FOOD BLOG CODE OF ETHICS 2.0
- We understand that the moment we put anything up on the internet (a blog,restaurant reviews, recipes, videos, photography, and comments) we automatically become a publisher and therefore have the responsibility of a publisher.
- We accept the responsibilities that come with publishing. We will be accountable for our actions.
- We will be civil.
- We will be transparent. We will disclose gifts, comps, samples, and financial relationships with specific businesses if we write about them.
- We will not steal other people’s work. Other peoples’ content (writing, recipes, photos, video, illustrations) will not be taken or used without written or verbal consent from the creator of said material. If we use someone else’s material and change it for our own use (i.e. a recipe) we will give attribution to the original resource.
I’m not sure what offends me more – that certain HK food blogs regularly ignore #4 or that the food photography (often on those same blogs) is so bad. My opinion is that some people use blogs as a way to eat in more expensive restaurants for free and are willing to trade positive reviews for a free meal, consequences be damned.
Why am I so offended? I’ll tell you why. I can’t afford to spend more than a few hundred HK$ for a dinner for two very often. When I am in the mood to do so, the choices in Hong Kong can be overwhelming – we have more than 10,000 restaurants here. I’d like to turn to reviews as a guideline for where to go and what to sample. But when that reviewer has got a free meal and doesn’t disclose that – even if the food is good – and I then choose to go to that place, then I have been cheated.
That first link in point #1 is to an article on the Columbia Journalism Review website titled Everyone Eats … But That Doesn’t Make You a Food Critic. They’re talking about the U.S. and New York in particular, but much of this holds true for Hong Kong.
Food blogs cover all aspects of the city’s food scene. Some concentrate on recipes, some on chef interviews, some on greenmarkets and community-based food issues. But many are concerned, partly or fully, with reviewing restaurants. From their inception, these restaurant-reviewing blogs saw no point in adhering to the rules established by Claiborne, nor did they, in most cases, announce what the substitute rules were. Most rejected anonymity, accepting or even soliciting free food in the restaurants under review.
To accommodate the mania for quick reviews, restaurants started hosting press dinners prior to opening, called “preview meals.” Organized by publicists, and including introductions of chefs and staffs along with free food, these events were typically attended by a broad range of food writers. Eventually, professional reviewers came to attend these meals. These previews also represented a sort of subsidy by the restaurants for the publications, since the meals wouldn’t be expensed. Hosting preview dinners allowed restaurants to control the circumstances in which reviews were written.
The preview dinner became the stock-in-trade of food bloggers. Many had ambitions to make the jump to the professional ranks, and the preview dinner made a more complete review possible. Restaurants sometimes tried to forestall early reviews by declaring “soft openings” or “in previews” periods, much like Broadway plays. Restaurants also began to host “friends and family” weeks prior to opening as a way of perfecting the menu before the bloggers arrived. These gatherings, too, soon became thronged with food bloggers.
More than ever, diners could use a reliable critical guide. But where once there were a few dependable voices who reviewed restaurants based on a common set of professional standards and strategies, there is now a digital free-for-all. As with many things on the Web, this profusion of voices is often touted as a wondrous blow for democracy, a long-overdue rising up of the masses against the elitist overlords of the culinary realm. Thus the runaway popularity of sites like Chowhound and Yelp, which publishes city-specific reviews by anyone who cares to weigh in on everything from restaurants to churches, and whose motto is “Real People. Real Reviews.” I’m all for everyone having his or her say, but when it comes to cultural criticism there is a strong case to be made for professionalism and expertise.
Craig Claiborne, and those who followed him, lifted the restaurant review out of the realm of marketing and made it a public service—a job defined by professional standards and expertise. Today, despite whatever benefits come with the every-man-a-critic ethos, we are in danger of losing that public service.
Unscrupulous food bloggers in Hong Kong are crooks in my opinion.