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May 18, 2010

Feeding the blogger

Brewer's ArtThey say you shouldn't bite the hand that feeds you. I'll just bite the hand that wants to feed me but should know better.

While I'm a blogger these days, I'm a blogger for a newspaper, which means I still observe certain old-media conventions that independent bloggers might consider quaint. Like that rule about not taking anything of value from the people you write about.

I can only assume that the average blogger follows a different playbook, based on all the invitations I've received lately. An awful lot of people seem to be giving away food to food bloggers.

I'm not talking about the nice neighborhood baker who offers the reporter who's come to write about his tiramisu a piece of same. The reporter is supposed to politely decline, or pay for the pastry. But the offer can be taken at face value, as an act of personal generosity, a gracious gesture.

I'm talking about invitations from big, out-of-state PR firms trying to inspire seemingly independent eaters to gush about their restaurant-clients online. You have to wonder what readers would think if they realized the writers were eating on the house -- and sometimes blogging right there, in the presence of their hosts.

Which brings me to this week's list: Top Ten free lunches I've passed on

1. Dine Downtown Baltimore on Charles Street Media Tour

The Downtown Partnership will take media on a three-hour tour of Charles Street restaurants May 25. Each reporter can even take along a guest. The Charm City Circulator will transport participants from restaurant to restaurant. (I'm milking this one for three entries because there are stops at three restaurants and because otherwise -- let's be honest -- I'll never make it to 10.)

First stop: B&O Brasserie, for hand-crafted cocktails and meatball, tomato-basil and duck confit flatbreads.

2. Dine Downtown Baltimore on Charles Street Media Tour, second stop:

Red Maple, for Asian-inspired tapas

3. Dine Downtown Baltimore on Charles Street Media Tour, third stop:

Brewer's Art, for country ham flat bread, steamed mussels, crab dip with toasted pita, artichoke ravioli with lemon buerre blanc, pistachio-mint pesto chilled asparagus soup with house-cured salmon-stuffed profiteroles and house-brewed Belgian-style beers.

4. Phillips Seafood Restaurant Blogger Dinner

The restaurant offered lobsters, clams, mussels, oysters and crabs to food bloggers, who were invited to blog while they ate in April. "While it's often not polite to be tapping on your Blackberry while eating, on this occasion it's welcome," read the invite from Breslow Partners, the Philadelphia PR firm for Phillips. "We just recommend that you swallow before pushing 'send.'" 

What a relief. They swallow first. They still have some standards.

5. Another Phillips blogger dinner

"Hey Baltimore Bloggers, finally, your efforts are rewarded!" reads another Breslow invite. "Our first Bloggers' Dinner will be held on Thursday, March 25. And we'd love to have you join us for some sumptuous food, a cocktail or two, and all the while, share your opinions with you readers." Over live music, chilled seafood, "tuna two ways" and "Shirley Phillips' famous crab cakes," participants were invited to "blog away, right there for all of the world wide web to see."

6. Culinary VIP Event at Qdoba

This invite came to a colleague at the Sun's Metromix website. "We invite you to join us for an intimate VIP culinary lesson in fresh, hand-crafted street fare being held on Wednesday, June 2, at the Qdoba Mexican Grill restaurant ... in Ellicott City."

The sender, from Denver-based GroundFloor Media, told me when I inquired that the event would offer "samples" of food, not a full meal. Non-alcoholic and possibly alcoholic drinks would be provided as well.

The invite came with a link to Federal Trade Commission rules governing false or deceptive advertising, like that pesky rule about disclosing payment -- in-kind or otherwise -- made in exchange for endorsements. "[F]ailure to abide by these guidelines may subject you to liability for false or deceptive advertising," it says.

You know the party's going to be fun when the FTC wants to hear all about it! 

7. Bob Ehrlich's Rockfish

This dish came my way not as a blogger, but as a columnist back in March 2006. Then-Gov. Ehrlich invited 20 reporters into the Government House kitchen to have a bite of Rockfish. He was trying to put the kibosh on a Washington Post report that 75 percent of the fish caught in the Chesapeake Bay had a disease that caused skin infections in humans. Like most pols, Ehrlich wasn't always crazy about reporters. Was this a scheme to give us all sores and lesions? The gov himself had a bite, so it must have been safe. But I was glad for the excuse The Sun's ethics policy gave me for taking a pass.

8. The Stork Dinner, Howard County General Hospital

As a reporter in The Sun's Howard County bureau, I occasionally wrote about the hospital. I had my first child there seven years ago. By that time, I was out of the bureau and covering City Hall in Baltimore. But a hospital executive who'd heard I was in there as a patient wanted to treat me to the Stork Dinner, a fancy meal offered to new parents. It cost $50 if I remember correctly. I think he was only trying to be nice but I couldn't accept, I told him. He persisted: Couldn't he still treat my husband? Well, no.

