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Monday, January 24, 2011

The Secret World of Culinary Bloggers

The Secret World of Culinary Bloggers - Grant Jones, Daily Telegraph

Readers of the Saturday Daily Telegraph in Sydney may have noticed the above article written by food editor Grant Jones on "The secret world of culinary bloggers", a somewhat odd title given the very public sphere in which we publish the minutiae of our lives and meals.

The feature makes some analysis of the growing influence of food blogs, including a quote that "one industry identity complains of their unreasonable demands for "exclusives", bloggers interrupting restaurant service to take pictures, suspect credentials, unreliability and generally being a pain in the neck".

I was glad to be interviewed as part of the piece, although giving the last word to Pat Nourse, features editor and restaurant critic for Australian Gourmet Traveller, did seem to undermine much of the preceding content.

Derision and disdain from traditional media is nothing new when it comes to the topic of food blogs, but presuming that food bloggers expect or intend to replace traditional food media misses the whole point of social media and the blogging landscape.

Food blogs give a voice to anyone and everyone who has ever wanted to wax lyrical about a meal, or share the details of a newly discovered fantastic restaurant run by a mum and dad team in the suburbs. It's about personality, having fun, and providing a few minutes of entertainment to countless office workers who have read the blog for so long, they feel a connection to the writer. The food blogging community provides a [edit:] new insight into the dining youth of Australia, and into the mindsets and cultural histories of new Australians, who aren't [edit:] necessarily white Anglo-Saxon Protestants.

I came up with the Larousse Gastronomique (traditional print media) and MasterChef (food bloggers) analogy in a conversation I had with a journalist who could not understand the appeal of food blogs, did not trust them and had no idea about twitter either. The analogy went down well with both parties.

What did you think of the article? I'd especially be curious to hear from readers who aren't food bloggers, on why you read food blogs?
79 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 1/24/2011 02:49:00 am


  • At 1/24/2011 5:07 am, Blogger joey@forkingaroundsydney said…

    I read it as nothing more than a cheap dig, but at least there is more publicity for food bloggers than ever; love the photo they used! :-)

  • At 1/24/2011 7:11 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Looks like they decided to spell macarons with two Os. That should be enough to tell you that it's from the view of an outsider. Nice enough to get a fresh perspective though, isn't it?

  • At 1/24/2011 7:26 am, Blogger Gourmet Getaway said…

    That's a pretty narky article which sounds alot like sour grapes to me. The writer shows a particular lack of intellegence at the end with a hollow threat to "sue a blogger" hmm for having an opinion, really!! Good luck with that :)

  • At 1/24/2011 7:39 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't read Gourmet Traveller or the Telegraph, I do read GYF... sour grapes from Mr. Nourse... maybe he should talk to Matthew Evans about being sued for expressing an opinion.

  • At 1/24/2011 7:51 am, Anonymous Peter Harris said…

    I'm someone who eats to live rather than lives to eat so hopefully my view is a little less biased. I've never written a restaurant review in my life. Asking the old guard (people who actually still use paper) for an opinion about food blogging is a bit pointless as they simply don't get it. Here is my take on this article:

    - Where the old guard are critics, food bloggers are 'constructive' critics.

    - Where the old guard try to dress things up with fancy words, food bloggers say it (and show it) as it is.

    - Where the old guard give lip service to new media (allowing a like button or a tweet link) food bloggers embrace new media and actually converse with their readership.

    - Where the old guard think one publication for the whole of Australia is niche, food bloggers believe a niche is a specific food type, city or suburb.

    - Where the old guard write for a living, the majority of food bloggers write for free. This results in a level of passion that can be quite infectious. Who can blame the restaurants for inviting such people to be their guests for a meal rather than enter into some complex 'commercial deal' for column inches with the old guard?

    - If restaurants don't want the inconvenience of a customer that might enquire about the food presented, or take a picture, perhaps they don't want the inconvenience of ANY customer?

    We've seen the record and film industries try to fight the progress that is new media with legal action. The last two sentences of this piece indicates the magazine industry is perhaps going to the same futile battle - they obviously feel threatened.

  • At 1/24/2011 8:02 am, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    The mediocre diarist that I am, the difference between someone talking at a backyard bbq about a restaurant they recently ate at and me waffling on about it online is that I've got (non flash) pictures to help narrate it.

  • At 1/24/2011 8:23 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Nothing surprising about the article, although that last quote seems completely unnecessary. At least they mention some baking blogs, I get so frustrated when articles in Australia only seem to refer to restaurant review blogs when talking about food blogs.

  • At 1/24/2011 8:28 am, Blogger Kate said…

    Gee, what an angry article.

    They just don't get it and that's ok. Food bloggers don't write for people like that - they write for people like meeeeeeee! People who like food and aren't prissy about it. I am not a blogger (YET! I'm trying to join in the fun) but most of my time on the net is spent browsing blogs with 90% being food related. I love 'em all - from the home cooking blogs to the go out, eat and review style. They influence my life; I cook meals from PioneerWoman in Oklahoma (yes I bought her cookbook - who could resist chicken fried steak?!?) and Stonesoup in Sydney who encourages me to think more about what I'm eating and to search out unique ingredients. Then I drool over the eat out and review style blogs and make mental lists about which eateries I'm going to suss out next time I'm in the big city (I crossed off a few of Billy's recommendations the last time I was in Sydney). I love my bloggers. My bloggers are not sell outs nor hypocrits (Margaret Fulton spruiking mega-mart Woolworths, super-dooper Curtis Stone promoting a Coles recipe that SPECIFIES using CAGED eggs) they are real, NON PROFESSIONAL (isn't that fact half the point?!?) food lovers writing and taking pretty pictures of food for themselves and for anyone else who's interested.

