I’m not a food blogger. But I have visited scores of restaurants and taverns from Boston to Key West, Baltimore to Phoenix, for meals and drinks. I take pics of the meals my mate and me consume and submit reviews on our experiences on the 'net. I’ve always tried to be accurate and candid–for good or ill, on places I write about.
But just recently I’ve fallen into the Rabbit Hole that is the Food Blog world. I think I’ve read over a hundred restaurant blogs in the past month alone. I come away from reading these with the sense that I’m participating in something duplicitous. Based on my rough guage, I’ve read approximately 60, or so blogs that the writers admit were payment for a free meal. (No need to mention that all were glowing reviews). There are a few more blogs that mentioned being “invited” to menu “Seasonal Debuts” at upscale or posh venues.
So I have to ask here: Is it ethical for a food writer to file copy that gushes with delight, if they’ve been treated to a free of charge meal and beverages, by a restaurant?
Yes, so long as the free stuff and any relationship with the place and/or its staff is fully disclosed.
MZ: But, would you “trust” observations from a reviewer who had been comped free food & drink?
Food critics who work for newspapers don’t pay for their own meals. Does that make newspaper reviews untrustworthy?
I think it is ethical, but it is not without bias. A typical person who receive a free meal tend to give it a higher rating than if the person has to pay for it. I used to get free product to review from Amazon, and it is always difficult to review. What I try to do is to look up how much they are charging the product and in my mind pretending that I pay for that amount. Yes, this free can opener is good, but how would I feel if I actually have to pay $15 for it?
Not much - It’s fundamentaly sponsored content. I, for lack of a better term, basically apply a discount. More for the subjective comments like, “the squash was delicious.” Less for more objective ones like, “the squash was roasted and served with chocolate sauce.”
perhaps technically “ethical” - see the newspaper columnist analogy - but, totally worthless.
so many “bloggers” & posters putting out so much bad information, the web is utterly untrustworthy.
such as… aluminum cookware, Teflon.
and such stellar professional experts ala ChefTalk - where no one had any comment to the poster who claimed the green on potatoes is made in reaction to insect attack, it kills the insects, so you know humans should not eat the green… seriously? and none of the highly trained professional chefs knows anything better about potatoes… tens of thousands in culinary education bucks totally wasted.
people get on the internet and think everything there is true - sad thing that.
An age old question. Too much information or too little information (causing the problem) ?
the problem has always been there. ze ideeots selling snake oil and diet pills, etc.
and ze biggier ideeots that believe it.
the internet has provided them with front and center stage - presuming they can keyword their pages correctly.
the aluminum thing - dates to the 1950’s - so thoroughly debunked it’s not even remotely humorous anymore.
the thousands of people dying from Teflon - and the FDA / CDC is doing nothing about it - they are in fact covering up the true cause of death.
vaccinations cause autism - still going strong even after the primary researcher / doctor admitted he faked the data.
it’s a long long list.
Maybe you’ve hit the sweet spot here, MZ…
,For me, reading a food blogger with poor language skills, is like hearing nails dragged across a blackboard. That they filled their belly on someone else’s dime grates on me.
That is indeed insult to injury - the “rich asshole who winds up with the pretty girl” character manifested.
Well, it goes without saying they should reveal this, but a bigger problem is that the meal they got may not be the meal you get, even if you order the same thing. We recently saw TRATTORIA (I think that was the one), in which when the chef heard a food critic was coming, he tried to guess which customer it was, and gave that person and their dinner special attention.
It’s not like a book reviewer, who may get a free copy of the book, but it’s the same book you will get.