/blogs as if they were professional reviewers. What many of them either don't know or fail to act on, is that professional reviewers almost always have a follow up conversation (post reviewing visits, prior to review being published) in which critical bits of information--ingredients, cooking methods, reasons for combinations, etc.) are discussed with the chef/GM/owner. To skip this step does a disservice to the person reading the "review" as well as the establishment being reviewed and in many cases skews what somebody might take away from a review. This can ultimately affect whether or not someone tries a restaurant.

 

Until Frank Bruni started writing about such phone calls openly, I always assumed that food critics just KNEW all that stuff (re ingredients, techniques, etc.). I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but this new knowledge made me feel much less inferior.

 

(I had the same experience years and years sitting next to a critic at a dance performance. She had a set of press materials that explained all the abstruse cultural references in the work. I always thought critics just KNEW all that stuff.)

 

2. This board especially has a very informed, refined collective "palate." This board seems to sub-consciously be hard on the places that don't excite them, in favor of places that do. As a casual observer here, I have always detected a bias against the "boring" even if well done, in favor of the "wow, that totally was unexpected and blew me away." If my restaurant is predicated on the "non inventive, but well done"--bistro, comfort, low brow (non haute) ethnic, do I deserve a 6 or 7 page thread telling the world that the food was "boring...if not properly cooked?" That has always been a pet peeve of mine here, but I admit that there is no real "solution" to that critique.

 

If there isn't already a thread about this on the General food board here, there ought to be.

 

 

Wasn't Frank Bruni on the London politics desk before becoming the Food Critic? lol...

 

I guess if the other guy (name escapes me) can go from being the Theater Critic to writing the Sunday Opinion piece, expertise is not high on the Time's list of credentials.

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I trust Marauder implicitly.

 

During the time he's written Off the Broiler Jason has built a reputation for integrity. I have some quibbles with him now and then but overall, I trust him too.

 

It is also within your right to comment on my blog if you feel I've made an error or a questionable or unfair judgement. I've also with reader feedback corrected mistakes and have pointed them out. I do this on Off The Broiler as well as on my tech blog at ZDNet. That's sort of the whole point of this New Media/Blogging thing, to have reader interaction.

 

Bullshit. You don't publish all of the comments.

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I trust Marauder implicitly.

 

During the time he's written Off the Broiler Jason has built a reputation for integrity. I have some quibbles with him now and then but overall, I trust him too.

 

It is also within your right to comment on my blog if you feel I've made an error or a questionable or unfair judgement. I've also with reader feedback corrected mistakes and have pointed them out. I do this on Off The Broiler as well as on my tech blog at ZDNet. That's sort of the whole point of this New Media/Blogging thing, to have reader interaction.

 

Bullshit. You don't publish all of the comments.

 

I absolutely don't. It's not a democracy, and disruptive people who make ad hominem remarks and the like don't have the privilege of participation. However I'd like to think that what I allow is pretty liberal provided people are civil.

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During the time he's written Off the Broiler Jason has built a reputation for integrity.

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Don't forget humility.

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Note, I'm not addressing the hypocrisy angle. If you're soliciting / getting free meals or free courses etc I feel you should mention them. Regardless of whether you think you're above being influenced. That's pretty basic, as I see it.

 

Very basic, RP.

 

Obviously, though, there's one blogger here that disagrees with you... In his rant above he said that folks that feel this way can "shove a stick up your ass".

 

 

I stand by my comments. Over the years, I've learned that I can decide whether a person's comments stand the test of time, and whether they agree with my tastes. In that sense, accepting / soliciting freebies etc is a relatively small part of may assessment for somebody with a decent docket of results over time. It doesn't really affect my judgment if I'm already in agreement with the person's general tastes and I'm properly calibrated with them.

 

But, for somebody where that calibration doesn't exist, a new blogger / shill, etc, unreported or solicited freebies would constitute a much bigger part of my judgment.

 

And, we all have our petty or major squabbles with people on this board in the past. I'm willing to set some matters aside, and judge people on their recent production.

 

As a manager over the years, I've found that any other strategy would probably drive me nuts. We all have our histories. They inform my outlook, but they shouldn't drive my decision making. That's just my opinion, I'm sure others have other points of view.