    These blogs are important to me - I'm 30 years old, recently moved 200km inland, just popped out a wee baby - I really can't go out anywhere and even if I could THERE AINT NOWHERE TO GO so to be able to turn on my pc and read about what cute little sweet Bakerella has come up with or what incrediblby weird (but super delicious sounding) breakfast concoction ChocolateSuze just put in her belly makes me feel a little more connected to the world.

    It's a personal experience and I'm hooked.

    Keep on bloggin' :)

  • At 1/24/2011 8:44 am, Anonymous Von said…

    I read blogs because I've worked in hospitality for too long....yet I know some reviews are left out of the public eye simply because we can't afford to pay an advertising fee! So who cares about the author's views - keep up the good work! ;)

  • At 1/24/2011 8:56 am, Blogger Kate said…

    I read all sorts of blogs, including food ones. Why? The individual voice, the quirky style, the interesting take, the fantastic photos, the flexibility of it all. I don't have mags piling up (what do I DO with those wonderful 1980s and 1990s Vogue Entertaining Guides? I love them, but....). There is an immediacy and freshness to blogging. Most of the time there are NO ADs. You could say there is an element of voyeurism too - what are OTHER people doing/eating/reading? Where do I fit in the picture? And I feel I connect - that is paramount. It's not called social media for nothing.

  • At 1/24/2011 8:57 am, Blogger Kate said…

    PS I didn't bother reading the article.

  • At 1/24/2011 9:13 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I've gotten much more inspiration for recipes from food blogs than newspapers or "regular" cookbooks. And I trust food bloggers more than "official" critics on their opinions about restaurants. I think some people have difficulties to accept that things work and flow differently these days and that we all have to catch up.

  • At 1/24/2011 9:16 am, Anonymous Mel said…

    I read the article and thought it was distinctly biased against food bloggers.

    I love reading all sorts of food/restaurant reviews from food blogs to newspaper and magazine reviews. When looking for a new restaurant to go to, I will read them all plus any reviews on eatability etc. I believe this enables me to obtain a well-rounded impression of a place.

    In particular I enjoy reading food blogs as they are often written by locals for local places and therefore seem more relevant to my lifestyle. When I travel interstate or overseas I would rather look for places based on recommendations of food bloggers than magazines as most of the time they review high profile places which are not necessarily budget friendly.

  • At 1/24/2011 9:59 am, Anonymous curious said…

    I've been a huge fan of food blogs as guides to what's new and exciting around town for many years and think that they exist well as independent input as well as older media forms. However, I'm finding recently it seems that more and more food blogs are reporting freebie dinners/travel etc. Of course a blogger will positively review something they've been grateful to receive for free, so would I, but I think that detracts from their attraction for me: an independent view...

  • At 1/24/2011 10:04 am, Blogger KayB said…

    I find Mark Patrick's (PR guru) comment most interesting “..give the reader something that is uniquely theirs, not knocking off hard copy from professionals”. Traditional journalists have been doing this for years, no matter what they are reviewing; food, books, hotels, toys, etc. As a publicist, if I had a dollar for every time a journo copied and pasted my press release as ‘their’ review.. well I’d have a lot of bloody dollars! And isn’t that just the point of a press release? Getting the exact message out there? Anyway, I just find it odd that bloggers are pulled up for this, when it’s widely accepted, common practice for journos.

  • At 1/24/2011 10:06 am, Anonymous Josh Murray said…

    As the editor of one of Australia's leading food/eat publications once wise old owl educated me "Any publicity is good publicity... especially the dirty dishes". Let's face it, no one wants to read, or will retain the article which says everything is just peachy...

    I'd look forward to your increased public intrigue/awareness and readership :)

  • At 1/24/2011 10:37 am, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    I read food blogs long before I had one to call my own. It's the personal view, unrefined perspective and food diary-type entries that attracted me. It's often about the bloggers' local haunts and it really is like listening to a friend.

  • At 1/24/2011 10:42 am, Anonymous OohLookBel said…

    It cheeses me off that 'food bloggers' are always lumped into one category, that of trying to compete with professional print journalists. Blogging is largely about personal opinion and that's its charm. I liked your comments in the article, Helen, well said. And the photo is nice, though does the back of my head really look like *that*?

  • At 1/24/2011 10:43 am, Anonymous Emily said…

    I can taste some sour grapes in the article, that's all I can say. ;P

  • At 1/24/2011 10:50 am, Anonymous 3Jane said…

    Apart from the food porn (I freely admit it), I read food blogs to find out good restaurants to go to.

    There is some work involved on my part - if I read a positive blog on a restaurant then have a negative experience there, I delete that blog from my bookmarks, and vice versa to build up a list of bloggers I trust.

    Bloggers, rather than paid food critics, tend to be people like me who go to restaurants like me, who are untrained like me. I don't go to five-star restaurants and I can't pronounce amuse-bouche.

    As for publishing their photo or any other personal details, I don't think they are any more required to than those of us who write film reviews on IMDB, for example.

  • At 1/24/2011 10:51 am, Anonymous Emily said…

    Also, publishing world is like an exclusive club where you either need a lot of talent and connections to become a member. Blogging on the other hand is for everyone, as long as you have opnions, keyboard skills and tastebuds you are a food blogger and hence, not surprise at the growing number and influence of food bloggers. And because of that I think we may have accidentally step into the "exclusive club" territory and hence the sour grapes comment. :P

  • At 1/24/2011 10:55 am, Anonymous Simon @ the heart of food said…

    Nice response to the article.