(Even more awkward: At the hospital, I received flowers from none other than Sheila Dixon. That was before I was a columnist and before she provided me with all that Jimmy Choo/fur coat material. She was an unindicted City Council president and I was a reporter on reasonably good terms with her, good enough for her to send me flowers that I wasn't really supposed to accept. I phoned an editor to ask what I was supposed to do. He told me: keep the flowers. What was I going to do? Send them back? I'll bet Dixon would gladly take them back now.)  

9. Preakness press room spread

There was a table full of food outside Pimlico's auxiliary press room, where I worked Saturday during Preakness. Famished and dehydrated by afternoon, I accepted a bottle of water and a single slice of bread after watching fat cats down sushi and crab cakes in the VIP Preakness Village all day. But I passed on the rest -- and made a bee-line for Atwater's in Belvedere Square for soup and sandwich as soon as I got out of there.

Some sports reporters -- surely not from The Sun! -- have been known to chow down on food provided by the sports team they cover. For that matter, some horse-racing reporters even wager on the races they're writing about -- using betting windows conveniently located in the press box. So the old media has its issues, too.

10. Derry Church Artisan Chocolates

The chocolatier at this Mechanicsburg, Pa., company e-mailed me recently saying he wanted to send me some of his "exquisite French bon bons in exchange for a possible peer review." I'm told it would actually be legit to accept a sample of chocolates if I were doing a product review, but I don't see The Sun running a chocolate review anytime soon. Sigh.

Dinner fit for a blogger at Brewer's Art: seared tuna with potato mousseline, creamed spinach and pinot noir sauce. Sun photo by Jed Kirschbaum

Posted by Laura Vozzella at 5:26 AM | | Comments (85)
        

Comments

At the hospital, I received flowers from none other than Sheila Dixon.

Wow. Holding onto that one awhile, were ya?

That's okay -- breathe it out.

As for the rest of the list, it really does run the gamut, doesn't it? There are some places I think rather highly of (Brewers'). Others, I'd probably never get a shot at (Stork Dinner, whaa...?). And still others I'd probably run from screaming in terror *cough* Phillips *cough*.

Comped meals are pervasive in the foodie blogosphere, but most bloggers willingly disclose the fact that they've been comped. A more troubling issue is trying to figure out whether the blogger is a legitimate amateur who loves food, as opposed to a PR flack who gets cash as well as a comped meal, but doesn't disclose the flack-client relationship in the resulting (fawning) blog post.

When I first started writing about food (my blog is home cooking, not restaurant reviews) I was surprised to get these emails. Now I'm just dissapointed. I've never run a restaurant review, so clearly these people don't even look at the websites of the people they invite.

Whatever my reaction when I receive these things, the all end up in the same place--the trash. Just not my thing.

I don't see the ethical problem with a sportswriter betting at the race track, using conveniently located windows. Is it a breach of ethics for him (or her) to sit at a press box desk provided by the track on a chair from the same source? Would it be okay for him to walk downstairs to the grandstand and place his bet there along with the rest of the punters? And while I'm at it, have you never attended a morning press conference where coffee and Danish were served? And if you took a cup of Joe, would it taint your journalistic integrity? Writing a rave review in return for a comped meal is clearly dishonest (and I suspect happens all too often in the blogsphere.) But I think that you could have had a much-needed nosh at the Preakness without anyone questioning your integrity.

Like most pols, Ehrlich wasn't always crazy about reporters. Was this a scheme to give us all sores and lesions?

Oh, I think you would have been safe, although I wouldn't have gone out of my way to sample the plate with David Nitkin's place card in front of it.

I'd like to hear what Colonel Tamar thinks of all this.

From what I hear from reliable sources (notice the plural) Colonel Tamar and RoCK ask for the free meals in return that they post a story. They aren't waiting for PR firms to come to them. Don't believe either of them let you know the meal was a comp'd in their posts.

Unlike Beth, I *do* write restaurant reviews and have only gotten one of the above invitations - and it was passed on to me by a fellow blogger. I've been blogging for 5 years now and I can't understand why I get passed over by PR firms on a regular basis.

Maybe because I'm honest in my reviews? If the food is bad, I'll say it.

This is just pervasive, and in my opinion, wrong. Unless i see disclosure or discussion of it, I tend to discount food blogs altogether. Another pet peeve is bloggers who tell the owners that they are bloggers. Even if they don't get comped, their experience isn't what a normal person could expect.

I know that one local blogger writes (or used to -- I don't read her anymore) rave reviews of restaurants that are being supplied by her husband's meat business, with not a hint of disclosure.

Nobody ever said all blogs need to be objective.

I think this post was pretty heavy handed. Badmouthing other bloggers? Really? Try to stay positive.

I represent several restaurants and I can tell you that I get numerous solicitations from bloggers for free meals. AND they always ask to bring a dining date with them (sometimes it's their husband). There is also a tendency to ask for a reservation during peak dining hours - so not only do they want a free dinner, they see no problem with taking away paying seats. Depending on who is asking, I'll request assistance with payment for the meal - at least take care of the server...and I always get push back. I've even been challenged by certain bloggers when I tell them I can't comp their meal. The option in my opinion is to not write about us. Fine by me.