 

This is where reasonable people can disagree. You feel that accepting or soliciting free food and drink is not necessarily a bad thing when judged against the body of work of a reviewer. I think that anyone who claims to be impartial and doesn't reveal to his readers any free food or drink, or any treatment that the typical diner wouldn't get is being dishonest and self-serving. It is the appearance of impropriety that is damning; whether something in fact improper occurred is immaterial.

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I don't think there is an answer here. Specifically, I don't think there is a right answer here -- at least not for everyone. Different people have different "standards" so to speak, and will look for accountability and transparency to different degrees. Now, I am not saying that disclosure is a bad thing. Not at all.

 

So if every time a blogger writes about a restaurant, he/she discloses "we were comped" or "my desserts were free" -- then what? Then someone points out that there has never been a critical or negative story about any place where the blogger ate free? 5 times? 30? Or is it just that some readers feel it should be disclosed? I am sure that no matter what, "the" or "some" thought will always be there to some extent.

 

In addition, what won't be addressed -- except by heresay, rumor, grapevine, and very little first-hand experience -- is the fact that a blogger or reviewer "demanded" free food, or let it be known they were coming, etc. Point being is that there will always be some aspects of this that can be problematic, at least for some readers.

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I don't think there is an answer here. Specifically, I don't think there is a right answer here -- at least not for everyone. Different people have different "standards" so to speak, and will look for accountability and transparency to different degrees. Now, I am not saying that disclosure is a bad thing. Not at all.

 

So if every time a blogger writes about a restaurant, he/she discloses "we were comped" or "my desserts were free" -- then what? Then someone points out that there has never been a critical or negative story about any place where the blogger ate free? 5 times? 30? Or is it just that some readers feel it should be disclosed? I am sure that no matter what, "the" or "some" thought will always be there to some extent.

 

In addition, what won't be addressed -- except by heresay, rumor, grapevine, and very little first-hand experience -- is the fact that a blogger or reviewer "demanded" free food, or let it be known they were coming, etc. Point being is that there will always be some aspects of this that can be problematic, at least for some readers.

 

 

My recent post from the other thread.

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So if every time a blogger writes about a restaurant, he/she discloses "we were comped" or "my desserts were free" -- then what? Then someone points out that there has never been a critical or negative story about any place where the blogger ate free? 5 times? 30?

How would that be a bad thing?

 

I think there should always be full disclosure of comps. Then the reader can make up their own mind whether the blogger was unduly influenced.

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I think there should always be full disclosure of comps. Then the reader can make up their own mind whether the blogger was unduly influenced.

 

So does Rail Paul and myself, but one blogger told us basically to "shove a stick up your ass". (Very classy)

 

It's absolutely crucial, and the idea of NO quid pro quo is basic to good journalism. Comped food can be lumped in with a political payoff in many ways.

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I'm a little easier about comps when it comes to bloggers. Sifton eats out on the Times' dime. If an amateur blogger is going to attempt to match the scope of Sifton's reviews it's going to get expensive fast. I'd prefer a no-comp policy but I understand why some bloggers would accept them. That said, I think they should always be disclosed.

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I like the way Sneak discloses the comps and special treatment he receives. I just wish he'd disclose more info about his dates.

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1. Some of them run their sites/blogs as if they were professional reviewers. What many of them either don't know or fail to act on, is that professional reviewers almost always have a follow up conversation (post reviewing visits, prior to review being published) in which critical bits of information--ingredients, cooking methods, reasons for combinations, etc.) are discussed with the chef/GM/owner. To skip this step does a disservice to the person reading the "review" as well as the establishment being reviewed and in many cases skews what somebody might take away from a review. This can ultimately affect whether or not someone tries a restaurant.

 

This has come up before, and unfortunately it runs slap into the concrete wall of practicality. Also, be careful what you wish for. I have no idea how many food blogs there are now in New York alone, but it would be quite unrealistic to expect every restaurant reviewed to help them fact check.

 

I occasionally follow up with the restaurant in this way if I feel it's important to do so, but I try to make it unnecessary. Some restaurants have been very helpful with this; some chefs just don't return calls - and I don't honestly blame them.

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I like the way Sneak discloses the comps and special treatment he receives. I just wish he'd disclose more info about his dates.

Like whether they comped him anything?

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