    It saddens me that even with the extend of the proliferation of food bloggers we have today and how long this social media thing has been going for, there is still such an ignorance towards what food blogs are and what they aspire to be. Though I don't disagree with all of the critique, it's hard to take it seriously when it's peppered with apparent ignorance and the tone is so snarky.

  • At 1/24/2011 10:58 am, Anonymous Katie said…

    Oh dear. I was writing my thesis on the entertainment industry and commercialisation of the internet three years ago, and the old vs. new media debate was already getting old then! How delightful of them to find a new way to drag it out. I'm not exactly shocked that an article in a newspaper would so blatantly take the side of old media - check out that quote at the end!

    I've dabbled with food blogging myself, but mainly I'm a consumer. And I read them for all the reasons mentioned - I love the individual voices, and the way to you do start to feel like you know the blogger a bit! I'm a devotee of Smitten Kitchen, and have been known in discussions with my friends that also love it to casually mention the blogger by name like we know her! As an amateur photographer and food enthusiast, I love any blog (both baking/recipe blogs and reviews) that fills their posts with beautiful pictures and descriptions that mean I'm going to be determined to make it myself or visit for myself. I don't think any staid recipe book or newspaper review has made me so obsessed with a meal that I can think of nothing else until i've experienced it for myself!

    One more thing - despite the individual voices, you will always get more than one voice on any decent blog with a comments section! I see the old media rewiewers as a little bit authoritarian, where their's is the only opinion that matters. Open it up to comments and you get to see contrasting points of view. And comments are invaluable for recipes so you can see how other people have messed with the recipe for their dietary needs (or what's in their kitchen), or what might have failed and what adjustments need to be made.

  • At 1/24/2011 11:32 am, Blogger Anna said…

    Change is hard to accept. And that's what I see in the article. But I understand some reasoning behind the article.

    I am a food blog addict(specifically recipe oriented) and there are a ton of bloggers all about self promotion, fancy pictures and not about content. There is a specific blogger, who is quite famous in the US and I won't name who, who all this person does is be a shell for promoting products or harking a certain business. How many bloggers do give-aways? How many bloggers put "wish lists" on the side of their sites(and it's obviously for the purpose of getting it fulfilled) ? And so many bloggers do not have their own voice, rather they pass along the same recipe from another blogger or sight and pretend it's their own recipe (I'm specifically thinking of Ming Tsai's scallion pancake recipe that a certain blogger forgot to cite, passing it off as their own creation). It's annoying and the article is valid, although snarky.
    But the awesome bloggers are truly awesome and they shine well above the bad apples. I LOVE the high-lighted part of this post, because it's true. Bloggers provide a new and distinct voice that has made be become an addict and keeps my rss feed loaded.

  • At 1/24/2011 11:39 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I really dont see the big deal. Did everyone expect praise and encouragement from conventional media? The fact remains that any journalistic article should present both sides of the story and it seems this article attempts to do so. Perhaps it was slightly (ever so slightly) more negative than it was positive, but I fail to see the the vindictive and "angry" nature that many seem to have taken offense to. However, even if the piece had been overly negative, as critics of the food industry, bloggers should also be able to take criticism without forming a massive crying circle.

    I agree largely with what Helen has said (by the way I am an Anglo Saxon Catholic) in that the article didn't really focus on the how food blogging has come to be so popular. The writer and indeed all "professional" food critics who work for newspapers and other publications would be fools to deny that food bloggers have taken away a large part of their market share and indeed created a much larger market where people can easily access information that is not overly pompous and or convoluted. The beauty of good food has been demystified and readers are taken into a much wider range of restaurants in terms of price, cuisine and perhaps even quality. As such while I urge others to resist the urge to snigger and complain, I do disagree with the title of this article. Without Helen posting it here I would not have read it, and as such I would not have the opportunity to enter "The secret world of conventional media food criticism".

  • At 1/24/2011 11:57 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 1/24/2011 12:34 pm, Anonymous xiaohan - xssat said…

    I disagree with Pat Nourse on so many points. I think this is pretty normal, it's the traditional media people who simply don't get online media, so they just dismiss it, it's the easiest thing for them to do. It's the fear baby!

    But hey, no such thing as bad publicity right?!

  • At 1/24/2011 12:59 pm, Anonymous Andrea said…

    Tradional media is dying a slow painful death. If they don't do something soon they're all going to be out of a job. Of course being stuck in their ways, all they can do is write spiteful articles which just show their ignorance to what people want. I would rather know what a blogger I follow thinks about a restaurant than some snotty journo.

  • At 1/24/2011 1:28 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I would say that around 90% of the restaurants I go to are chosen after hearing about them on a food blog such as yours, Helen. I'm not very well-travelled within Sydney even though it has been my home for more than 10 years, and as such I pick restaurants through word-of-mouth or after learning of them through the food blogosphere grapevine. In fact, I've come to depend on food blogs to the point where I won't try out a restaurant without researching it first by looking at food blog reviews.

    From my perspective, referring lengthy restaurant review editorials in newspapers and even published works like the SMH Good Food Guide is simply inconvenient when I'm in the mood for a quick dinner out. I did purchase the Good Food Guide, but I use it more as entertainment during my spare time than actually referring to it to recommendations. Why would I, ravenous and in need of immediate sustenance, spend a few tortuous few hours flicking through it page by page when thousands of restaurant reviews are just a few clicks away on the internet?

