We wrote the Food Blog Code of Ethics after many heated conversations with fellow food bloggers. Those discussions inspired us to lay down some basic guidelines for food writing on the Internet because we couldn’t find any that already existed. These aren’t laws that we expect everyone to follow. These aren’t rules you have to accept as your own. We know they don’t apply to everybody. They’re a jumping off point to start a bigger discussion.
The Code is not intended to limit anyone’s freedom of speech. We offer these pages to advocate accountability, accuracy and honesty in the world of food blogging. The Code is designed as a set of guidelines, not a punishable set of laws.
1. We will be accountable
- We will write about the culinary world with the care of a professional. We will not use the power of our blog as a weapon. We will stand behind our claims. If what we say or show could potentially affect someone’s reputation or livelihood, we will post with the utmost thought and due diligence.
- We understand why some bloggers choose to stay anonymous. We respect that need but will not use it as an excuse to avoid accountability. When we choose to write anonymously for our own personal or professional safety, we will not post things we wouldn’t be comfortable putting our names to.
- If we review a restaurant, product or culinary resource we will consider integrating the standard set of guidelines as offered by the Association of Food Journalists.
2. We will be civil
- We wholeheartedly believe in freedom of speech, but we also acknowledge that our experiences with food are subjective. We promise to be mindful—regardless of how passionate we are—that we will be forthright, and will refrain from personal attacks.
3. We will reveal bias
- If we are writing about something or someone we are emotionally or financially connected to, we will be up front about it.
4. We will disclose gifts, comps and samples
- When something is given to us or offered at a deep discount because of our blog, we will disclose that information. As bloggers, most of us do not have the budgets of large publications, and we recognize the value of samples, review copies of books, donated giveaway items and culinary events. It’s important to disclose freebies to avoid be accused of conflicts of interest.
5. We will follow the rules of good journalism
- We will not plagiarize. We will respect copyright on photos*. We will attribute recipes and note if they are adaptations from a published original. We will research. We will attribute quotes and offer link backs to original sources whenever possible. We will do our best to make sure that the information we are posting is accurate. We will factcheck. In other words, we will strive to practice good journalism even if we don’t consider ourselves journalists.
* The issue with photo copyrights is a complicated one, so we contacted an expert. This is what Jacqueline Lipton, PhD and professor of law at Case Western had to say: “In response to your query, generally it’s wise to always seek permission from the copyright holder if the image in question doesn’t have a license attached describing permissible uses (eg a Creative Commons type license).
Of course, depending on the type of use being made, the reproduction of a photograph without permission could be a “fair use” under the copyright law, particularly if no commercial use is being made of it and it is not interfering with a market for the photograph – which may well be the case on many blogs. Thus, the otherwise potentially infringing use could be excused under the fair use doctrine.
It is important to recognize that the question of attribution is a separate question to copyright infringement. While you should always attribute the source of a picture, copyright infringement is a separate question and you can infringe copyright even if you give appropriate attribution. While many copyright holders will only ask for attribution in return for permission to use the picture, it is NOT a general rule of copyright law that if you give appropriate attribution, you have not infringed copyright. Copyright law deals with acts of copying or displaying a picture, not how it is attributed.”
How about, we will approve all comments that aren’t personal attacks, and admit we were wrong when someone calls us out on it.
I like your code of ethics, I just have one question about “using images from others” — don’t most blogs repost the image when linking to something that’s been written about elsewhere? This seems to be common practice across the web, and as long as the blog is credited, I’m not sure it’s a problem.
Hi Pat. It’s great to use original photos, but if you don’t attribute the source and link back if possible! Thanks for your feedback.
[…] Burton and Leah Greenstein are proposing a food blog code of ethics that loosely reflect the guidelines most newspaper food journalists […]
I take the pledge.
This is super. What about the use of stock photography, where attribution is expressly not required for use?
Thanks Varmint. If it’s stock photography then you’ve paid for the right to use it, and it should be okay, but check with your photo provider.
[…] ethical boundaries (media dinners, freebies etc.). But disclosure is key, and I applaud any effort to give guidance on that front. Bookmark […]
[…] Blog Code of Ethics A “Food Blog Code of Ethics” has been proposed, and before I begin my discussion of this concept, I want to say, […]
I’m in: http://varmintbites.com/2009/05/01/food-blog-code-of-ethics/
I found out years ago that a very prominent LA dining journalist never went to the restaurants-just made up the reviews-so much for the code.
