Blogger Blackmail

There’s been some Drama in the food blogger world again.

“Surely not!” I hear you gasp. “How can this be? Aren’t food bloggers all Kidston and GBBO tent-zen in their outlook?”

No. No some of them are definitely are not. Especially when they don’t get their hands on what they think they are ‘entitled’ to.

Blogger with a small following contacts a business. Requests samples to review. Business sets up a small event, with nice things. Small samples. They are A BUSINESS after all. Blogger comes in, demands rather more than was offered. A flounce ensued, and some “he said she said” back and forth of blog posts happened.

For me, on this one, I’m on the business’s side. (You can kind of tell a grabby blogger)

There’s a bit of a furore about her time, and what it’s worth. YES blogger time is worth payment. When a brand requests that you do a review, then they should expect to pay you something. The manner of compensation can be agreed upon. It’s your time, and your work.

However, WHEN YOU ASK TO REVIEW SOMETHING, that’s your choice. You’ve essentially asked someone to give you something for free so you can indulge your hobby. It’s very rude to throw it in their face because what they offered wasn’t enough for you.

Demanding £100 worth of goods to review isn’t on, when that wasn’t what was agreed. Saying that it covered the work and the photography isn’t on either when YOU asked for the samples. The business didn’t ask you to do this. You decided to do it.

So that was that. (Except oh lordy it is still rumbling on. And on.)

But no. The heavyweights joined it. Next we get Jay Rayner and his ‘bloggers who get freebies can’t be impartial’ stance.

Now, as much as I adore Jay, and you all know that I do, I find this is just bollocks. It’s perfectly possible to do an impartial review and many, many bloggers out there do a grand job. Nicky Richmond and Kavita Favelle are two who spring immediately to my mind. Both of those blogs are ones that I love reading, and they are not scared to tell the truth. More power to them.

So please Jay, and some chefs too, don’t tar us all with the same brush. We’re not all grabby hands GIVE US FREE THINGS NOW bloggers, though I cannot deny there are those out there, same as any section of society. I wish there weren’t people like that, to be honest, because all this is doing is making the genuine non grabby bloggers feel like pariahs.

We blog, we’re just writing about food, not changing the world one borlotti bean at a time. That doesn’t entitle us to anything except a bit of reciprocal consideration.

For most, we blog because we want to share what we’ve found. Speaking personally, if I’ve had a fabulous meal somewhere, then of course I want to tell other people about it. It’s the same as having a natter down the pub and saying “OMG guys, you have to go to this place.” That’s all. I’ve been to some brilliant places that have been recommended on people’s blogs, and I know where to steer clear of too.

It gets the name of the restaurant out there just that bit more, which can’t be a bad thing. When I blogged about Duck and Waffle, within the next three weeks, at least 2 other friends went there and had the meal of a lifetime. To quote Ina Garten, who wouldn’t want that?

Yes, I am going to take photos of my food, and you know why? Because I love doing it, and people want to see it. People like cookbooks with photos, and people like food photos on blog posts. Not too many, mind, this is about the food, not my camera skills. A good food photo should make you want that food in your face now. (Do feel free to say if a photo is good, and has achieved its hungrymaking aim.)

Bloggers – it’s perfectly possible to do a critical review even when it’s a fully comped meal/event/whatever. Be reasoned, polite, offer constructive criticism and say what was good, and excellent, not just what went wrong. You’d be amazed at how far this gets you. (A free meal for two at Carluccio’s in my case, to give one example, to apologise for a badly cooked dish.)

If you cannot do this, you probably shouldn’t do reviews on your blog. The whole point of a review is not to big up the product or the business unrealistically, it’s to give others an overview of your experience. A TRUTHFUL one.

Of course, if your experience was fantastic, then rave away! But if it wasn’t, then say so. Politely. Chefs and waitstaff are people too you know, and constructive feedback is useful. Most businesses want to know where they might be tripping up.

I know of bloggers who’ve said that the food at an event was not that great, but then said they were going to blog that it was “because it’s a freebie” and it pays to be nice.

I have to disagree with that attitude. The truth is what people need, because if you say a place is great, and I go there on your say-so, and then it’s inherently awful, that is a real let down. Places have their off days, and people have different tastes, that’s normal, but when it’s bad, with no hope of change, you can tell. [coff]lechabanais[coff]

Don’t tell me it’s all dreamboats and petticoats, when it’s actually Steptoe and hobnail boots.

Instagram can only give a snapshot, it doesn’t really tell about the experience. I love it, I think it gives a fast paced glimpse into people’s lives (and their dinners) but I do still read people’s blogs, because I like the people who write them, and I enjoy hearing their voice, dissenting or otherwise. There are still lots of voices out there, that are well worth listening to, and who tell the truth.

The Jay Rayner reviews where he tears into a place are always ridiculously popular. I’m not really into scathing, I admit, but he does it so well, and with a sense of hurt in a “How could you do that to my food?” way. I can understand that. I can also understand a blogger not wanting to do that. Well, you don’t have to, and let’s face it, not many can do it as well as Jay, but I want honest output from bloggers, not dressing up a poor experience with frills and dissembling.

I’m a blogger, yes. Not a terribly prolific one, because Life happens, but I do enjoy it. For me, it’s not about freebies, or money, it’s about sharing the joy of food and eating. And I’m going to keep it that way.

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