In Defense Of Honesty, Integrity, & Research

Soapbox time … HORRAAAAAY!!!! Or something like that …

blogging and ethics have gone together since the beginning of time.  Eater.com tossed some fuel to this debate with the not-so-outing outing of a bunch of food folks.  Meanwhile, there are attempts at formulating a code to blogging.  One foodie specific one caught my eye (look through the comments, I have taken to heart a lot of what was said after me) as did this response.  And though it’s a bit off topic, read this letter from incanto in San Fran.

Anywho, let’s call this spontaneous and somewhat off the cuff commentary on some very thought provoking pieces to hit our fiber optic cables in recent months.  The true impetus to this diatribe of mine (of which I have many), is the well thought out soapboxing (her words, not mine) by Tami Hardeman.  Entitled Please Blog Responsibly, I hope that people find this a companion piece to her work, as we are both after the same thing (just in very different ways).   While Tami has a very different perspective on the restaurant criticism in this crazy blogosphere, her request for thoughtful participation is of the highest order.

this is as much about my style and flow as it is the greater issue at hand, so bear with me and my truly ADD mind (seriously – i was a test case!).  Back in the early 80’s, there was a young lanky kid with a Flock of Seagulls hairdo, who wouldn’t so much as catch a second look under normal circumstances.  He was extremely technical, robotic, and proficient.  This kid became the undisputed master of his profession.  You’ve probably heard of him, and his name is Tony Hawk.  At the same time, there was another kid, he was a rock chiseled specimen of brunette flocks whose style often bordered just left of cross dressing and his presence was both noteworthy and undeniable.  He was the anti-thesis of Hawk, and by many accounts, he was better … his name was Christian Hosoi.  Whether or not you have heard of Hosoi is immaterial.  What is important is this: two people with two totally different perspectives can both offer some bit of truth and both succeed without making the other “wrong.”  For every Larry there is a Magic … for every Tupac, there is a B.I.G. … and for every Alain, there is an Ayrton.

The incident that spawned all this was clearly laid out by TH, but to summarize … “some blogger (not me) said not so nice things.  Restaurateur read these not so nice things and then bitched at other bloggers who had nothing to do with said incident.”  I’m not here to weight the merits of that dynamic, only to say that we bloggers do have a civic duty, and restaurateurs are not “untouchables” …

First let’s clear something up.   A blogger’s job is to find his or her voice, be true to that voice, and make sure people have a transparent understanding of that when necessary.  I know many people who abide by the “if you don’t have anything nice to say …” mantra that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy.  There is nothing wrong with that, just as there is nothing wrong with holding an establishment’s feet to the fire.  Keep in mind, context is everything and should be considered at every turn.

I pride myself on my honesty, my integrity, and my research.  The reason I try my best to fly under the radar is for that very reason.  I want my experience to be as close to the circumstances of the average joe as anyone’s.  When that veil of anonymity has been lifted, I will essentially forgo writing on said establishment for any purpose other than newsworthy happenings.  I always pay for my meals, and I never go to special events (save for once – and when I did write about it – all i really did was use that as an excuse to point to everyone else’s posts … call it spreading the love).

I have a very simple rule: if you’ll accept my money, I’ll write on you.  You give me your food, I give you my time and my honest opinion (seriously folks – I usually spend at least 3 hours writing any of my actually reviews).  To let experienced restaurateurs by with a free pass in the early stages is not something I’m interested in.  In my opinion, to do so is a disservice to the handful of folks who set up shop and get their shit together from day one.

All of this isn’t to say that bloggers who go to events, or try samples, or are good friends with the employees are incapable of being good bloggers … only that their angle is different and that they must be true and transparent on those facts.

I’m about the flow of the experience in the words that spew onto my modernized typewriter … so if I have a grammar error, or two, or three … i’m not that worried about it.  Someone else who writes for a newspaper doesn’t get that luxury (and unfortunately, even our cities’ finest have typos and run-ons and crap).

So here’s some basic ideas that we should follow:

Bloggers

  1. Do your due diligence, ask people who know, double check, make sure you can corroborate.
  2. Don’t make shit up – if you don’t know something – say you don’t know.  Don’t talk out of your ass!
  3. Give credit and props to those that deserve it
  4. If you make a mistake, fix it and admit it.

