As both sides of the story in the ladyironchef vs Private Affairs drama continue to unfold, I think that some lessons can be gleamed in the experience for bloggers and the locales they review alike.
Brad Lau, owner of the blog in question, responded to the accusations he rudely demanded free food from a restaurant because he was a food blogger on his website. It has sparked discussion among food bloggers all over the world as to just what courtesies a blogger should expect as a member of the media, and if a blogger is influential enough to deserve things like free meals at food places they are “reviewing.” Amusingly I also note as an aside that my two cents on the event has been bringing in a lot of traffic and discussion for me, mostly because it was picked up by The Singapore Daily…
People are divided on the issue, and that’s apparent everywhere. After Lau defended himself, some bloggers apologized for criticizing him while others escalated their criticism. Some of the people who have read my thoughts on this site and others said I should apologize while others agree with what I said. The response everywhere seems to be half and half on the entire issue of whether or not Lau was out of line.
For my part, I have no intention to do so. In the words of a friend of mine who cooks and works in a restaurant, “If the (guy) comes into my place and eats, he better pay for it, I don’t care who he is.” In my mind it is impossible for a person to be neutral about their review at all when they are effectively being given a huge gift by the people they are supposed to be criticizing.
This incident has incited talk about whether or not a blog writer is a journalist by definition. Professors in my university have been discussing this for years, and ultimately the decision in the Scripps School of Journalism is that blogging is inherently journalism. It’s elitist to think one must have a degree or some kind of income for their writing to be a “journalist.” At the same time, bloggers are not held to the same accountability standard as journalists. They often volunteer their time, but they also are not being held to a standard of accuracy, nor are they necessarily publishing in an influential or well-read publication.
I am both a blogger and a student journalist, and I’ve found there is a huge difference in writing for the two media. The thoughts on this issue I liked the most came from this blogger. If blog writers want to be treated with respect, they must in turn keep in mind that they should hold themselves to a much higher standard than they may be used to. Journalistic publications worth their weight are vetted for accuracy, neutrality, and clarity by a number of people. A publication that lacks these things is just another soapbox.
Do you agree?