Food for Thought – Ethics in Blogging

October 10, 2009  •  Food for Thought

I just passed my 250th blog post this week, and like all momentous things in my life (not the least of which was a recent birthday I celebrated), it caused me to sit back and take stock. For the birthday that meant what have I done with my life so far? Do I feel good about where I am now? And where do I want to take this only life I have in the future?

For my blog, I’ve decided to add a weekly feature called Food for Thought. I know many of you read this blog solely to check in on me, many read looking for some tested recipes, and many of you read because you are foodies, interested not only in a new recipe, but in what’s happening in all things food related in our world today. This week that meant the end of Gourmet magazine.

Christopher Kimball, the founder of Cook’s Illustrated and that icon from America’s Test Kitchen, said in an op ed piece in the New York Times this week, “The shuttering of Gourmet reminds us that in a click-or-die advertising marketplace, one ruled by a million instant pundits, where an anonymous Twitter comment might be seen to pack more resonance and useful content than an article that reflects a lifetime of experience, experts are not created from the top down but from the bottom up. They can no longer be coronated; their voices have to be deemed essential to the lives of their customers.”

That’s quite a statement about not only the food world, but the entire state of things as we know it today. It’s true that a child’s YouTube video going viral can seem to have more impact than a significant news event. That a tweet from a celebrity making some medical claim reaches more people than news from the Mayo clinic. That a blogger can reach more people than a traditional print magazine, regardless of the content. And Kimball is suggesting that happens because the reader of that content deems it to be “essential to their life”.

Kimball went on to say, “To survive, those of us who believe that inexperience rarely leads to wisdom need to swim against the tide, better define our brands, prove our worth, ask to be paid for what we do, and refuse to climb aboard this ship of fools, the one where everyone has an equal voice. Google “broccoli casserole” and make the first recipe you find. I guarantee it will be disappointing. The world needs fewer opinions and more thoughtful expertise — the kind that comes from real experience.”

This last statement caused me to examine my qualifications as a food blogger. It seems that readers of this blog must deem the content in some way essential to their lives. But beyond that, honesty, ethics, skills, experience, commitment, and yes, actual expertise, must be important attributes for those of you looking to me for advice. As a food writer I feel the need to be clear about my values. So to you, my readers and clients, this is what you can count on from me:

Honesty and Ethics
My recipes are my own. If I adapt someone else’s recipe, I will attribute that to them in a clear way. If I receive free merchandise that someone wants me to test, I’ll make sure my readers know that it was a gift. I’ll only write about or endorse products I truly find useful and good, regardless of whether I am paid to endorse them or not. I’ll make my advertising clear on my site and I will state if I am paid to endorse a product. I will at all times be honest with my readers and I’ll always tell it like it is.

Skills and Experience
While I’ve been cooking since I was a kid, I will continue to read and learn about cooking and the food world. I will seek out new training every year in an effort to improve my skills so that I can share them with my readers. I’ll keep trying new foods, new techniques, and new products, making the improvement of my culinary skills and my knowledge of the food world a priority so that my readers know they can look to me for inspiration.

I’m committed to a career that revolves around food. I’m committed to my role as a Chef Educator for Operation Frontline. I’m committed to expanding my role as a cooking teacher within the Seed to Table school gardens program. I’m committed to providing the highest quality services to my cooking students. I’m committed to supporting local producers of food and to eating locally as much as possible. I’m committed to food writing, and I’m committed to providing interesting content and high quality photography through my food blog.

Have a great weekend!


4 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. DocChuck says:

    Your statement, in the paragraph entitled 'Honesty and Ethics' is very well stated and very much appreciated by many of us Blog readers.

    I only hope that you are sincere, because if you will read my 'mini-crusade' on this issue, you may (or may not) agree that MANY bloggers are NOT sincere — indeed, the 'bigger' they are, the more defiant they are.

    Check out my commentary on this issue, if you have time.

    And, some of us have the desire and the means to take to task those folks who would mislead the blogosphere for a 'free meal', a 'free sample', or a 'free trinket' of ANY nature.

    Thanks for your post.

  2. Cooking with Michele says:

    Thanks for the comment, DocChuck – and yes I am sincere! I've pondered this for some time and the recent FCC news on the subject (which I thought was a good move – I see you had a post about this last week) got me thinking about my own values. What also prompted me to write this was that coincidentally this week I received my first free product in the mail from a food vendor asking me to write about their product. I told them I would test it (I actually shared it with friends to get more opinions) and then would write honestly about it if I felt it was warranted. When I do that post, I intend to be clear that the product was sent to me free and unsolicited, and I intend to be fair and honest in my review. I guess the blogosphere is no different than the rest of the business world – there will always be those who look for a shortcut or a way to "cheat". I'm just not that type of person!

  3. Lori Greenly says:

    Michele: My 8 year old was diagnosed with Celiac disease 2 years ago. It was easy to find basic foods she liked at the age of 6, but as she gets older she wants more to choose from. I usually end up making 2 meals: one gluten free for her and one non gluten free for three of us. I'd love some yummy things I can do in one meal for all four of us!! Any ideas?

  4. Cooking with Michele says:

    Lori, I don't specialize in gluten free cooking, but there are plenty who do. Check out cookbooks by my friends Carol Fenster:

    and Jean Duane:

    They are both Colorado food writers and specialize in this area.

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