There are some legitimate bloggers out there who take their writing seriously. I have no problem taking care of them. They know food, understand how to write about it and do so thoughtfully. If something is off - they say so.

It's the random person who decided to start a food blog that has zero experience that bothers me. One blogger even asked to have their steak sent back for an up-cook to well done. Are you kidding me?

I wish the posers would go away.

Until i read the "so my comped meal sucked, but free food is nice" sentence... I'll continue to suspend my disbelief that anyone that gets comped is impartial. When i do go out in search of the loathsome under belly of well, everything, i don't want happy time "please be nice least they write something unflattering" kabuki dinner theatre. If i wanted horse manure with my meal, i'd eat in a barn.

"It's the random person who decided to start a food blog that has zero experience that bothers me"

Brava.

I'd like to hear what Colonel Tamar thinks of all this.

Which means that the Sun has been unwittingly a stooge for these comped meals since her husband writes about their dining events right here on Fridays. If the Sun is to continue to have credibility, any guest review must absolutely disclose said bribes because that's really what they are after all. While I don't read food blogs I doubt that Colonel (??) Tamara has ever posted a negative review. No one those types ever do. I think then she writes about his review and links to from her blog. I don't know but isn't using the Sun's high google status to piggyback her own status? I don't know exacftly how that works.

Thank God for the Sun. Despite lots of issues for me at least I do trust their integrity. New media sucks

Can we have guidance from Prof. McIntyre, now that's he's back? Should that last sentence in the last post read "New media suck" since "media" is plural?

Excellent point! LV

No need. It obviously should read, "New media suck." That's basic stuffs. You neglected to mention my neglect of an ending period too;

Dear John Parker

I am that Blogger you refer to- and I have specifically in my info and profile that my husband works for Gunpowder Bison. There are SEVERAL restaurants that GBT is in that I do not write about, and several restaurants the GBT is not in that I do write about.

I do have disclosure on my blog and every interview and media coverage about myself I immediately state who my husband is.

Also when I write reviews of places that have GBT product 9 times out of 10 I do not even mention a Bison dish. I specifically make a point not to eat bison product at restaurants.

@another point of view - bloggers actually have the audacity to ask for comped meals? I can't imagine that is true of any of my local blogging friends.

I, for one, have always paid for my meals, apart from two, and in those two write-ups I made it known that they were PR meals.

As for lack of experience, what exactly constitutes proper experience for a blogger? I've been eating for 44 years and cooking for more than half that amount of time. I also read voraciously about food, restaurants, and cooking.

There be some real playa haters here! Maybe you should get your opinions of restaurants from yourself and never read anyone ever again.

That cousin who told you a restaurant was good? She probably didn't tell you that the waiter asked for her digits. That newspaper told you it was tasty? They probably didn't tell you that their editors won't pay for them anymore to go to the BEST places, so this is the best of the rest. Everyone has a game goin' on, that's called L-I-F-E. What's YOUR game? I bet you won't own up to it on here. Let's all start a thread of who we know, what are prejudices are, what we like, what are our weaknesses.

TRUE STORY, HUGGY!

O, this life
Is nobler than attending for a check,
Richer than doing nothing for a bribe,
Prouder than rustling in unpaid-for silk.
– William Shakespeare

Perquisites are a part of the natural order of the well-born and meritorious.These are not bribes but reward for having the grace to nobly serve God and society.

Bribes are taken by the low-born, the likes of barristers and clerks of writ, for egregious purposes that serve not well the interests of Man but of a man. Gosswoggles all.

It would be most improprietous of proper gentlefolk to spurn the rewards of a well-born and exemplary being.

Sir Francis Bacon was most infamously imprisoned for taking bribes. He most famously stated that he certainly did accept gifts, as all men of status should, but that they were no influence upon his moral rectitude and judgments.

Tis easy to launch arrows at a bright shining object than to elevate ones own filthy dull soul.

Good day, my American friends.

I just talked to RoCK and he confirmed that he has sometimes accepted free meals while dining out with his restaurant-blogger wife and then written about those meals for The Sun’s Dining@Large blog. He has also attended and written about restaurant “media events” that serve food and drink.

The “media events” were disclosed in his blog posts, but the comped meals were not.

The Sun’s policy is to pay for any meals we review, and that applies to non-Sun employees who contribute guest blog posts. In this brave new world of “citizen journalism,” some old traditions are falling by the wayside. But we’re sticking to this one.

The pay-your-own-way policy may not have been made clear to people who write guest blogs for the paper. If so, we let readers and the guest bloggers down.

Going forward, we’ll do better.

I guess I just assumed everyone was always comped. I was never let down reading RoCK. He writes about funny things or days gone by. He writes about Republicans and preppies. Is Lisa Birnbach comping him? Maybe he's really a Phish following hippie!

I am more let down by LV having people give her the day off and then hanging them out to dry. She doesn't even like food or media events. She should stick to what she is best at -- stupid, tired cuts on O'Malley and Erhlich. It beats being an investigative journalist and really, really working, doesn't it, Laura?