    And you're right - it's the personality in these food blogs that set them apart from other forms of food literature. And as for "anyone can do it" - food blog readers are not stupid. This audience can tell the good ones from the bad. The reason why Grab Your Fork is so well-known in this blogosphere is because it offers QUALITY information and entertainment. The ones that aren't worth the effort to load the webpage are quickly abandoned. The few gems that get thousands of hits per day has earned their fame and success

    Best of luck, Helen, and looking forward to many more years of reading Grab Your Fork!

  • At 1/24/2011 1:29 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    One of the things I find fascinating about this constant barrage of negativity from the conventional media is its one-dimensionality. Food blogging is usually only ever discussed in terms of restaurant review blogs and in terms of the focus being just the food, whereas I know that a lot of the blogs I read (and which I myself write) are about cooking more than eating out but, more than that, are about the person, the personality, and the community behind it than just a bare bones assessment of food. Does this make sense? I just feel like conventional media tends to build up a straw man based on just one part of food blogging, and then beats that down by comparing it to convetional food writing.

    To me, writing and reading food blogs is about so much more than "critiquing" restaurant food. For example, your travel posts are wonderful escapism for me, the recipes are fun, the Sydney posts encourage me to visit, and your voice is what makes me proud to call you a friend.

    And now I;ll stop rambling ;)

  • At 1/24/2011 1:47 pm, Anonymous divemummy said…

    I think the majority of bloggers do not profess or hold themselves up to be experts on what they blog about - and readers of blogs know this.

    It's very different to a professional and paid journalist who often does profess to be an expert in the area they are writing about and therefore yes, they are open to accusations of defamation and possible legal suits.

    Blogging is the 21st century version of standing on a soap-box in the Domain and discussing to the world what you are passionate about.

    Has Nourse forgotten the original definition of blog - web-log or an electronic diary of your thoughts and musings.

    I agree with Hannah - blogs are read as much for their personality as for their content.

  • At 1/24/2011 1:51 pm, Anonymous Mel said…

    The article made me chuckle a little, simply because of the sour grapes attitude of the author. I still remembered when I had the delight of discovering all of these food blogs and I've been devouring them ever since.
    I find food blogs so much more accessible and interesting than a stuffy, verbose review at the back of the paper - and delight in finding random places to eat where I might have been too intimidated to enter if I hadn't seen pictures and information on said blogs.

  • At 1/24/2011 2:25 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • At 1/24/2011 2:47 pm, Anonymous Megan said…

    I read food blogs for a number of reasons:

    I want to hear about good eating from real people, not some overpaid twat who waxes lyrical about things that don't really matter to most of us. Yes, I like a bit of fine dining, yes Ilike things to look nice on the plate, but like most people when it boils down to it, I like what I like. I like honest reviews with lots of pictures. I like reviews of conrer cafes as much as I like reviews of 3 chefs hat restaurants. I think most 'profesional' food critics get so wrapped up in themselves and what a very small percentage of diners might be looking for, they forget about the vast majority of people who might eat out somewhere special a few times a year, who aren't experts and who find their language prententious. I feel professional food writers write to a particular audience - usually the head chef, and forget who their actual audience should be.

    Where did most of these people come from anyway? I am sure most of them may have a journalism background, eat out a lot and like to cook, so what makes them any different really to a blogger? Just the medium and the pay packet really.

    Just to refer to your quote Helen - I don't consider myself 'youth' anymore, and quite frankly I don't care what the cultural background of the blogger is (although I note many are new Australians or have non-Western backgrounds) so those aspects aren't what appeal to me. I'm Kiwi-born living in Oz and I have been exposed to an enormous range of cuisines living here, I also live in a very muticultural part of Sydney which is what makes this such a great place to live. I know when the rellies visit they revel in the quality we enjoy, even just up at our local Thai or Indian. But its great to have so many references which makes it easier to choose where I eat and where I can recommend others to eat, because I have a community of 'friends' I can rely on for good advice.

    I am able to get insight on those places I might not have considered because of my preconceived ideas about quality/food/price.

    I can keep an eye on new places, handy as I work in Surry Hills ;) andw here to go for great ingredients, festivals, recipes, kitchen gadgetry and so much more.

    Not to mention living vicariously through those lucky enough to get behind the scenes or eat fabulous food I might never get to try.

  • At 1/24/2011 2:47 pm, Blogger Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    You can already tell the tone of the article by the first paragraph alone! "Bloggers are neither clever or witty and nowhere as urbane and savvy as Duncan Hines but dang if that will stop them from publishing their opinion!", it screamed. And who the heck writes "phalanx" in a journo article past, well, ancient Greece? Is he implying that we are a threatening mass military formation? Oh wait, we're not as clever as he is to use such smart words.

    Many valid points in this article by everybody but I guess it just wouldn't be an article on food bloggers without a side of snark. I hope somebody sues one of us soon, then we can feel like we're part of the elitist world of journalism because we food bloggers are just itching to join the cohorts of professional food critics.

    Seriously though, in the future I'd love to see articles on food bloggers that actually talk about something else. This whole "new media vs traditional, journalists vs commoners" song-and-dance is getting way overdone and it bores me to tears. It'd be nice if they could actually talk about food blogging in a positive light without the need to undermine what we do. Even better if old media could actually open their eyes and realise that bloggers aren't just restaurant reviewers! There's a whole "phalanx" (I'm a history student, I'm allowed to use it too) of baking and cooking bloggers that journo's are way too narrow-minded to notice.

    I love all kinds of blogs. And I love seeing my fellow bloggers get the exposure and recognition that they deserve but a new media outlook is desperately needed.

