Monday, October 1, 2018

Ethics in Food Blogging

Every field of endeavor has accompanying set of ethical guidelines to govern said field.  Doctors have to take the Hippocratic oath.  Lawyers have to obey the constitution.  Yet, food blogging is a relatively new field. Sure, there have been food critics for over a century, but there were magazine/newspaper editors and publishers that the critics were accountable to.

Today, anyone with a computer and an appetite can blog about food, including me.  As a result, there are no checks and balances in the field.  Anyone can write any opinion they want, and publish the piece without anyone fact checking the work.  Some believe this means there are no ethical standards for food bloggers.  I submit to you that there are ethical standards whether, or not, bloggers choose to follow them.

Steak & Fries
Subject: Steak & Fries | Date: 02/27/2009 | Photographer: LWY | This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License.
Hold the mayo - Perhaps the most common error food bloggers make is having their order customized.  They order something with ingredients added or left off.  I have seen blogs where the blogger ordered a burger with no mayo, then he wrote that the burger was too dry.  OF COURSE IT WAS TOO DRY, HE LEFT THE MAYO OFF!

In order to do a food review, the blogger has to order the food the way it was intended to be eaten.  Otherwise, they are not reviewing the dish everybody will be ordering.  There's no point in writing such a blog.

Personal bias - Another pitfall food bloggers need to be aware of is personal bias.  For example, my brother owns a restaurant in Portland called Pinky's Pizzeria.  I can not review the food there because my brother owns it.  Technically, I could do it as I along as I divulge my connection to the restaurant.  I did just that, not long ago, when I reviewed a cheese snack, which is made and marketed by my friend's mother.
However, as a rule, it's best to steer clear of such conflicts of interest.  The blogger would either have to give a good review, or risk being be very uncomfortable at Thanksgiving dinner.  It's not worth the hassle.

Outright lying - Sadly, some writers don't bother going to the restaurant that they are writing about.  I'll use my brother's restaurant again as a good example.  Somebody wrote a beautiful blog about how Pinky's serves a wonderful almond pizza.  The only problem is they have never put almonds on their pizza.  They don't even have that option on their list of toppings.  The writer had never gone there.  This is as unethical as it gets.  For weeks, people kept coming to Pinky's to try the almond pizza, and would leave angry when they couldn't get it.

Somebody once compared the internet to the wild west; anything goes.  While there are no sheriffs online to keep bloggers honest, there are common sense rules which all ethical bloggers should adopt.  If they don't do it for moral reasons, they should adopt such standards in order to be taken seriously by readers.  If food bloggers become known for fudging the truth, people will quit reading food blogs.

Meanwhile, people who read blogs should take what they read them with a grain of salt.  Seriously, I'm a food blogger and I'm advising you to be weary of what you read in food blogs.  What's that about?  The best advice I can offer is to find a blogger who appears to share your tastes, and put him/her to the test.  Is the Pasta Carbonara as creamy as the reviewer said it was?  Is the new burger at McDonald's as bad as the blog made it seem?  Put food blogs to the test until you find one you can trust.

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