Surprise! Surprise! Old media hacks bag food bloggers again

You’d think old media would learn from its mistakes. Oh and they do make mistakes in print, on air, all to often. Yet they point the finger at bloggers for their failings.
This month in Adelaide Tasting Australia re-ran the Out of the frying pan panel that ran at the Melbourne Food festival earlier this year (when I proposed an alternative festival). At the time a few of us were critical as it didn’t really say much about blogs on the agenda and there were no bloggers on the panel. It turned out the Food Fest’s creative director Matt Preston had invited me although somehow the invitation didn’t arrive.
Luckily Leena from Leena Eats this Blog, who is studying gastronomy in Adelaide and writing a paper on the impact of food blogs on traditional journalism (interestingly a student interviewed me on the same subject last week), was at the lastest Frying pan gab:

“I was taken aback at the amount of passion put into describing these so-called faults of food blogs.”

Just as the old media commentators don’t really engage or with blogs I’m quite glad I don’t engage with these one-sided events.
Their opinions can only be described as uneducated and badly formed and they don’t really understand anything of the dynamics of social media, as Leena says:

“So the general comments from the panel tended to focus on the negative side of food blogs, including the lack of editing, lack of knowledge, lack of fact checking. One person actually said something to the effect of, if you want to know where your information is coming from and if it is true, you won


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  2. Squishy, I thin that goes for all of us.

  3. I blog because I love to share my passion for food with anyone else who wants to join me. I enjoy the food community and it provides an artistic outlet for me. I may not get it right sometimes and other bloggers may not either but the food blogging community is fascinating, inspiring and I get a hell alot more out of it than any magazine or newspaper article. Bloggers also try things that I never see in magazines or on TV, we are the future in food!

  4. Pingback: Bloggers banquet on for Monday 12th | Tomato

  5. AOF,
    That is true about the GFG although there are a few watered down references. It’s not a bad reference document but is far from reality in most cases. I find the most irrelevant of all is Gourmet Traveller as it is nothing but blowjobs for everybody, presenting an unrealistic idealised version of food where everything is perfect and nothing goes wrong in the kitchen. When I spoke to the editor a couple of years ago she said that as it only publishes 12 times a year they only celebrate what is good.
    Bloggers are the first in and give the public a realistic view.
    I’m quite surprisd that none are blogging yet but I’m told we are three years behind the US and UK.

  6. I now find the GFG irrelevent to my dining choices. Rarely do they say a bad thing about a restaurant and I have found over the years it resembles one big advertorial No, I soak up what the local blogs I read say about a new place or an old favourite. They aren’t afraid to give all sides of the story and usually a lot more information than in a standard GFG review.

    I don’t care whether ‘they’ don’t get ‘us’ but they might if their sales drop. In the meantime, we are an unprofessional/subversive group of people who like to eat/cook and share our experiences without heirachy or wankery and I like it that way! More web users who aren’t bloggers themselves are googling restaurants and finding their ways to blogs because sometimes we get their first over the print media or they like how we say things, or at least that is what I find from my stat counter. “Fifteen” is a perfect example. Melbourne bloggers (go Tummy Rumbles, it was you – wasn’t it?) got there a long time before the usual suspects in the old media published anything. It was also food bloggers who raised the question, many times, was the Melbourne diner going to pay top dollar for mediocre food?

    As for the sticks and stones being flung at us, anyone want to take bets on how long it will be before Lethlean starts his own blog, if for no other reason but to show us how it really should be done?

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  8. Jay Rayner takes a good perspective on the subject of amateur vs pro critics here:

  9. I guess we’ll never know if Jack’s suspicions about a greater agenda are true. Either way, this was either a cheap throwaway line by Lethlean, or a stupid piece of offensive ignorance. Ed, I’ve tried to be open minded about John and other paper reviewers and we’ve disagreed in comments here… I shall now not bother to defend him.

  10. At risk of sounding sycophantic I feel its in order to congratulate Big Mattie Preston on his World media award. Not knowing any of the machinnations, back of house deals or politiking that must surely go with this gong, I am just saying that I dig his his writing style.
    Also he does know a thing or two about food.
    The fact that he’s a Brit, we’ll I’ll overlook that in the same vein that I overlooked Tatania or Kostya when it mattered, they’re AUSSIES forgodsake!
    Seriously I’ll nail my colours to the mast, tip my hat & say ‘On yer’ to Matt. & expect a serve ot two for it. I know this might be especially sensitive but I have to be honest, I dont know the guy, but he is funny.