The Sun hasn't had the prestige it had since they were invited to be a questioner on Meet the Press in the '70s.

The huge font, the big and out of focus crappy photos, the same stories over and over and over and over about Baltimore's Hon, the same neighborhoods, the same people. There's very little copy and the "ladies'" or life or today or whatever it's called section is insulting. The tv columnist is an embarrassment to the city and the columnists are trite. "Hey, it's soft shell crab time!" "Hey, it's oyster time!" "Hey, it's apple cider time!" "The in-laws have overstayed their welcome!" "My kid's softball league is out of control!"

This is the kind of paper I'd expect out of rural Florida.

Remember Spro?

The funniest thing about RoCK's Ra posting (one of his apparently many gratis meals) is that he attended a media event highlighting certain new menu offerings, and then he proceeded to complain that he wasn't served dishes he would've ordered! Lo and behold, he was getting it all for free. Interesting. His posts not only lack insight, but also ethics.

And what about his constant linking to his wife's blog? Surely there's some sort of financial benefit to him. How is that overlooked?

“There is no such thing as a minor lapse of integrity”

Over the years, I've turned away too many shots, comped drinks and T-shirts from bar owners/managers to count at this point, as part of the Sun ethics policy. The drinks you read about on Midnight Sun were paid for by the Sun or me personally.

I do accept review tickets for concerts (which is Sun policy) but I've never let a free ticket to a concert influence any of my reviews.

Once, a local strip club offered to shuttle my friends and I around in a stretch limo and pay for all the drinks/food/lap dances we wanted in exchange for a review. I politely declined.

My, my, Sam Sessa, you're a strong man.
What self control.

Jeez Louise. Who put the spoons in your shoes? I know it's grumpy weather but come on. Why doesn't everybody have a cookie, take a deep breath and listen to the Trololo song?

Hey, Disappointed... remember when Dining @ Large was defining "d bags" for folks like you?

I remember the Alamo AND Spro, Laura. Was your nastiness for benefit of some editor who called you on the carpet for that debaucle and ethics in the toilet blog?

West B, you have some good points. I think it's time we stop busting the chops of someone who VOLUNTEERS to give us a different perspective and focus on the REAL ENEMY ... huge fonts. There, I said it.

I personally am here just for the party.

Well, the way it used to be. Lots of people have stopped stopping by... and I can see why. Since LV took charge, she's just an arachnid who eats up her own friends, her own writers, her own audience. It looks like she just about insulted everyone out there today, including herself.

Nobody listens to LV for food thoughts. Puleeeeeze.

Looks like some people need me today.

Go back to posting press releases as they come, LV.

I too hate the big fonts and ridiculous full figure photos of writers. The thing that bothers me most is the new obsession with blue. The nice warm yellow Sun of Earth has been replaced by the harsh blue giant of the Rigel system that sears the flesh off my bones every time I turn on my PC.

I, too, have had to refuse crabs, t-shirts and gifts because I work for the Sun. On Saturday I ignored the free sushi, wine and beef tenderloin and crossed over into the infield to buy an over-priced basket of chicken fingers...but I have a clean conscience. And, really, West B., wow. There are lots of people here doing really, really good work who care about their jobs and the community. Those columnists, reporters and LV are among them.

@Leeann... nah. I don't think so. Your arm hurt from patting yourself on the back? I hope the Trib puts the paper on Ebay and the new owners do like Neicy Nash: clean house.

Too much wood energy around here. Or as Lao Tzu said, "Too many jerks ruin the soup."

@Jon Parker- Tisk, tisk. Before you start some conspiracy theory, try and do some investigative work instead of making dim-witted assumptions. It just so happens that the city is nicknamed Smalltimore for a reason. Of course WTEB will have reviews of restaurants that use Gunpowder Bison, because as a LOCAL farm…we work with 20+ LOCAL restaurants. They also happen to be, in my humble opinion, some of the top restaurants in town (Charleston, Woodberry, Salt, ect.) Notably, she also writes about other great restaurants who DO NOT use our product (B Bistro, Dogwood, Jacks Bistro ect.) We eat at these places because we have a passion for good food.
Would you prefer that Liz write about the frozen crabcakes and other mediocre food being put out by chain restaurants like Philips? Or how about that three course tasting menu over at Applebees? Liz (and myself) obviously tend to favor restaurants that are using fresh, locally sourced produce and meats because the food tastes better. Any time that she has received a “comped” meal she has disclosed it in her blog. We dine out downtown at least 3 nights a week and pay full price 99% of the time. I wouldn’t have it any other way. So, Jon Parker, I am sorry you no longer feel compelled to read my wife’s blog. Actually, I am not. You my friend, are a true Baltimoron.

Please, please tell me that Shallow Thought Wednesdays are not ghost authored by Michael Olesker.

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

If you don't like LV, stop reading her blog.

"Well, the way it used to be. Lots of people have stopped stopping by... and I can see why. Since LV took charge, she's just an arachnid who eats up her own friends, her own writers, her own audience. It looks like she just about insulted everyone out there today, including herself."

