Food Blogger Code of Ethics

Say the words “I’m a food blogger” in some circles and you may find eyes twinkle in appreciation. Say those same words in other circles (in a restaurant for example) and you may find yourself being asked to kindly leave.

As a food writer, restaurant professional and blogger, I travel within many different circles of people. Unfortunately within the restaurant community, food blogger is a derogatory term used to describe everyone from the angry Yelper to the thoughtful on-line food memoirist. Lately, I’ve found it more and more difficult to discuss my blog without giving some kind of footnoted explanation of What-Kind-of-Food-Blogger I am.

There’s room for all of us in the food blogging world. Thre’s room for the food gossips, recipe developers, food photographers and stylists, cultural commentators, gourmet media sites, culinary storytellers, recipe memoirists, chef groupies, restaurant reviewers, food obsessives and everything in between. But for better or for worse, in the new world of food blogging, anything goes.

A lot has changed since the handful of groundbreaking blogs (Orangette, Amateur Gourmet, Waiter Rant) first hit the Internet. Now there are hundreds of websites dedicated to offering opinionated food lovers a place to share their judgments on food related topics. There are even more sites dedicated to food porn, recipe swapping, restaurant reviews and restaurant gossip. The blog world is expanding exponentially, and with all this exciting growth, has come a wave of differing styles, talent and professionalism.

I take my blog writing very seriously. Too seriously sometimes. Recently, as I approached the opening day of the new restaurant I’m working at I started to think about all the food bloggers that would be descending on the fledgling restaurant. How would these food bloggers write about the restaurant? Would they be fair? Would they offer a first impression or would they write a post and call it a full review after only one visit?

These questions got me thinking…Why shouldn’t bloggers hold themselves to the same kind of guidelines as restaurant reviewers? Why aren’t more bloggers concerned about full disclosure, accountability, good research and standing behind their words?

The Food Blog Code of Ethics

In order to define myself as a food blogger, my friend and writing partner Leah Greenstein of Spicy Salty Sweet decided to create a food blogger manifesto. We call it the The Food Blog Code of Ethics.

We felt it was important to us to define what our ethical standards are and hold ourselves to that higher code because there are many food bloggers that offer judgment without full disclosure and due diligence. The Code is not meant to be a mandatory thing for everyone in the blogosphere. This is our way to define what our standards are.

Please take a moment to swing by our website. Read through our pages. Tells us what you think. And if you feel like you hold yourself up to these kinds of standards in food blogging, join us!

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Brooke Burton nominated for best food writing

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Food Woolf Written by:

Brooke Burton is an Los Angeles-based restaurant professional and hospitality expert. She is a freelance food writer, speaker, and co-author of The Food Blog Code of Ethics.

13 Comments

  1. MyLastBite
    April 30
    Reply

    You’ve started an awesome movement. Well done!

  2. Food, she thought.
    April 30
    Reply

    While I wholeheartedly agree with the guidelines as a holistic movement, I have to dissent from the standard of visiting a restaurant more than once to adequately review. I counter this one factor for two reasons:

    1) food bloggers are not paid for their work. many bloggers cannot afford to visit a restaurant multiple times before weighing in and/or there are many other places to visit as opposed to doing multiple visits to one food venue.

    2) secondly, restaurants are putting their product out there for the enjoyment, analysis, acclaim and censure of their clients. as a food blogger, i do believe in diplomacy, a fair shake and second chances. however, restaurants can and do benefit greatly from the free publicity they get by their review crazy clients via the information super-highway. it only stands to reason that they should be willing to take the heat as well, or proverbially speaking, get out of the kitchen.

    i think the internet has changed so many things about the way both consumers and purveyors do business. i think reviewers and commentators should be fair and open in their commentary. restaurateurs have as much to benefit from grass roots publicity as they do to lose.they should be ready for what comes their way and responsible for their product. hopefully when they get a review from tom, dick or harry on ieatthis.com, or itookphotosandpostedthemontheinternet.blogspot.net, there will be no big surprises.

  3. Just Cook It
    May 1
    Reply

    Fantastic

  4. Megan
    May 1
    Reply

    Love it! Thanks so much for starting this. I’m a food blogger, but I have a B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in publishing, and I’m always concerned about being fair and accurate, disclosing freebies, and following copyright laws. Glad to see there are other responsible bloggers out there!

  5. Brenda Campbell
    May 1
    Reply

    I will definitely follow this code, I just want anything I write to be honest, upforward, etc. I want to be a credible writer and I think you are doing a good thing in making people hold themselves accountable for what they write and how it will impact others. Great job!

  6. sassy susy
    May 1
    Reply

    i loved your food blogging ethics blog. highly appreciated!