Readers

  1. Don’t be a schmuck … while you can’t always know what to question, if someone says something provocative … check it out.  Go throw that burger on the grill and see if it turns out medium rare at 500 degrees.
  2. Use comment sections, don’t spam, and be honest.  Just like bloggers shouldn’t bs … neither should you.
  3. Educate yourselves and don’t take everything at face value.  If you do this enough, you’ll be able to determine who is full of doggie doo and who isn’t.

Restaurateurs

  1. Fix it!  Don’t complain about this or that … because nobody cares.  You want peoples hard earned money, then you need to work hard for it.
  2. If you’re pissed off at someone like me … you’re best off spending your time making things in your restaurant as good as can be

There is a whole lot more to this issue, but I wanted to throw that out there.  People have all sorts of legitimate perspectives on things, and just because you don’t agree with it … doesn’t make them any less right or you any more wrong.  Alright folks, blast away at this half-cocked post which probably needs more time in the oven! 🙂

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  • SMH

    I’ll begin by saying that I’ve been following you since you first began about a yr and half ago. I have you set up on my reader along with other local and national food bloggers. As an Atlantan, I enjoy your posts as you seem to have early news on restaurants and foodie happening around town.

    That being said, your restaurant reviews are on average some of the most negative, nit picking, generally curmudgeon opinions in our fine city. While you may have food and restaurants in your family and have had the good fortune to eat at some well regarded places throughout our city and country, you’re constant negativity – whether you’re paying a couple of dollars for a taco or $40 for an entree has positioned your opinion as not one to be seriously considered. Does that make you wrong – no, not at all.

    But, I’ve come to regard your opinions in the same light as political shock jocks – loosely tethered in fact but generally exaggerated for entertainment purposes. And that’s fine if you are open and honest about what you do. But you present yourself as a otherwise. So i don’t buy the honesty, integrity pitch coming from you. While I don’t disagree with anything you’ve outlined in your post. I just don’t buy it coming from you.

    That my belief, it’s the brand you’ve build for yourself and you can’t change that by crafting and participating in a blogger call to arms for responsibility. That’s also the issue that chefs, restauranteurs and other bloggers like Tami are calling out. So as this wave of responsibility flows through the blogosphere, I would pick a side. Your schtick as a perma-grouch works well for you. You have readers, advertisers, get invited to to food events and are lumped together with the rest of our city’s A and B level food bloggers. But if you want to embrace this responsibility you speak of, I think you need to change your ways.

    Just my 2 cents

  • Fat

    Dude, its blogging. Everyone in the real world who does not blog wonders why bloggers like you take things so seriously? Ethics? Integrity? Get a life…its a blog!

    You know who blogs? Everyone…my grandmother has a blog. So does my 8 year old nephew. In fact, the point of blogs is that anyone can have one. And there are no rules. You want to be a restaurant critic? Great. You want to just be some fat guy who likes to eat and write about it? Great. Readers (or lack thereof) will tell the score. Just look at the NY Times. The world is sending a clear message to them and newspapers everywhere. And I am sure that you can look at your traffic and understand the message the world is sending you….

  • Sally

    I like your FB blog. It’s the first one I look at every day. You may have higher standards as to service and expectations as to food than I do (“perma-grouch”? It sounds kinda cute to me ), BUT it lets me know where I should NOT go with my husband, because he’s even more meticulous than you. I find your prose entertaining and the photos good. Keep a-bloggin Buddha!!! I find your Blog informative and enlightening. Although I have to say your spelling drives me nuts! : ) I kid. I kid.

    And hey, I thought I saw a piece on Farm Burger after The Kind Pie piece, maybe I was dreaming… because it’s gone now.

    • Sally

      Oops.. that was Eat it Atlanta.
      It was late at night, sorry for the mistaken blog-dentity.
      Cheers!

      • thank you for your kind words. The funny thing is I’m actually laid back with regards to a lot of stuff – it’s when I frame things against the “experience of the whole” that the perma-grouch comes out (kick ass name btw!). yeah my spelling blows, typos abound. Never apologize for mistaking me for EAI, his photos are hizzy good and his words are like butta!

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