Let me see if I've got this straight. Ms. Wilson thinks it's a damn shame that this blog has deteriorated and driven people away with its nasty tone, and she expresses this by calling the blogger an arachnid.

Perhaps it's time to post a sign-up sheet for the Remedial Civility class.

If your meal is comped, or the restaurant owner knows you are a blogger, or there are any other conflicts of interest, your review has no integrity.
It's Enron and Arthur Andersen tableside.
This is why EL made such a huge effort to remain anonymous for so many years.
RoCK, next time, ask DBJS to pay for your meal

I'm noticing lots of comments under different names from a single IP address. Fishy.

If the guest posters are to be held to professional journalistic standards, then maybe The Sun should pay the food bill.

I just ran this idea by my 14-year old son, an ethical lodestar if ever there was one. He says he'd be happy to write a review of Cinghiale if you pay for his dinner :-)

@theminx

Yes...food bloggers ask me to comp their meal and the meal of their guest. This generally starts with my asking what their expectations are, meaning did they want to sample a selection of appetizers, etc. I always ask if they would consider taking care of the server - and this is where it generally leads down the path of comping everything.

I did write that there are legitimate bloggers out there who know food and have some experience that lends credibility to their writing. When I meet a blogger and they don't know certain cooking basics I cringe internally. If they can't speak intelligently about food on the most remedial level I worry it will translate in their writing. So why would I want to comp their meal? I don't.

I guess I filter enough of these calls to have a strong opinion about food bloggers.

Trust me - I value the ones who appreciate and respect food. I don't mind comping the meal for them. I actually want to comp it because I want to send them more food than they would normally order...I want them to try a lot of things on the menu.

My point is if I'm going to comp a meal - I'd at least like it to be for a person whose palate can taste all the nuances of a dish. A person who can write thoughtfully about the products used, cooking techniques...it doesn't have to be a fluff piece - I respect honesty. We learn from it.

Nathan and Liz:you know, I didn't mention your names or affiliations until you mentioned mine. But since you've both seen fit to attack me personally, try this.

Fact: Nathan used to work for Roseda Beef (you can tell Gunpowder they've lost a customer for life since you've apparently switched jobs).

Fact: Liz wrote this on 600block.com without disclosing her affiliation. I'd link to the similarly shilly review on her own blog except I know she has the power to change it: http://www.600block.com/places/the-abbey-burger-bistro-baltimore?page=2

Please don't tell me she doesn't shill for your business. It's not true and you both know it.

Also, Liz, please point out to me the "full disclosure" in this puff piece: http://blog.outside.in/2010/03/30/bloggers-we-love-liz-stanbaugh/

And one more thing: I do have a connection to the food industry. I did not disclose it publicly (I can't) but I did disclose it to Elizabeth, and she agreed that it need not be disclosed unless I was obviously shilling for my connection. Since I never have (or would) do that, it was not a problem.

There are people who treat their ethics as something unassailable, and people who don't.

To anotherpointofview: because I use my real name my identity is easily known by restaurateurs who would like to have their places favorably reviewed. I make reservations under my own name, I use my own name when reviewing restaurants, my name is on the credit card I pay with.

I have in the past been offered comped meals, and I don't accept them because I know that my objectivity would be compromised. It's not that I'm rich, I'm far from it. There are times when a comped meal would be welcome. But even as an amateur, I take what I do seriously enough that I refuse to compromise that by accepting a free meal.

I like to think that I'm the kind of reviewer you are looking for, but I would never accept a free meal from you. No decent reviewer would.

Don't make Jon Parker angry. You wouldn't like him when he's angry.

My first editor took me aside early on and succinctly explained journalistic ethics to me: "Don't sell yourself short, Lindner," he cautioned. "Never accept anything worth less than $5.00."*
I understood he was old school cynical and probably kidding. But I never felt I needed the advice. My judgment was always so poor, I didn't think it would matter if it was influenced.
BTW, Laura Lee -- darn fine idea. Though I personally couldn't accept meal payments from the Sun for my restaurant reviews. I love the old place too much to screw it out of 10 bucks for a bacon cheeseburger assessment. And let's face it, bacon cheeseburgers always taste a little better if they're free.
And now for some guest blogger logrolling.
I fear a world without Laura Vozzella and her ilk. Say what you will about her style, tone, attitude -- all those debatable points -- her journalistic ethics are unassailable and the sanctimonious snitpitchers who question them only embarrass, to the extent possible, themselves.
And RoCK. If he's fudging his reviews for comped meals, his aptitude for disguising it suggests genius. Not bad for a damn Republican. If any of his detractors were half as talented, they'd eat free for the rest of their lives.
When all you smarmy twits come with your borrowed ropes, hang me alongside the Vozzellas, RoCKs and Jon Parkers (et al) of the world. I don't deserve their company, but without them, all we're left with is yours. I fart in your general direction.
*For the record, those were 1980 dollars.

A class act as always, jl. Get your motor runnin' ...