I am a big proponent of this … however … i do have one comment. The second point under section 1 seems quite reasonable. I myself am “fairly” anonymous. There are enough people who know who I am and I don’t go out of my way to hide it … however … if people (especially restaurateurs) know who I am … then don’t I run the risk of receiving preferential treatment? Thus … my goal of accurately describing the everyman’s experience fall by the wayside.
Further to the point, If i am willing to follow all the other guidelines (which I do), why is it exactly important if people know my name? I respond and reply to everyone … thus … eliminating my concern for point to.
Lastly, as you alluded to, personal safety should not be glossed over. I know of one food blogger who had his personal safety threatened. I can assure you, it was not an appropriate reaction as the blogger was more than upstanding.
Thank you so much Foodiebuddha. We know that anonymity is an important issue for many in blogging and is especially important when reviewing a restaurant. We don’t believe everyone should reveal their identities if they don’t feel comfortable doing so or cannot for safety reasons, but we do believe that what we write and post to the world anonymously be something that (theoretically) we would feel comfortable signing our name to.
Honestly, anonymity isn’t always possible. Even vetted newspaper critics have their photo circulating in the back of restaurants all over the city they work in. I for one know what our LA Times food critic looks like and when she comes into the restaurant she’s reviewing, you better believe everyone is on their A game.
What we’re saying is anonymity is fine–sometimes truly necessary–but the point is accountability. We think it is unfair to hide behind a veil of anonymity. Or conversely, using one’s blog as a weapon to get preferential treatment or comped items. Not all people in the food blog world do such things but there are a number of people that do.
Thank you for your thoughts!
Yes, it is about accountability. I, in fact, say that “attempts” at anonymity should be required. Blasphemous I know! Granted, I’m speaking specifically to those of us who critique restaurants.
At the end of the day, my reviews are about the food and the experience. The last thing I want is to be the center of my readers attention. It is my responsibility to share with people “all aspects of the meal,” not to talk about myself.
I will gladly discuss (at lengthy) my thoughts behind my reviews. But to put ourselves front and center of a discussion seems counter-productive to our goal.
Would it be more productive if the code was written to include some sort of requirement for access? As in… “each blogger must allow for direct and private contact?” I have a contact form on my website for just that reason. Granted, nothing about my email address will tell you who i am or where i live, but that helps to settle the “accountability” issue. I think accountability should be stressed in lieu of “don’t be anonymous”.
Thoughts? And that said – think i’m okay to say “i follow the code?” 🙂
eek…. talk about poor grammar! Feel free to fix it 😉
[…] … and yes that is me on the […]
I don’t know if I’m technically a food blogger, I write about a lot of things – things culinary being at the top of my preferences, however I wholeheartedly agree with this code and will abide by it. And, although it’s less likely than George Bush running for re-election, if I EVER get comped for ANYTHING, I’ll be so damn excited everyone will know about it instantly! 🙂
While I find many good general points noted here (copyright, being civil, transparency to gifts), I have some hesitation with bloggers being held to the same standards as journalists. And, it’s on this point that I’m stuck. Forgive me if I’m reading too much into it.
If I sought to be a journalist, I would seek publication in one of the many online/offline publications. Instead, I’m a blogger which is inherently a form of free expression, without guidelines, without rules, and therefore likely biased without knowingly being biased. It is where we can share our experiences, thoughts, and feelings centered around food. It’s as intimate and forgiving as a diary.
If someone wishes to rant about a topic, they can do so. If they would like to stand on the street corner with their angst written on a sign, they can do so. It’s just another medium.
Yes, there are those either are journalists or who wish to be journalists, and do so in the form of their blogs, but that’s not for everyone. The more I think of it, the more I keep coming back to this one point on equating bloggers to journalists. Maybe it’s not about trying to transform bloggers into journalists, but instead those wishing to be viewed as a journalist refraining from calling themselves bloggers.
Instead, they could brand their sites as online publications, not blogs(?). And, in being an online publication, would then hold themselves to journalistic standards for which they are intended?
Sorry for rambling on — just thinking out loud. While I find this code of ethics interesting and well-intentioned, I think it tries to change the essence of blogging which doesn’t feel right to me. Just my two cents 🙂
I have to agree with you about the standards of journalists vs. bloggers. I think if we try too hard to be journalists (especially if we don’t want to be) we will lose some of what makes blogs and bloggers interesting to people and each other. There does need to be a distinction.
All good points. We’re already there.
[…] May 1, 2009 at 5:30 pm Raleigh food blogger Dean McCord wants to. He has agreed to this Food Blog Code of Ethics and is calling on other food bloggers to do the same. Do you think this code is worth adhering to? […]
Bloggers cannot, and will not, follow the rules set up by the soon-to-be-erstwhile print media. The latter, in its final gasps, seeks to handicap the emerging media when, in fact, it is an entirely different beast and serves a different purpose. Just another example of the embarrassing presumption and ignorance of the old media when it comes to technology– they still don’t get it.