    Disclaimer: Matt Preston was instrumental to me getting a mention in an award late last year. (a la Necia etc, ha ha!) Batteries not included & dont stand too near an open fame whilst operating mechanism. May contain nuts.

  11. How about our own “into the Frying pan (or woodfired oven) at the Bloggers’ Banquet?

    Gobbler, I think you are right we should just concentrate on our own lopsided views.
    Jack, I noticed that it was really a link to Chez pim – he should have perhaps included that.

  12. I’ve read with interest the thread of comments over the last few days, yet work committments have hindered my enthusiasm to comment… but not now after reading Lethleans comments today.
    What I was going to write yesterday was that through there was no blogging panelist at the Melb. Food and Wine festival, I, as an attendee was surprized at the number of times it came up (probably thanks to Wil Goldfarb from Room 4 Dessert NYC), and some of the positive support it received, ie Jill Dupleix giving the nod to Chez Pim (the orginating author of Elegant Sufficiencys ‘noted’ piece…).
    I had also started a post after the recent-ish Age Good Food Guide Awards (but didn’t get to finish and post it…sorry), that in Johns opening blurbs that lead into the first few awards, he was talking about how The Ages GFG had increased sales by 32% over the last year and that despite talk about “the dead tree media, bloggers and online content”, people are obviously “still interested”.
    There seems to have been a bit of a turn around of his opinion, yesterday I was impressed at the slow infilteration we have been having on them, today I am disappointed in what seems like a undecisive opinionative rant (or sorry was that the bloggers??) that has me suspicious of John, helping to flog the new Editor of his sister publications Sydney Mag, will there be a fresh new look, with Stephanie on board, enhancing their blog savviness??
    I love reading Elegant Sufficiency, yet smell a rat -not from the blog, but coming from the dead tree…

  13. Yea, I also recognised that it was him smoting bloggers across the face with a (not so velvet) glove. Oh well, we’ll get over it! When discuss their articles in bloggerland, in a way we’re legitimising their position. Perhaps we need not to focus so many posts on what Ed calls the old media?
    I’m sure that many of them read the blogs in order to keep abreast of trends, gossip & news. It would be great if they ackowledged where they got their info occasionaly but I dont think that this will happen ina hurry. I ‘m sure there are many bloggers that Lethlean respects & perhaps enjoys reading. It must give many in the old food media a bit of a thrill to know that there is an army of poised fingers over the keypad ready to dissect their interpretations, reviews & opinions.
    Maybe we should just concentrate on our own lop-sided views instead. I for one am not blogging for them. I’m blogging for myself first.
    The thing I enjoy most about it is the immediate response & varied opinions of those out there, even if I dont agree all the time!

  14. So what if we are self indulgent? If we want we can blog for an audience of one we can unlike a newspaper which caters to an audience of several thousand. If he doesn’t like it he doesn’t have to read it.

  15. As a cold shiver ran up the spine of the Melbourne food blogosphere on reading Espresso today. I realised that John Lethlean as a reader of blogs must have felt some of the barbs aimed at the food media via this post and hence a serve was in order at his end, but like a woman scorned, the retorts should now come thick and fast.

    From today’s Espresso in the The Age, Epicure.

    “…”Etxebarri remains the ultimate insider’s restaurant. But word is getting out,” says Oliver Schwaner-Albright of Men’s Vogue. “Find out more about the restaurant (and a great deal more besides) at Stephanie Wood’s food-related website

  16. Did anyone notice John Lethlean’s little swipe in Epicure today?

  17. WOW, I rekon there’s a bit of paranoia here
    Going back to Mario Batali’s article “Why I Hate Food Bloggers” (which has elicited 87 responses since mid June) you find he concludes “….I do not hate the blogger. I just expect, and want, more from them”
    Of course it was pathetic oversight that the Adelaide Out of the Frying Pan panel had no panelist dealing with blogging but I suspect this was more a result of ignorance than malign intention.
    I asked an old family friend and professional food writer, Dani Valent, if she felt there was any jealousy or antipathy towards bloggers from the professional food writers. Far from it. Indeed most food writers spend a great deal of time on the internet and many read food blogs very frequently.
    Unlike newspapers, which usually end up in the recycle bin within a day or two of publication, blogs are accesible and open to comment from anybody – even food journalists. Try and express an opinion in the press about anything in Epicure or the GFG and you’ve got Buckleys hope.
    Bloggers may vary in the amount of research they do and the depth of their knowledge BUT everyone knows that. They don’t put themselves up as authorities and they are open to criticism. Rather than being competitors to the regular press they are symbiotic.
    I like some food journalists and I don’t like others and the same for some blogs. At the end of the day food blogs stand or fall on there merit and their increasing popularity speaks for itself.
    There are about 1/2 a dozen newspapers but there are 100’s of blogs. The bloggers aren’t in competition with the food press which is just as well because they’d leave em for dead
    The only problem I have with blogs is you can’t read them in the tram yet!
    Wait till I get my 3G or whatever it is

  18. Interesting! As a new blogger, inspired by many of you guys I think its ridiculous to say that blogers views are entirely self-centred and of little value.