Although I don't read reviews of any kind on principle beforehand, I do confess to thoroughly enjoying some of Richard Gorelick's reviews. He has a remarkable talent for painting the intangibles in words and making one feel as if you are there.

I particularly enjoyed his review of TD Steakhouse and another place west of Baltimore and the Columbia Japanese steak house place. What I really love about his writing is that he brings you into the whole social experience of dining and gives you the whole context. Americans are fools for false metrics a la Zagat's three category system which the Sun foolishly apes.

I don't care what bloggers do or write. They answer to no one, so they have no credibility in general. As I said, I don't read reviews anyway (movies, plays, books, TV, restaurants).

That being said, thank the Universe for the Baltimore Sun with all its faults. It is the only credible source of restaurant review information because it does have a code of ethics.

Perhap the City Paper does too. I like them because they have the occasional deserved bad review. Like many people, I don't trust anything from Baltimore Magazine because they never have bad reviews.

I think it is stupid that the Sun has left the publication without a full-time restaurtant reviewer after having the same one for 40ish years. The difference and vacuum is daunting. RIchard is sharp, able and talented. Take the reins Sun management. and stop shorting your demise.

The blog is weaker because the blogstress doesn't do reviews. That's a structural problem, not Laura's fault. I personally love Laura's injection of ideas, creativity, and excellent writing ability into a blog that was routine and moribind with the same old same old repeated ad nauseum.

I would rather have someone like Laura try and succeed (many times) and fail (sometimes) than have the rote ritual of routine. Things need to change. Change is good but it is not smooth.

As the original and former guest blogger here I am very sad to say that no one ever offered my anything. Seriously, why not? Oh, because I'm masked and anonymous (hey, how bad was that movie?) and I don't write reviews and never will.

I'm done. Adios amigos.

OMG, I agree with you. Gorelick is good -- he's got a good palate and he writes well. I haven't always said that -- when he worked for City Paper I was a major detractor. His review of Chameleon Cafe and his inaugural piece were particularly cringe inducing, and I said so. But working for the Sun seems to have sobered him up, and now I really look forward to his reviews.

Th

I'd like to see him promoted into the top reviewer slot. I'm not sure why that's not happening, but it should.

So was that your "goodbye, cruel D@L" post?

Et tu, Owl?

No adios pero hasta luego

@Jon Parker,
Let me lend you my hammer, so that you can take the nails out of your hands and step down off your crucifix. We never “attacked” you. Because the affiliation between Liz’s blog and my job is so widely known, you did not need to mention our names. I had ten people who are “in the industry” call me on my cell yesterday in regards to the absurdity of your original post.
Fact: I did work for Roseda Beef for six years. I also have managed a surf shop, sold high end electronics and worked on a race horse farm. I enjoy long walks on the beach. If you would like to review my resume, I would be glad to send it to you.
Fact: I am also acquaintances with the lamb purveyor in the 600 block article. Does Liz need to make a disclaimer on that as well? If that’s the case, let me go on record saying I am acquaintances with someone from every large distributor in the area.
I don’t assume that you expect Liz to actually be able to control what is written in a piece about her. She was not the author of that article and did not choose what was written or what was left out. Since I assume you don’t know me or Liz personally, please don’t speak on our ethics. You obviously have a problem with me personally. Lets grab a beer and talk about it in person instead of acting like two babies who can’t play nice in the sandbox.
Liz (or any other local bloggers) do not shill for my personal gain…they write about the things that they love and share their experiences with others. If you do not want to read those blogs, that is your choice…but please be mature enough to refrain from wild accusations and conspiracy theories. Next you are going to say that I paid LV and the Baltimore Sun for today’s recent post on Bison and Eggs at Vino Rosina! No, Jon Parker, that was just an coincidence. The irony…

Mr. Parker seems to have quite a chip on his shoulder. As well as a google search system for Ms. Stambaugh? Interesting.

I see he found two examples (one of which is a personal site from TWO YEARS AGO), the other an interview that links back to her blog. Where her bio states her husband's job. I'm sure if he spent more time he could find inconsistencies in everyone. Humans aren't perfect.

My experience? The first time I communicated a question her about a restaurant she immediately told me that her husband's company supplied it, as well as the fact that he had previously worked for another company that supplied it. This was just in a Twitter discussion. So I'll take my experience over what is clearly some sort of vendetta.

Let's get back to journalistic ethics for a moment. More than fifty years ago, I wrote a syndicated television column for the Hearst newspapers. I frequently interviewed celebs over lunch, paid for by a publicist. When Bob Hope took a USO troupe to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska for his annual Xmas special, I was one of the journalists who tagged along...at NBC's expense. I thoroughly enjoyed the press parties that helped launch such series as "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." But when I wrote a review, none of that mattered. If it was a lousy show or a poor performance, that's what it was. In short, there's a big difference between a gift such as a comped meal (with expectations of quid pro quo) and a media event. Based on LV's Preakness experience, though, the Sun apparently doesn't see it that way. And I'd be interested in her opinion as to where a journalist should draw the line.

