I attented a brunch yesterday where I was named as one of Mail&Guardian's Top 200 Young South Africans you should take to lunch. Now, this article is not just to brag and blow my own vuvuzela (although let's face it, that's part of it) - it's to hopefully settle something that has been irritating me for a while now. A few weeks ago there was huge drama in the food writing/blogging world, as JP Rossouw was attacked on his site for allegedly not conducting all his own reviews. The outcry was long, tedious, malicious and strayed from what is the main point: credibilty.
Credibilty is the cornerstone of any food writer/blogger when they take it upon themselves to review a restaurant. With the internet and the more recent emergence of social media it has meant basically anyone can be a food critic. Anybody can have a voice. This is a double-edged sword though, as people with absolutely no clue are now free to write disparaging things about restaurateurs and their establishments. Now, I am the first to admit that I don't have any professional training. I set up a blog to write about food, which I love. The tone throughout the past year has deliberately been informal as I want to try and talk to normal people. Normal foodies. And I want to do it with a normal voice.
The response has been staggering, as I now find myself part of 'the media'. Invited to launches, events, functions, chef's tables etc. and being commissioned to write for other publications. Initially this seemed strange to me. Only yesterday did it sink in that food bloggers are now considered real media. The events I attend inevitably include fellow bloggers. Like Dax from Relax-with-Dax. And Chris from Whale Cottage. These people sit alongside representatives from the bigger sites like Eat Out and Food24. Indeed, Neil Pendock's mention of Clare Mack (fellow food blogger) and Harry Reginald (wine blogger) in the Sunday Times again confirmed the need to pay attention to food bloggers. The Foodie (yet another food blogger) remains one of my favourite food reads, above some more prestigious publications. Michael Olivier is soon to launch his online magazine, Crush, which shows huge faith in the online food writing industry. It really is an exciting time to be a food blogger. Let's not forget the wine guys over at Spit or Swallow, who are climbing up the highest-ranked sites.
But back to credibilty, and perhaps the more importnat question: what makes a good food/wine blog. To me you get blogs where the writer has great knowledge. There are others where the actual writing is brilliant. A good blog is a combination of both. Get that right and the credibilty will come.
And what gives me or the other bloggers out there the right to slag off establishments? Some say we are wrecking careers. I understand that. I understand the sensibilty that those people might be doing their best. But that's called freedom of speech. Food bloggers are here to stay I'm afraid. If you don't like us, don't read us.
Jamie Who is a blog about everything. Except current affairs. And politics. Also science, sport, religion, celebrities, movies, media and marketing, technology, business and design. So...basically Jamie Who is a blog about food. All things food.
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Agreed! As you say, you will only have credibility if your blog is good enough to have people reading it!
Fantastic article Jamiewho...Couldn't agree more.
Great post. Food bloggers have gained a lot more recognition both here and overseas and I do feel that they are a legitimate part of what one would call "the media", as long as they remain objective.
To be honest, I'm actually surprised it's taken this long for the public/traditional media to cotton on the idea of these new media outlets - blogs and the various social media forms. For today's internet generation I truly believe it is the way forward.
I like it, and i shall carry on reading it....!!
I don't have a clue about the JP Rossouw debate, but it sounds to me like what's at issue here is the split between brand and personality. Taste magazine or F&H Entertaining or any other publication can review restaurants, and they can pick whoever they like to write the reviews; the readers know they're reading a review representing the magazine, not the individual. The brand is independent of the personality (even though it might sometimes feature personality hooks - say, a given celebrity chef reviewing their favourite book/cafe/whatever).
Blogging is a little different - often the personality and the brand converge. Your blog is called Jamie Who. You've converged brand and personality, so you're unlikely to get away with subcontracting your writing - unless you explicitly bill it as a guest blog (which can work beautifully as a feature too). But if you furtively send some minion off to do your reviews, yeah, you'll probably whittle away a bit of your cred.
Wow Jamie - I feel honoured to be included in your post. Thank you for that.
I look forward to having you speak at our Food & Wine Bloggers' Club next year, with AndUnion.
I totally agreed.....and I am so very proud of you!!
Thanks so much for the mention of crush! We look to be launching on Monday 28th. It seems to be SAs first free online digital magazine. People can subscribe free at www.crushmagonline.com
Congrats Jamie, i agree that any form of media that keeps the restuarants on their toes is a good thing however i have noticed over the past few months that more and more bloggers are getting freebies which no matter what you say does affect ones impartiality.
Its pretty obvious certain blogs are only in existance because of the freebies...free hotel nights for example (yours excluded of course)
Just remember that readers make blogs the success that they are and we can bring you down as quick as we brought you the success.
Keep credible, respect views which vary or differ from yours and stop taking those freebies no matter how they are packaged (as media invites)
You raise good points in your examination of credibility, but I'd be inclined to suggest that online, credibility is derived from honesty. Anyone can blog. As long as they blog honestly and explain why they feel as they do about the subject (irrespective of their skill level) then their blog will be seen as credible. Open to debate, sure, but as valid as any other opinion in our open source environment.
We no longer have a directional flow of info in a top->down heirarchy, its Web 2.0, and we are able to communicate across the masses now, and ALL opinions are valid.
The problem with the JP issue was that people felt that they weren't getting an honest JP review, despite that being what the blog was ostensibly providing.
My 2 cents, worth very little...
Jamie ..You and your blog are talked about on facebook and you are requested to set up on facebook
If you dont mind the extra work ...how about it ? :)
I couldn't agree more. South Africa is a conservative country and blogging will take time to gain credibility among a predominantly conservative society. It will take time. Bloggers who take it upon themselves to produce first-rate, intelligent content will thrive and those who don't will fall by the wayside, simple. So keep producing first-rate content
Some very valid and interesting points here guys. Having followed the JP fiasco closely one thing that emerged was the fact that it turned into a nasty, personal mudlinging competition and strayed from the original point. With that in mind I don't want to get too "heavy" and start a debating forum here. I have taken what has been said on board and will continue to use my discretion when deciding if a "freebie" is indeed a freebie, or a worthwhile opportunity to write about something valid.
Thanks for the useful feedback from everyone.
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