    At the end of the day most of us are creating our blogs out of passion for food, restaurants etc, and not for financial reimbursement, as is the case with most conventional food writers.

    Most of the people who visit such blogs are also readers of traditional media, and blogs are almost like a saftey guard or a form of additional information. Its amazing how much I have learnt from blogs over the past few months, and yes I do read the traditional publications including Age reviews, GFG and Gourmet Traveller.

    Since actively reading blogs though (and taking note of reccomendations) I have rarely gone to a bad restaurant, which is possibly more than I can say when relying solely on mainstream foodie reviews.

    Food blogs are growing in numbers, and popularity, and I think the mainstream outlets feel threatened. As Ed said, he gets over 10,000 readers a month – WOW! I could only dream of getting a tiny fraction of this, but at the end of the day i am doing what I do out of passion and it is great to get feedback from others saying that they enjoy your work.

    Real satifaction, personal interaction between writers and readers with the option to add comments like this, and a great forumb to express personal views. No wonder they don’t like us.

    Jon (Melbourne Foodie)

  19. i’ve often pondered these very issues myself. when i think just how much food bloggers contribute to the gastronomic culture of any country, i wonder why we don’t get much traction in australia

  20. Well it seems in Australia the old media still have a lot of snobbery and trepidation when it comes to blogs.
    It’s interesting to see that the US and European trends have been much more receptive and bloggers are often now assisting in writing for online newspapers. Bloggers are also breaking news stories (eg the submarines being viewied through Google Earth was posted by a blogger) so I actually think it’s an exciting time for the media because journo’s can now uncover more newsworthy stories and gain interesting tidbits than ever before! Australia always seems to be about 2 years behind when it comes to the net so it won’t be long before they’re harping on about hte wonders of blogs.

  21. Well, we make mistakes huh; a few weeks ago there was an article in a newspaper that said Frank’s Bakery’s sour dough light rye bread contained no yeast, great if you’re on a yeast free diet. But whoever has heard of sour dough that contains no yeast? I went to the trouble of contacting them and they said they would correct it, but nothing happened.

    I guess with advertising becoming more common on blogs, newspapers and us really are competing for the same dollars, so to an extent I understand them bagging us, so they can hang onto their revenue. But the other thing is that we are also able to critique them quite openly, which a few of us have, so that their Anton Ego persona is under threat like never before. Of course their difficulty might be really simple…most food bloggers can really cook…and write.

  22. I blog because I want to. Because I want a record of what I’VE eaten and where I’VE been. If you find my writing funny, silly, amusing, irreverent then stay and play. If not then move along, nothing to see here. I blog the WAY I do because I believe that my readers find mainstream food writing inaccessible and wanky.

    If I/we threaten the Establishment, well.. bloody good!!! I like my media shaken not stir-crazy boring.

    I’d rather read a blog with typo’s, raced off between sightings-of-the boss than something written by a facetious twat with proof readers, law-suit phobias and editorial hidden-agendas any day of the week.

    Food writing is subjective… meat and poison, guys. MEAT AND POISON!!!

    Viva la revolution!! **please insert correct French accent here, I have a subversive keyboard which sorely lacks acutes and graves**

  23. I read Epicure for their restaurant reviews but I usually dont have the same opinions, whereas I find that blogs are much more useful in giving proper reviews, particualy with multiple photos of the meals etc. Take bloggers reviews of Mama Ganoush for example which has all been good, while John lethelans review last week was pretty hohum about the place. I think I agree with the ‘crowd’ more than one guy who eats for a living and so probably gets bored/ apathetic towards many places.

    Long winded comment sorry. Go Blogs!

  24. The calculated overlooking of food blogging by old media shows that they do not quite know how to position themselves & acknowledge us yet. They are at odds with the relationship but cant ignore our growing influence.
    The more canny ones will start to (they have already) invite & integrate some bloggers into their package to remain rellevent.. The next & most obvious step will be to ‘rationalise’ those that have a ‘marketable’ redership, as Ed says.
    This will then ultimately define a marketable class & then a sub class of food bloggers. Divide & conquer.
    I am sad that, in the push to become heard, we will become more mainstream & thus begin the long march to the middle.
    Our currency is that we are not currently tipping our hat to anyone. I hope this doesn’t change.