Michael A. Gray -- A former news editor told us if we interviewed an old lady at her house for a story and she offered us coffee or tea, we were supposed to refuse it. I see both sides to this one, but I think that's a bit extreme.

When I was in college, the movie studios would fly me and a bunch of other college reporters out to L.A. and put us up in a swanky hotel to interview movie stars. I lived it up, but never let the free stuff influence my profiles of these stars.

ok. i'm guilty of calling LV to ask if it would be appropriate to invite her to a food event. it's a gray area. on some level most bloggers are editorialists either blatantly or by their selective choice of subject matter, story angle, use of information, etc. paid food critics have a duty to be above board, unassailable, and impartial in their coverage. on the other hand, bloggers don't usually break news, they regurgitate it, or add a new wrinkle. don't believe me? there was a PEW study a few weeks ago that looked specifically at the baltimore media market and said the same thing.

pretty much all press events incur costs to create (providing sound systems, printing of releases, etc.) and i don't see media outlets offering to cover that overhead or worrying that journalistic integrity is compromised when they attend that kind of PR-driven event.

so i gently disagree with LV that us PR-types should know better. as long as both sides are clear about what is being offered up front and there is no expectation that accepting the invitation obligates the writer to providing only positive coverage, then i don't see the harm in inviting a blogger.

a surf shop in Monkton? Moondoggy! Just imagine!

A lot of heavy duty wading in the ethical swamp going on here. As long as jl and OMG keep posting, I'll keep reading. I'm only sorry I never made jl's acquaintance during the time we were neighbors - my adult daughter still chortles at the memory of my reaming out one of her high school teachers as a "self-important twit." There are entirely too many twits of all varieties.

This is a bit ridiculous. Nathan, if I had a problem with you personally then my first post would have mentioned the name of the blog. And yes, I do think calling me a "Baltimoron" stoops to the level of a personal attack. Nevertheless my tone was angry, and for that I apologize.

I didn't mention names because I was giving an example of a case where I felt like a blogger wasn't using the same ethical standards that a journalist would adhere to. It was an illustration of why I quit trusting food blogs.

The affiliation may be well known (ten people, really?) to some but it certainly wasn't known to me when I was looking for info on the restaurant in question. It was new, it was near my house, and I was googling it because I wanted to know what people were saying about it.

If bloggers are giving consumer advice in reviewing a place, they absolutely should disclose anything that could affect the review -- the fact that they are married to a supplier, the fact that a meal is comped, the fact that he had a fistfight with the manager in third grade. And they should do it every single time. I shouldn't need to read the blogger's bio, it should be right there in the post.

Try reading Rob Pellegrino's posts on Facebook in the Big Paper to the South. Every single time he writes about it he discloses all associations between his paper and FB.

The fact that you sold surfboards is irrelevant to a restaurant review, so it would not need to be disclosed.

Finally, I did not make wild accusations or indulge in conspiracy theories. I said that she had written very good reviews of places that were buying from you without disclosing it. That's established, but that's all I said.

If you say that she doesn't do it for personal gain, I believe you -- you know her better than I do (which is not at all). But disclosure of connections is important.

And last, I am always up for beer, especially if you're buying.

Yo food bloggas, pimpin' ain't easy.

Oooh, Superflog
You're gonna make your fortune by and by
But if you lose, don't ask no questions why
The only game you know is chew or die
Ah-ha-ha

that's super fly, Superfly. henceforth, i'm Superflog.

A colleague just put a bit of New Yorker fiction under my nose that seems to be on point.

http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/features/2008/03/10/080310fi_fiction_kunzru?currentPage=1

It's about a guy who suspects all of his friends have been secretly hired to do product placements.

“And yet . . . Over the next few days, I started to notice something odd. Every time I met a friend, he or she would immediately make a recommendation, urge me to try something new. Lucas had been to a club on the other side of town and insisted that it was the best night out he’d had in ages. Janine almost forced me to take home a bottle of her “new favorite nutritional supplement.” At first, I shrugged it off. But, deep down, I knew that it had something to do with Raj and his vodka. Every night, I’d turn the incident over in my mind. I swallowed Ativan and Valium and Paxil (I had a compliant doctor), hoping that my anxiety would pass. It didn’t. There was Joe and his new running shoes. Razia’s bike. All my friends seemed to be dropping snippets of advertising copy into their conversation, short messages from their sponsors. They were constantly stating preferences for particular brands, dishing out free samples. “

Interesting.

The tone of the article takes a very "I'm better than you, here's why..." approach. If accepting a free meal isn't your thing, cool. Not a big deal. Hell, if you want to encourage other bloggers and food reviewers (I won't use the word critic) to be more morally responsible, that's even better. Cause I've gotta tell you, as a PR guy...most bloggers suck when it comes to the desire for handouts and the air of entitlement that they have.

You could have been above that entitlement but then you went and preached from the mountain. Wouldn't it be better to raise the "profession" than simply act as if you're above it? With such a clearly passionate audience you squandered an opportunity.

Shame really.