  • At 1/24/2011 2:57 pm, Anonymous Mrs Pigflyin said…

    I buy cookbooks, pay for food magazine subscriptions, and read food blogs. I make my decisions based on the writing styles that I like, recipes that work for me, and the critics whose opinions gain my trust over time after I try their recommendations myself. The same criteria go for both print and non-print media.

    Readers have their opinions and taste buds too, they will find and follow the writers they like be it a blog or print.

  • At 1/24/2011 2:59 pm, Anonymous Diana said…

    I love reading food blogs, and I think Sydney is especially blessed in this department - your blog is the first place I go when I want to look for somewhere new and exciting to eat!

    However, I have to say that I've stopped reading a couple of blogs I used to follow on a daily basis because most of their posts were about complimentary meals they had at the invitation of the establishments. I understand the role of PR in the restaurant world and the benefits of using social media constructively, but it starts to feel like a bit of a joke when most of the entries consist of these complimentary gigs.

    A while back, Adam Roberts of the blog The Amateur Gourmet wrote an entry about being invited to the NY establishment Le Cirque, and was lambasted by a huge chunk of his readership - not because they felt he didn't deserve it, but that the nature of the offer precluded a totally unbiased review. And I guess that's the quandary. I think you are amazing, Helen, I've followed this blog for years and I hope you continue to blossom. You are honest and thoughtful with your readership, and your success has been hard-earned and well-deserved. But sadly there are many blogs out there that do not match your integrity.

  • At 1/24/2011 3:34 pm, Blogger lividlili said…

    A phalanx of food blogs in the last six months? What nonsense! Everyone has been reading food blogs for years.

    Also, the claims that bloggers are 'self-promoters after a free feed' and the implication that they are 'not unique' or 'knocking off hard copy from "professionals"' are baseless.

    I read food blogs because they are unique, personal and normally look at small places that I might otherwise overlook and which are often wonderful. The quality of writing of some blogs isn't great, but sometimes even the 'bad' ones give you enough of a sense of the place to know whether or not you'll like it. There's no snarky high-browedness, which really puts me off most 'mainstream' reviews.

    Helen, I hope you forward these comments on to the journalist!

  • At 1/24/2011 3:38 pm, Blogger lividlili said…

    Re Diana's post - PR companies get their grubby paws into everything. Any newspaper article you read about new tech products has been lifted word-for-word from a press release. Not to mention travel articles sponsored by airlines and resorts. Old media are not blameless when it comes to a free feed, either.

  • At 1/24/2011 4:17 pm, Blogger Jane said…

    Perhaps we should all unfollow Mr Nourse on twitter (if indeed you do) given that he is so contemptuous of social media. Publications like the Good Food Guide and Gourmet Traveller are loosing relevance, which I suppose is a bitter pill to swallow.

  • At 1/24/2011 4:21 pm, Blogger K said…

    It'll be a shame if all the negativity do come from the 'traditionists' being unable to move with the times. They should embrace 'new media' and use it to their advantage. If it isn't about old vs new and they just feel threatened by the popularity bloggers are receiving, then they are just being selfish. Not every restaurant is to everyone's taste and there are plenty of restaurants to go around. Likewise, not every blog is to my taste, I just follow the ones I like and which shares similar eating habits to myself.
    Besides, who cares if bloggers aren't professional chef/restauranteur/etc? Just because I'm not a director/actor/script writer/filmographer/etc, it doesn't mean I can't have an opinion on a movie.
    It's a shame all food bloggers are seen and treated in the same way because they are all unique in their own way. One shouldn't be condemned just because someone else behaved badly.

  • At 1/24/2011 5:26 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The Daily Telegraph is hardly the epitome of good journalism, or the home of the cream of the crop. Or the milk for that matter. So, when one of their, ahem, writers, sets out to prove a proposition they have already come up with you get a piece like this. Food bloggers don't need to worry about the source or the effect. The most thumbed versions of the Daily Terror are found in MacDonalds.
    The Telegraph is to serious journalism as MacDonalds is to food.

  • At 1/24/2011 5:47 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 1/24/2011 6:30 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I love all the comments here from people saying how negative the article was (which I don't specifically feel) yet they're all spitting vile at the author of the Tele piece. Come on guys, if bloggers have it so good (which we do), do we need to stoop to the type of criticism of both traditional media and the author as seen here?

    Take the high ground.

  • At 1/24/2011 6:41 pm, Blogger hollypop said…

    i love food! i read reading food blogs because i like to know about new or exciting things happening in the restaurant scene in sydney. i like to read food blogs as an *alternative* to the sponsored nicey-nicey drivel i read in magazines. it makes me sad when food bloggers take sponsored meals and wax lyrical about them because to me it defeats the purpose of having a independent source.

  • At 1/24/2011 7:24 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    LOL, those mainstream media will have a major shock if they think the only competition they have is from food bloggers. More and more people are using phone apps like Foodspotting to take pictures and do minor review of the food that they eat. Most of these little reviews from bloggers and phone apss are far more interesting and easy to digest than some pompous newspaper article.

    Is it any wonder that newspaper is a dying medium?

  • At 1/24/2011 9:21 pm, Blogger thanh7580 said…

    A very interesting read. We've had similar discussions in Melbourne about both the legitimacy of food blogging and also the free lunch aspect. There's never a conclusive answer and as usual, the masses do speak.

    Their is validity about blogs generally not having the eloquence in writing as those from a professional, but the choice is ultimately the readers. I love to read a piece by a professional as the writing really delights me in the imagery they can generate, but at the same time, I like to know that there is only one toilet in a restaurant.