  25. Hey Ed, thanks for the shout out. I really enjoy reading all these responses on the topic, especially considering this topic will be my life for the next 6 months or so.

    What I find interesting is their complaint that food blogs have no editor. Um, then what are the comment sections for? Blogging is part of trend known as participatory journalism, which means instead of one person preaching to a crowd like in traditional food media, blogs allow an actual conversation to take place. And if someone tries to post incorrect information and is getting any traffic at all, you better believe someone will comment and put them in their place. The audience then ACTS as an editor and works together to form a better definition of the issue at hand.

    Plus, if food blogs are so bad, why is it you can find current food articles for major publications online, complete with a comment section? They are just copying us because they want to be us. And they can’t. Because we rock.

    I think food journalists are just pissed because now they might actually have some decent competition and need to step up their game. I’m on Nelson’s boat…viva la revolution!

  26. Of course old media is scared, because they are genuinely threatened. Publishers realise that anybody can have a relevant opinion about food and one doesn’t need to be employed as a journalist or professional writer to make valuable comment. This makes them less relevant and so they vehemently defend their position as misguided as it is in this day and age. The same changes are happening across an array of old business models. Music publishers are trying to undermine iTunes to protect CD sales. Television content is transforming due to streaming video. Mobile phone carriers are blocking Voip clients on their WiFi enabled phones to protect profits
    We are in the midst of a revolution.
    Viva la revolution!!

  27. Well said Stickyfingers. Blogging is about satisfying one’s own passionate interest in food. I definitely agree that food blogging has developed a really tight knit community who comment on each others observations and give suggestions.

    Helen, again well said. I think the paying public do find blogs as a valuable asset. I know that when I want to go eat somewhere now, I try to find a review on a blog, which usually includes photos and gives me an indication of the meal. Like any review, print media or blog, I will then make up my own mind about the information being given. Just because a person isn’t paid to write a review doesn’t mean that they don’t put research into it. I know that many links are provided on many blogs to information about how a dish is prepared and comparisons to other people who have reviewed the same places.

  28. The saddest thing of all is that these people have most likely neither read many blogs, nor participated in online forums. Indeed, I know that some in the food media who hold these views can’t actually cook… who’d have thought a foodmag editor might not actually know their stuff? {cue sarcastic gasp}

  29. It may be all-too-easy for traditional media/the hospitality industry to discredit food blogs with various accusations, but the more important question is, does the eating and paying public agree?

    Food blogs do have their own loyal audience but a lot of people will google a restaurant before they attend. Food blog with photos? Brilliant. Commentary? Even better. The reader will make his/her own judgement call on whether to “believe” a blog post or not.

    And let’s not forget food blogs can have a hugely positive influence. I’ve only just had an email from someone who said they were getting a significant number of people who had arrived because of one of my posts. Why not appreciate and harness the power of food blogs as a grass-roots marketing tool?

    Whether or not the food industry decides to take food blogs seriously, the paying public already are. The restaurant/retailer that ignores this influence does so at their own risk.

  30. Oh but I love it – doesn’t the ire of Traditional Media ‘experts’ make blogging deliciously subversive? 😉

    They don’t include us because I expect that they don’t consider us relevant in the scheme of things. After all, we are the ones thumbing our noses at convention. Bloggers are establishing new paths and assimilating information at a speed that is impossible for publishers. We are the alternative media, and we have many different voices and opinions. Do we need a public forum at a food fest to legitimise what we do?

    Guardian Unlimited has been more forward thinking, in that they now commission journo/bloggers to blog for them, such as Grham Holliday of Noodlepie in their ‘Word Of Mouth’ section. Inevitably Asutralia is a little behind the eight ball with this.

    Although some bloggers are perhaps looking for a job as a food writer and some are already food journo’s, we are not here to satisfy anyone but ourselves. That is the luxury of being unconventional.

    I see us as being a co-operative. A pool of resources, attitudes and opinions with a common thread – the passion for the palate. We don’t need to be self congratulatory on a podium surrounded by festival goers, because every day we are blessed with the feedback of our readers. We have the satisfaction of having developed our own, more intimate, like-minded online community.

  31. They fear the new because they don’t get it.

  32. Do they just not get us, or do they get us and feel threatened?