I spent years working tourism PR a few metro stops south of DC. Many of my clients were restaurants. Many of the people that I shuffled through their doors were writers in some capacity.

Some offered to pay and were refused.
Some paid and it was accepted.
Some expected not to pay and were made to.
Some I paid for because they were worth it.
Hell, some paid for booze but not for food because of the rules.

It takes all kinds and trying to taut your "holier than thou art" view makes you look like a tool. Here's your gold star, boyscout.

And for what's it worth? Many restaurants that I work with don't trust bloggers. I'm not saying that they're right (in fact, I encourage them to understand the power of "new media") but there's certainly a stigma to wash off.

that's super fly, Superfly. henceforth, i'm Superflog.

I dig your rap brotha man.

Who cares? Nobody reads your blogs anyway except for other self-righteous foodies. Also, get off your high horse, Jon.

You suck
No, you suck
No, you do ...

Click
Click
Click
Click ....

@ Jon Parker,
1st round of beer is on me. I will be at Metropolitan tomorrow night around 8 or 9 if you are around the Fed Hill area. I'm not hard to spot, as I will most likely be the only guy in the bar with a burger tattooed on my lower arm.

BTW, that last anonymous post was me. I forgot to post my name.

Perhaps best to not squabble; it serves no man or business well.

Also, best Nathan than your wife not tweet that you were in a bar early in the day and then punched someone in the face who messed with your bison sign. She is creating a paper trail for your conviction and her constant foursquare and tweeter posts while she is at a job that she clearly identifies while AT WORK is quite stupid. She seems like a sweet but misguided girl but if she tells people that she is at work and then spends 8 hours tweeting about bullshit SHE IS GOING TO GET FIRED. Christ, she identifies the place where she is screwing her employer. Get a grip, girl.

P.S. No one cares about you retweeting the dollar off coupons from wherever. It's annoying.

it's really funny reading old people internet slap-fight.

Two observations after reading this thread.

1) LV is excellent at what she does. Some of the vitriol posted herein is ridiculous. You don't deserve her. You deserve to read in eternity nothing but shill bloggers who get comped.

2) I will never buy Gunpowder Bison again. Nathan should have ignored the posts. Instead, he turned out looking like a supreme wierdo.

@Nota Bene-
Never been a big fan of Twitter, but I am sure you are referencing an incident that happened at our house (around May 10th) and not the farm. A drunk neighbor came over and stole our sign by the entrance of our driveway. It was my day off, it was around lunch and I had just come from a bar…where I drank a few beers and ate some chicken wings.
I confronted him about taking the sign and it turned into a verbal altercation…but nobody was “punched out.” I believe Liz may have taken my figurative speech a little too literal. Needless to say, she was upset about the vandalism and posted it on Twitter obviously. Even I will admit, that she is a little overboard with the Twitter/Foursquare posts. So in other words, it wasn’t a bison sign…I wasn’t working…and nobody was knocked out.
@CantonDiner and everyone else on this post-
It was wrong of me to come onto this forum and publically carry on this nonsense with Mr. Parker. My first reaction was to clear up any confusion as to his original post and then let it go. When emotions starting flaring on both sides, I decided to continue to discuss this publically instead of privately…which was unprofessional and I apologize for it. I hope you don’t hold my actions against Gunpowder Bison. They are a great farm with an awesome product. It was wrong for me to antagonize the situation and in the end everyone can make their own decision on what blogs and twitters they want to read in Baltimore. I believe that LV has done a great job with this post, because it has everyone talking. I for one have finished talking. Once again, I apologize for how I have acted and I hope we can end this here.

What's the difference between a free meal and a free movie screening for film critics?
I mean, free is free right? Doesn't matter if it's Iron Man or a free french fry to sample.

What's the difference between a free meal and a free movie screening for film critics?
I mean, free is free right? Doesn't matter if it's Iron Man or a free french fry to sample.

Honestly, I wasn't there when all these rules came into being. I just covered Preakness, and The Sun didn't pay for me or other reporters to attend. Just like we don't pay to attend political fundraisers we cover. But since we're there as observers, we don't partake of the food. That's always made sense to me, even when I was dying for a bite of that VIP Preakness fare. LV

I also have to defend Nathan (and Gunpowder -- they do have a great product). I think we both overreacted, but in the end, he was just defending his wife, and I consider that a feature, not a bug.

So now that Nathan and Jon have kissed and made up, why am I left wondering if this whole blog-fight was a media stunt to get attention?
PS: I am joking.

There are a number of bloggers, other than the ones mentioned above, who get free product and rave about it, yet do not disclose that it's a freebie. It's been mentioned here before and there was a bitch-slapping fight about it on this blog.

People who do accept freebies and don't disclose it tend to think that they're above all of that. To me, it kills any credibility they could ever have.

I've been told that Dara "Dining Dish" Bunjon is a PR person who never discloses when she writes flaclitude for her clients. I've been told this, but don't know this. Perhaps others could confirm. She never posts here without linking to her site.

Zzzzzzzz..... *SNORT* Huh... wuh.... Um... did I miss something?

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.
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