    Helen, may I ask what your view is on the article? Do you think it painted bloggers, and especially yourself, in a good light or a bad one? Did you have a chance to read the article before being published, or could you have asked to be removed from the article?

  • At 1/24/2011 10:16 pm, Anonymous Jobe said…

    I don't want to flood your comment thread with what is a way too big article, but my thoughts on the matter are here: http://jobesfoodandwine.blogspot.com/2011/01/article-overt-world-of-boring.html

  • At 1/24/2011 10:21 pm, Blogger YaYa said…

    I started reading foodblogs when I was looking for a review of a restaurant I was interested in, then I started reading GYF (back when I thought you were a bloke Augustus!) and found that there was someone else out there with similar tastes and obsessions, well hello! Foodbloggers cater to needs unmet or under-represented by the major media outlets, it's just healthy competition fellas, live and let live!

  • At 1/24/2011 11:33 pm, Anonymous pigflyin said…

    I read food blogs because .... so many reasons....

    1. I come to know the blogger's personal interest and preferences. I read the ones that aligns to my preferences, I read the ones that are very different. As long as they are interesting.

    2. I can get multiple personal, non-authoritative angles and view on the same restaurant or cafe or butcher or market. Better yet, multiple angle on cooking the same dish.

    3. Actual real knowledge on culture and food from diverse backgrounds pass down from their family, friends and grandparent.

    4. I can actually interact with the bloggers. They are real people and some do becomes friends.

    5. Pick up trends in food world way before they hit newspaper. Most trends are dead by the time it shows up on mags and paper.

    6. Have a 5 minute fun reads intra-day that are not necessarily tinted with commercial objectives.

    I do read cookbook, read newspaper, watch tv show... but they are becoming supplementary. They just don't satisfy my need.

  • At 1/25/2011 2:30 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Thank you everyone for your considered and detailed comments. If anything, the ensuing discussion only illustrates the ferocity of affection by many food blog readers, and the complex issue in reconciling how food blogs and food journalists can exist together, and where we may/will overlap.

    In response to one query, I didn't get a chance to read the article before it was published (no journalist would ever do this anyway). Regardless of any perception of bias, I think it's important that the voice of a food blogger be heard.

    The overwhelming response to this post has helped highlight the strengths of food blogging, and why it appeals to so many readers. The article leveled many criticisms and whilst all may not apply to each and everyone of us (argh! who uses flash in a restaurant!) noone ever improved themselves without being receptive to criticism.

    There will be no coup d'etat when it comes to traditional food media, but there is no denying that people's information needs and channels are not about to change - they already have. Readers will vote with their stomachs and the click of their mouse.

  • At 1/25/2011 7:21 am, Blogger Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said…

    I just love a slow news day...but I also like the old motto of "any publicity is good publicity". You did well Helen and I'm proud to be your blog colleague!

  • At 1/25/2011 8:49 am, Blogger Kate said…

    Just re-visiting on a niggle; age/ethnicity? do you have a personal criteria for the food bloggers you read? :/

  • At 1/25/2011 11:23 am, Anonymous DrReb said…

    Wow - what an interesting article, interesting post, and what fantastic comments. Obviously this discussion is still as hot as when I (temporarily) left my blog 3 years ago. Helen's blog has gained fantastic traction and is read and loved by so many people (including me) who value her judgement in a way that is both educated by a good palate and experience, and accessible through expressive writing and graphic photos. I thought Nourse's comments were a bit arch, particularly as I have been able to publish in the mainstream as a result of having diligently pursued writing on my blog. And that was 3 years ago so there are people who can find some worth in the many great blog posts out there. I think this is not the last anyone will hear of the social v main media debate.

  • At 1/25/2011 2:36 pm, Anonymous Grant Jones said…

    Wow! That was a roller coaster. As the author of the article, I was stunned as to how sensitive some of you guys are, and how nasty some of the comments were. Talk about venting. As a TV, radio and magazine journalist of 25 years and now a tweeter, app producer and reader of blogs, I tried to put all views forward. Many food blogs tend to put one forward. Or that of their ilk. There are some good food bloggers out there and I will continue to read them and there is also loads of crap, which I will avoid, just as there are good and bad mainstream "old" media writers. There is room for everyone, as there is room for differing opinions and preferences. If you don't like it, don't read it.

  • At 1/25/2011 2:43 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Kate - I only meant to highlight that the egalitarian platform of food blogging finally gives a voice to a cross-section of ages and cultural backgrounds, one that isn't currently represented in traditional media. Of course some of this is due to market size and capacity, thankfully the online publishing sphere is deliciously limitless. I hope I've made this clearer now.

  • At 1/25/2011 3:12 pm, Anonymous The Food Mentalist said…

    Wow! What a response! I guess at the end of day it just comes down to personal preference. I love the fact that food blogs provide an 'instant' source of recipes, inspiration and personality without the pomp that many formal mainstream magazine and newspaper articles tend to include. Food blogging is more relaxed, often funny and a great platform for all things food :) I felt the article had a few negative undertones but believe in the old adage that all publicity is good publicity. I believe there is room for us all :)

  • At 1/25/2011 6:59 pm, Blogger Nuttymeg said…

    Helen, you rock, I love your blog coz it's personal and I also totally agree with 'The Food Mentalist'. I don't agree with the writer of the article but he is right about one thing. (I don't intend to read his column.) I have never read Gourmet traveller and probably will never buy it. Nourse sounds like a pompous ass.

  • At 1/25/2011 7:17 pm, Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said…

    It's quite a tirade! I do question whether it is of any relevance or interest to the telegraph reading public though. I think there was inadequate space dedicated to describing the phenomenon, and too much to discrediting it. I'm not convinced a non-blogger or non-blog-reader would get anything out of it.