  7. Elizabeth
    May 1
    Reply

    Hello! I found you through the Food Blog of Ethics and I just wanted to say that it’s a FANTASTIC movement–I think we all can use a code of conduct to govern ourselves, and perhaps it will help us be civilized, fair, and truly balanced.

    It’s funny-a few weeks ago a company contacted us about trying one of their products, and I felt so weird about it–I really didn’t know how to handle it. I told the company thanks, and that we’d try it on our own (I felt really weird about taking freebies), but to have a community that can provide guidance on this sort of topic would of be infinite use to me and to so many bloggers.

    And as a bonus–we all look better and as legitimate observers, commentators and critics of the food industry.

    Well done! I tried to email the Food Blog Ethics email, but Gmail would not recognize it–please add my and my husband’s blog to the list of those who wants to be a part of this movement.

  8. Steve
    May 3
    Reply

    Congratulations on your NY Times notice. For what it’s worth, I’d never prostitute myself for a free dessert or appetizer (not that anyone has ever offered) and would eagerly sign my name to anything positive or negative I’ve ever said or posted.

    But I’m not a reporter and wouldn’t want to abide by a journalistic code of ethics, constrain my views in any way, or limit the number of topics I could cover, that is, if I weren’t so lazy. Considering how unintelligible most blogs actually are, I’d propose that if food bloggers need to follow a set of guidelines, then it should be the MLA Handbook.

  9. Anonymous
    May 4
    Reply

    It is interesting that you identify yourself as a “restaurant insider” and write about restaurants and chefs but your bio fails to disclose the restaurants you are affiliated with. Seems just a bit hypocritical from someone who wants to tell the rest of the food writers what is ethical, starting with transparency.

  10. Brooke
    May 4
    Reply

    Dear anonymous reader (speaking of transparency and accountability),

    Though the restaurant I work for is not in my bio, it is listed in the story you just commented on.

    Feel free to read the story one more time to get the information you are looking for.

  11. Anonymous
    May 4
    Reply

    I am anonymous because I think being anonymous is fine. In fact, if this had been an open discussion of what the food blogging community wanted, rather than a writ from on high, I wouln’d be anonymous here. But I am not the one publishing ethical codes for others to follow.

    BTW, I came to your blog to read another article and only commented here because it was the most recent post. I had already read your bio looking for places you are affiliated with and not found any.

    Had I not read this article, I would not even know of the single place you mention. Yet one assumes you (the insider, who certainly has more contacts than one, newly opened, venue) have worked other places, are buddies with other chefs, etc. That information seems appropriate for a biography rather than a link in an unrelated post that almost nobody will see.

    Speaking of transparency and accountability…

  12. Brooke
    May 4
    Reply

    Anonymous,

    Though you may not recognize this post as such, it actually is an invitation to discuss the ethics and politics of food blogging. Everyone here in the blogosphere has the right to their opinion and what I post here is mine.

    Just as you write to express yourself, so do I. Just because you write something doesn’t mean I have to agree with you or do what you say. Just because I write something doesn’t mean you have to agree with me or stand for something I believe in.

    When I posted this story and created the corresponding Food Blog Ethics website just a few days ago, I had no idea what kind of response it was going to get.

    Within 48 hours of posting the conversation went viral. With so many people talking about the subject, I can understand why you would be confused as to what the intent was behind the post. Clearly, there was a need to discuss the topic. This is politics and thousands of people feel very, very strongly about the subject. They’ve flooded the site, read what we had to say and commented. Discussion HAS ensued and people–on every front–are taking their personal stand on what they believe in. Bravo.

    When I wrote this post and the Food Blog Code of Ethics, my goal was to write a document that explained my personal code of ethics. Many have VOLUNTEERED that they too believe in the same code–the one we wrote being an example of it. Many VOLUNTEERED that they don’t ascribe to our belief system of food blog ethics. Contrary to your suggestion, The Code was not created to be an edict. It was written as an expression of beliefs.

    As far as your claims that I am not being transparent enough, I do offer transparency in my writing. I give my name and my professional affiliations. Not everyone believes they need to. I believe I should.

    I also believe it is more than fair that I have the right to give my readers that information however I see fit. I’m not hiding behind anonymity. I don’t just say “I’m a restaurant insider” and leave it at that. I’m not hiding the information that I work in restaurants. The point is, I do give my readers this information. How I choose to give the information–WITHIN the stories I write–is my choice. If you choose to reveal yourself in your bio or on your website or on your comment, so be it. I’m not telling you must. In my opinion, you should.

    –Brooke

  13. Monica
    May 11
    Reply

    Thank you for your post! I love your writing

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