"With more than 800 food blogs in Australia, traditional restaurant reviewers are under challenge. But is this really a triumph for democracy?"
Eagle-eyed readers would have noticed the article, Everyone's a Critic, written by Elizabeth Meryment in The Weekend Australian magazine.
Even after reading the final piece several times, I'm still not sure what my final thoughts are. There are a couple of points I think need to be clarified, like the fact that 800 food blogs does not equal 800 restaurant review blogs: food blogs cover all manner of topics including cooking, food history, diet, nutrition and personal stories.
I should also point out that I didn't "[take] up blogging after failing to get a job after finishing a journalism degree". I worked in corporate communications and public relations, took off overseas, backpacked around Europe and returned to Australia when I had a chance encounter with a food blog one day and decided to start my own.
Meryment says "For many in traditional media, though, the encroachment of bloggers onto their territory is worrying." It always strikes me as odd that print journalists presume all food bloggers are attempting to usurp their role. Food blogs, in my opinion, operate on an entirely different dynamic - they are, by their very nature, personal and diary-like, and written from a layperson's view.
I can't speak for every food blog, but I know that I aim to share, to entertain and to celebrate the joy of food with each post that I publish. The online public decides which articles they choose to read and believe, and their ability to discern quality of writing, credentials and thoroughness of research should not be underestimated.
There are a couple of bold statements in the article, but a few points that all bloggers should heed. Public relations consultant Elisabeth Drysdale is quoted as saying "Anybody can write a blog. My dog can write a blog."
EDIT [9.40am 21/6/11]: There has been some comment that the quote from Elisabeth Drysdale was taken out of the context. The full quote was:
“People turn up to events and say, ‘I should be allowed in, I’m a food blogger’,” says public relations consultant Elisabeth Drysdale, who handles some of the nation’s biggest food names. “And I’m like, ‘So what? Anybody can write a blog. My dog can write a blog.’ Having said that, there are a couple I really like.”
She continues: “There are a few bloggers who are not transparent with their audience... We have noticed that one or two write [about] and promote clients that pay them, which is misleading their audience. And if a blogger receives a free meal, they should let people know, as newspapers do.”
Read the full article here. What are your thoughts on the piece?
EDIT [1am 21/6/11]: Wow, I expected a number of responses to this article but even I've been taken aback by the intensity of discussion online. Based on the flurry of comments below, I do feel there is a need to add some clarification of my thoughts on the article.
I was interviewed by Elizabeth Meryment for this piece and yes, confirmation was sought -- and provided -- on my quotes. Confirmation was not sought on the text outside of quotation marks, and it's here that I felt my reasons for starting a food blog were misconstrued. On the question "how did you start food blogging?" my constant (and honest) answer has been that I discovered a Hawaiian food blog, Ono Kine Grindz, one day and was excited by the revelation of instant online publishing, the ability to engage with an audience, and the benefit of honing my craft, with the idea that my blog could potentially serve as an online portfolio of work.
It's true that I told Elizabeth I struggled to find a job in print media after graduating (who hasn't?) but her quote that I "took up blogging after failing to get a job after finishing a journalism degree" insinuates that a) I was unemployed (I wasn't) and b) there was a direct causal relationship between my lack of (journalistic) employment and my decision to start a blog. Elizabeth's quote is correct if using a historical timeline, but I think her choice of words imply a different meaning and -- call me a stickler for detail -- I felt obliged to clear any potential confusion.
Having said that, I don't harbour any ill will toward Elizabeth Meryment nor anyone quoted in the article. And I don't agree that personal attacks on anyone is necessary nor justified. Noone should be above criticism or self-reflection -- there were plenty of questions raised that warranted consideration and discussion, and the hypocrisy of a restaurant review blog being aversive to criticism is not lost on me. I am constantly striving to improve and always open to constructive criticism.
What I do find interesting is that so many articles on food blogging focus on where blogs fall short compared to 'traditional' media rather than exploring the unique attributes they can bring. I do think there is a broad spectrum of blogs out there, but that is to be expected when you are talking about a forum that is open, unmoderated and freely available to all.
I'm fascinated by deeper questions, like how and why are blog readers so heavily invested in the writers behind them? How many niche readerships are now catered for by specialist blogs? Does traditional media have its own "territory" and should it remain inaccessible to anyone outside it? Are bloggers really trying to invade traditional media territory or are they creating a new frontier of communication that blends personality with information, photography and community engagement?
Comparing bloggers to industry journalists misses the whole point of the blogging phenomenon - people read blogs because they're not written by journalists, nor in a traditional newspaper format or style. The question is, why?
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6/20/2011 01:09:00 a.m.