  • At 1/25/2011 7:27 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have got to agree with Grant's response. A lot of you guys sound like spoilt kids who for some reason think they are above criticism. In the end the article is only going to increase the amount of people reading blogs anyway. Those who read them before will continue and some who read the article and have never read a food blog might try and seek out pages such as this one. Toughen up people!!

  • At 1/26/2011 12:52 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Bloggers aren't above criticism. And some of the backlash here wasn't about what the article said about bloggers but about the subject matter itself, which I thought, was so dated. I also thought the article had a few thinly disguised cheap shots and it generalised bloggers too much (bloggers using flash in restaurants? Review restaurants? Accept freebies? Really? ALL of them?). I find it funny that commenters here are being accused of acting spoilt when Grant Jone's comment sounds similarly so.

    Grant - I don't think anybody here was being overtly nasty to you. But I'm confused. You said it yourself - "there is room for everyone, as there is room for differing opinions and preferences" - yet you go off with the classic "if you don't like it, don't read it" routine. Do you expect people to read your article and like it or keep their mouth shut? Are people not allowed to debate the points and voice their opinions as they have done here? I think you yourself should toughen up and take your own advice if you can't handle a heated forum - don't read it.

    I suspect that a majority of people here who thinks bloggers are overeacting aren't bloggers themselves. All they read is this one article and think nothing of it therefore they can never understand where bloggers are coming from.

    Loving the ongoing debate and opinions. Keep up the good work Helen!

  • At 1/26/2011 12:57 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    One more thing...

    Does getting sued legitimise a food critic? Is it a badge of honour for you Pat Nourse? If a blogger gets sued, does that mean that they have 'made it' in your eyes?

  • At 1/27/2011 3:33 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I salute the proliferation of good food blogs, amateur and professional.

    Food journalism, once entirely the domain of a snooty and privileged few on fat expense accounts, has finally become accessible to the masses.

    I'm not a blogger (yet!), food or otherwise, but I love reading the takes of others from all walks of life. Blogs have enabled publishing en masse.

    Keep up the good work, Helen. There are many of us who would love to hear more from you and your friends. You have a wonderful blog.

  • At 1/27/2011 6:26 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh dear, I came across an article in a national paper of Malaysia that talks about a blogger and Google being sued by a restaurant owner for negative comments in a blog review. I wonder how this will turn out.


    On a lighter note, love your food blog. It's so expansive. I found myself reading through before a trip overseas to see if you had visited any cool foodie joints at my destination.

  • At 1/27/2011 6:57 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Dear all

    There has been plenty of heated discussion on this post, and after some consideration I have elected to delete comments that I think are inappropriate in this forum. Discussion and debate is critical, but so too is upholding our own standards of professionalism and respect.

    There is no denying that food blogs offer a new frontier of food writing and communication. I'm excited about the future and I'm ready for my next meal!

  • At 1/27/2011 10:18 pm, Anonymous Adam said…

    I'm glad you and chocolatesuze have posted this article. I think it's sporting of you guys to post an article which is about as fair and balanced as the rest of what the Telegraph publishes.

    I think that the best thing about food blogs is that they represent an enthusiasm about food. Also, blogs like yours (well, mainly just yours) celebrate the more humble restaurants serving good, authentic food in the suburbs rather than the new flashy joint in Surry Hills.

    I also think, though, that the article raises some very serious issues. I believe that food blogging has not matured and reached its full potential yet, and there are a number of teething problems it is currently undergoing:

    * Firstly, I am a former blogger. One of the reasons I stopped food blogging publicly was the relentless spamming I got from PR companies wanting to push products and restaurants. I always turned them down, because I didn't want to appear ungrateful if I accepted free merchandise and gave it a bad review. Even if I enjoyed it, I couldn't honestly say it was worth the money. Not having spent the money myself, there wouldn't be any stakes.
    I think that some food bloggers initially got a bit carried away with the freebies and that has compromised their integrity and their writing. Which is understandable, because blogging is new, exciting territory without a clear map. However, a self-proclaimed foodie proclaiming their love for fast food restaurants, tv dinners or instant coffee/noodles (say) smacks of "cash for comment." Or poor taste.

    * Another issue is the inexperience of the writers. Food blooging is young, and to my mind, bloggers are still finding their voice. This is not an insult; it has been great watching blogs develop over the last few years.
    However, a lot of the article's accusations (borrowing from existing reviews, cliche'd writing, lacking an assured and unique perspective, vocabulary and grammar mistakes) are not entirely baseless. But again, this is true of all young writers and is especially understandable when experimenting with a new medium. Once of the most exciting things about blogging is that we don't yet know what a blog can do.

    In any case, I'm not saying that traditional print media is perfect -- but I think beyond the initial shock and hysteria, there might be something valuable in this article that might give bloggers some recourse to reflect. And a bit of reflection is not a bad thing.

  • At 1/28/2011 3:36 pm, Anonymous Mike said…

    After following this debate fromt the start, I'm very disappointed that you've decided to delete certain comments Helen. I believe the ones you deleted had relevant points that did relate to the discussion and maybe you were afraid of being tarnished by association due to the coverage this debate was gettting.

  • At 1/28/2011 4:09 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Mike - As the publisher of this website, I reserve the right to delete comments which I think are inappropriate. I am not afraid of being tarnished, but hope to uphold the same level of professionalism that I would expect extended to me in any public forum.

