Ethics of A Food Blogger

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So recently I’ve been confronted with an interesting topic: Why do you get free meals and why should people believe your blog?
This question even popped up on the popular restaurant review page “Oman Restaurant Review” and the admins there were accused of trying to score free meals…etc.

Should bloggers get paid? should they get free meals? how do you insure that a blogger’s views are honest and not bought?

Well, here are some popular bloggers and their opinions before I share mine…

Heather Duncan from The Duncan Adventures had this to say:
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“As a Blogger I am constantly ploughing my time and money into a site to please other people. Shelling out for camera equipment, domain names, traveling to places in search of a good story – it all adds up! I don’t make any cash back on my site so effectively I am at a loss. I just keep blogging because I enjoy it and feel a sense of pride. If a company wanted to invite me for a free meal to discuss their upcoming events, I don’t see anything wrong in that. A small ‘perk’ in return for all the time devoted to creating something bigger is a not a bad thing. A ‘perk’ is just a small reward, not pay day.”

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I asked one of my favorite food bloggers; Susan from HeyFatsu a few questions that I’ve been asked a lot! this is what she had to say:
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Me: Why do people differentiate bloggers from traditional media? essentially they both get asked to join in for food tasting.

Susan: It’s probably because people see bloggers as people who write for free, whereas the print media gets paid a salary for it. That makes bloggers look more objective and open, so maybe people feel somehow betrayed if they then perceive bloggers as getting “bribed” with food.

Me: Do you think its ethical? would it sway opinions of bloggers?

Susan: Blogging is so varied and doesn’t follow a set structure, each writer is going to make their own ethical choices. Personally I was brought up on a diet of Enid Blyton and righteous indignation so I have a very firm view of what I am morally comfortable with. I think that readers can sense when there’s honesty in what’s being written, especially highly intelligent ones like the people who read FatSu. I hope people reading FatSu know that while I might love food and appreciate sometimes being invited, I wouldn’t ever change what I wrote based on that for the sake of a free meal. Maybe for a massive pile of cash.

Me: If you got invited to a place and didn’t like the food, how would you handle that? does getting invited sway how you write?

Susan: Sometimes, I get invited to places and choose not to go because I have had the food before and not enjoyed it. So free food alone would not be enough to tempt me. Free awesome food, I will not turn down. Why would I?! If anyone were to ask it I ate for free, I would tell them the truth. I have never and would never lie about that, or anything else on my blog. My blog only retains its value for readers if it’s honest and entertaining. There’s never been any pressure on me to make specific references, or efforts made to influence my posts, by any of the people that have invited me – if there was, I wouldn’t continue to eat at their restaurants. I’m no food whore. And nobody tells FatSu what to write.

Being invited doesn’t sway how I write. How good the food is sways whether I write. I’ve been invited to restaurants and not particularly enjoyed the food – to me, that makes for a pretty dull post, so I tend not to write it up, particularly when it’s a cuisine I’m not that familiar with (on the ground of well, what do I know?). Of course if I was a traditional restaurant critic, I would have to give a full evaluation regardless, but luckily I’m not. I can choose what I write about, and I like to write about good food. All my negative ranting tends to be aimed at the market in general, whether it’s the proliferation of faceless chains or the lack of ripe avocados on the shelves.

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Initially, I had set out to write a big post about this but all my points are covered! what id like to add is that we don’t write to get perks, we write because we enjoy it and as Susan rightly said, it will be a very boring post if we write things that we ourselves can’t enjoy!
More so, we have intelligent readers…..if I write that a restaurant I visited has amazing food and great service and you get treated to an unpalatable meal, would you believe my next post? would you continue to read my blog?

No, you wouldn’t …….

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8 thoughts on “Ethics of A Food Blogger

  1. Huda Sabih

    A wonderful read! And yes you are absolutely right when it comes to honestly while blogging.Absolutely loved your blog!more power to you:)

  2. I do agree that a bloggers are much more likely to give an honest positive review than a magazine, for example, might (unless they are intentionally looking to be controversial). That said, I do wonder how much being given something for free sways your opinion of it, so I always have to ask myself, would I have liked this as much if I paid for it?

    • That makes sense, actually thats a question that I have been wrestling with….
      Do I write about the experience? because hey good food is still good food? or should I tackle value?

      I dont think that I would like something more just because its free but I do think that the value I would get is something that effects someone’s decision.

  3. I always prefer to be anonymous in reviews and not be paid for it. I can evaluate food for food, but food by value and service, and venue, that’s something else entirely, same goes for fashion, or cars, or any other product or service. The most honest and valuable review is by someone who isn’t paid for their opinion with that product or service for free—however expert opinion on specifics can be paid for and still be relevant, depends on the blogger or journalist. For example, a good food journalist might be critical in a food review, but due to sponsorship, won’t be allowed to be critical of politics or hman rights etc… Woul dfree food alone be enough to make someone say this restaurant (or radio station, or mattress or hotel or fashion brand) is awesome? I hope not;) but going there anonymously to a restaurant, the establishment not knowing who you are , always has the most authenticity.

    • See i do a mix of both, a lot of the time i wi just go unannounced and review the place…however when there are specific events i do get invited, and in any case it is hard to be anonymous as most of the restaurants know me as im also a food photographer

  4. greg

    I believe there is a definite conflict subliminally and objectively. Bloggers taking perks are rationalizing that they can remain neutral. I agree with OPNO. Many of the bloggers on Oman seem to be taking perks these day as there posts and contest mirror each other. I don’t find it as authentic and do not respect as much. Clearly they all blog about the same restaurant after a free meal but most would never have reviewed the restaurant or even eaten there had they not been given the perk. So, the perks definitely have influenced the posts. Although I do not always agree with Omani Princess blog at least I find her authentic and most other blogs in Omani seem corrupted by these perks lately.

    • Well then how would you believe any review (professional that is) …print media also has objectives and theirs is much bigger than a bloggers….they cant piss off an advertiser while we chose which event to cover and go to.
      I agree with you in one thing, posts of one event happen at the same time…but that is because the bloggers get invited together…..ill tell you what though, compare these blogs….ull find differences as i would have liked something and someone else liked another. Also not everyone that is invited to blog blogs about it, thats because some dont see the experience up to par or fitting what they wanted to blog about.
      i also posted this post for one major reason; transparency…i want my readers to know that some of these invites are comped and that i wont lie about it or hide it, and it wont effect my decision (check my post about the best western, i was invited but didnt like some aspects which i did write)
      Importantly, not all my posts are invites and if you see which places i have covered and the food i have tasted you will see my taste clearly showen

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