Hello, my name is Leah Greenstein and I’m a food blogger. I don’t get paid much for what I write, though I’d love to make a living at it. I do it because I love food and I love writing—even if actually sitting down at the computer can be painful when the sun is shining or I’d rather be making ice cream. Nonetheless, I write. And I take what I put out into the world as seriously as I would as if I were writing for a magazine or a newspaper, not because it’s required of me, but because I think I should. I believe in honesty, fairness and accuracy, and I think everyone has a right to their opinion.
I think the tension between honesty, fairness and accuracy and subjectivity has been the bane of the “journalism” world for decades. All one has to do is watch Fox News and MSNBC to see that different people perceive facts differently. Personally, I like to know what filter someone’s looking through. I read Mother Jones because I know it skews liberal and I read the Economist because I know its writers synthesize everything through an economic lens. If I want human interest, I look somewhere else.
But when I started reading other food blogs, I frequently found myself lost. How did this person get the product they were writing about? Was this nasty review written because of one bad dining experience or two or three? I mean everyone has a bad night, right? I know I had them when I waited tables and when I managed restaurants. And then suddenly, how did my photo end up on that person’s blog. There’s no link, no attribution—that’s stealing!
I started reading commentary about blogs, nasty tirades about amateurs and hacks. I stumbled across stories about Yelpers blackmailing restaurants to get free food or risk getting panned. I learned more and more about people getting plagiarized, their images getting lifted, and people who personally attacked chefs in their reviews, but then didn’t have the courage to put their names on what they wrote.
And it made me sad.
So I started talking to other food bloggers who, I found, were frustrated with the same things. And I found that my writing partner, Foodwoolf, was particularly fired up about the subject. So we set out for breakfast one morning to talk about standards and ethics, about honesty, fairness and accuracy, and expressing our opinions.
What we came up with was this: The Food Blog Code of Ethics. It culls from our personal experiences as bloggers, journalism school grads, photographers, waiters, restaurant managers, diners and common sense. It is by no means perfect, but it’s a way to start a conversation. We hope you join in.