  • At 1/29/2011 12:04 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think Adam hits the nail on the head. Good blogs are fantastic, but there are far too many average to poor ones, and these muddy the waters. I think his "cash for comment" point is especially relevant for the Sydney blogger community, I lost a lot of respect for the blog community when I read the rave reviews of Swedish food at Ikea.

    I also can't help be suspicious that the generally uncritical comments and anodyne reviews stem from the desire to get in the PR machine gravy train by not causing any offence rather than paranoia over Australia's interesting libel laws. We should remember they apply to all writers, and we should really thank the SMH/Evans for fighting/defending and winning the case, which has made life a bit safer for critics.

    Is old media really dead? I think it is an easy assumption to make but my bet would be on a resurgence on the back of iPads and similar devices. They have worked out how to deliver good content (check out the UK Guardians Word of Mouth food site) with insightful writing, and could be on the verge of monetarising the model with pay walls (News Corp etc). Given the early success of some of these new formats they are also reaching out and creaming of the talent from "new media" to write for them. My prediction is that this sector will grow, and blogs will fall by the wayside. Why, because this new form of media will attract the best most creative writers and deliver broad based content in much the same way a blog does. It will still have the interaction, still have the immediacy, but add the quality control a good professional editorial team brings (and no I don't work in media or blog).

  • At 1/29/2011 4:26 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    bet you all still cant wait for tuesdays "goodliving" every week!!!
    and why wasn't i asked to comment in this article??
    Cafe Ish

  • At 1/30/2011 5:14 pm, Anonymous sara @ Belly Rumbles said…

    All interesting comments. I missed the article as I was out of the country, so thanks to you and Suze for posting it.

  • At 1/30/2011 10:22 pm, Anonymous divedad said…

    "With all the mass media concentrated in a few hands, the ancient faith in the competition of ideas in the free market seems like a hollow echo of a much simpler day." ~Kingman Brewster, Jr.

    Long live new media!

  • At 1/31/2011 9:40 pm, Anonymous notafoodblogger said…

    You know I am not even going to read that article, I'm sure something in there will annoy me on both the pretentiousness of the article writer and the food blogger combined. But what I will say is this, I read food blogs to find out about the little places that newspapers and magazines just won't cover, somewhere that is outside the 5km radius of the CBD, some place that looks like a dive, but they don't care because they just want to try the food for the hell of it. Basically so they take a little hard work (an dissatisfaction) out of my hunting grounds for some food!

  • At 2/01/2011 10:57 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Helen - I'm completely unsure as to why you deleted my original post? Pat Nourse is accusing bloggers of not being serious critics and to write with more "authority", which himself and other reviewer at Gourmet Traveller don't do themselves. Is this not relevant to the debate?

    He refers to bloggers as freebie grabbers yet their "reviews" are restaurants they have relationships with.

    And he ends with point that maybe it's time for a blogger to get sued. I think he's seen what's happened to Leo Schofield and Matthew Evans in the past and doesn't want to get sued either, hence why his reviews are so tame...Even if that's not the case, he shouldn't hold bloggers to standards, when he himself doesn't either. As they say, "those in glass houses..."

  • At 2/01/2011 5:26 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    There are some wonderful food blogs and some not so great - the article makes this point repeatedly. The main issue, I think, is the common lack of transparency and accountability in blogging. Do the writers pay for their food? Do they announce themselves before meals or try to remain anonymous? Is all the information correct, and what happens if it's not?

    With regards to the "maybe it's time someone sued a blogger" quote, I don't think it was so much a wish for this to happen, as a call for greater accountability.

  • At 2/02/2011 3:34 pm, Anonymous reality raver said…

    What pisses me off about the mainstream food critics is that they all review the same restaurants.

    If a hot place opens for the next few weeks that is all you see in the review pages. It gets boring and it means they are all just chasing each others tail.

    For wanting to find out where to eat in my neighbourhood, or to educate myself on different cuisines, particularly asian I look at food blogs.

    And what was with the bitchy tone of article. Is it that Journalists don't like bloggers. I like the way they let it know you actually had a degree in journalism...were they implying you were one of them.

    Love your work, and keep it up.

  • At 2/07/2011 11:18 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I enjoy reading a few food blogs, just like I enjoy reading a few food writers. There's room for both.

    I enjoy the diversity. Where's the truth - somewhere between beautiful photos, documentary style reports and witty prose. Enjoy the exercise of triangulating it!

  • At 2/13/2011 12:13 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What a sad, bitter and jealous creature Pat Nourse is. Who on earth would wish for someone else (whose only "crime" is to enjoy writing about food on their blogs) to be sued?

    People are under the mistaken impression that those who work in the media got their jobs because they are so incredibly good at writing, photography, whatever. This is a lie that people like Nourse love to perpetuate.

    I am in the media and like everyone else, whether we want to admit it or not, we got here by sheer luck.

    To suggest that bloggers are more greedy for freebies is laughable. Of all the events and famils I've been to, there is never any shortage of grabbing/greedy journalists. It always amuses me how these people, who would normally not be able to afford to stay at the Observatory, start behaving as if they grew up in Belgravia.

    Blogging has shown that there is a wealth of hugely talented people out whom Nourse and his ilk perceive as a threat. To food bloggers... blog on and continue pissing all over Nourse's turf. Just from his snide and spiteful comments, you know it's working beautifully.

  • At 2/27/2011 3:05 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hear hear! Can't agree more with your comments on Pat Nourse!

    And if Helen hadn't deleted my original post - you would have seen my prediction came true...His next two reviews were of Felix and Ms G's...

    To all the restaurants out there....if you want to be in Gourmet Traveller..try and become friends with Pat..Good luck!


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