Anyone can blog, leveling the playing field. A blogger who is suspected of peddling undue influence can be quickly called out by other bloggers or even commenters. This is a kind of accountability that was never available in print-only media; rather, situations like this were far easier to sweep under the rug, hence the need for a stringent set of guidelines and rules.
[…] but a couple of bloggers decided to create a website called Food Ethics, and, surprise, surprise, a Food Blog Code of Ethics to which they, upfront, state they’re simply doing it to “draw attention to food […]
It’s not that we’re trying to box anyone in to a certain type rather it’s a behaviour that should come naturally. I would like to think most follow the code but then maybe I’m being too optimistic.
When bloggers are expressing their opinions in their blogs, they welcome comments for further discussion. That’s what it should be, a conversation, not a one sided rant. That’s too close to print media.
While in theory this seems like a good idea, I do have some issues with it.
I’m not a journalist and don’t claim to be. I don’t get paid to give my opinion. A journalist is held to a different standard than a blogger, in my opinion. I write my blog for fun, not in the hopes of getting a job at a newspaper or some other news outlet.
I’m already honest. I don’t BS my readers, and don’t need a badge to display to let anyone know that I am–my word should be good enough.
What worries me is that eventually, new blog readers will check for that little symbol, like we do now for site security, Paypal safety, etc, and if they don’t see it–will they turn around and leave my blog?
I think you have very good intentions. But as far as food bloggers being called hacks–I think that for the most part, the people that are doing the name calling are the ones that aren’t putting out quality food/books/products, and being called out because of it.
The points you bring up are mostly common sense, besides. Honesty, don’t plagiarize–most of us already practice that. I think food blog readers are smart people and can tell when someone is BS’ing them. I feel like this is almost “dumbing down” our readers. Let’s give them more credit than that, and let them decide when they’re reading truth or lies .
The emotional bias part…so, since my husband`has a blog and uses our last name, if I refer people to his blog and don’t disclose that he’s my husband, I’m violating two of these guidelines right off the bat.
This code needs more discussion, in my opinion. I don’t know any food bloggers that were asked to weigh in on it, but I do know some–that I deeply respect, that are questioning parts of it.
Guidelines are important when presenting information to the general public. As a community we have an obligation to set the tone, as well as, be accountable to one another.
This is a great beginning.
Did you know the Cuisine Code, a good practice manifesto on food blogging? We wrote it at February of 2008 with a global vocation. It is available in 6 languages and, at this time, has 256 blog subscribers from Spain, Portugal, rest of Europe and South America. You can check the URL and subscribers in: http://www.codigococina.org.
I have to ask myself whether the people who need a lecture on stealing content, civility and full disclosure will be the kind of people to read this and think “uh-oh, better mend my ways”. And if that isn’t your goal, then isn’t this just a pat on your own backs for the tremendously elevated standards you maintain in your rareified corner of the blogosphere??
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against anything you included in your code (except perhaps the bit about visiting restaurants multiple times and eating everything on the menu before daring to share your experience on your blog – umm, there’s a recession on!). But these are standards that I have been upholding (as have pretty much all the many food blogs I read) since I started blogging almost five years ago. Not because a code of conduct tells me to, or in exchange for a badge, but because I have a sense of pride in my blogging – and a sense of right and wrong.
[…] pervasive that these two food journalists, Brooke Burton and Leah Greenstein, recently proposed a code of ethics for food bloggers be adopted. Their proposal was deemed of sufficient interest to enough people that the New York […]
I come to blogging after a career as a newspaper writer, reviewer, critic and commentator in the arts, books, food, wine and restaurant areas, hence, a journalist. Blogging may be a freer form of expression than newspapers provide, in some ways, but there’s no reason why journalism or journalists should be regarded as oppressive forces; on the individual level, print is just another medium of communication. On my blog, my language may be less formal than it was in the newspaper, but I still have to subscribe to doctrines of fairness, honesty, objectivity and accuracy. Gosh, is it asking too much for bloggers to do the same, without having to fix their names to a prescribed code and symbol? How can you even sit down to write and not have fairness, honesty, objectivity and accuracy as the goal with every sentence? And as far as anonymity is concerned, anonymity and accountability make an oxymoron; I will not read any blog, any post, any response that comes from an anonymous source. As a restaurant reviewer for 20 years, with my name on every review, I received death threats, threats of law suits, angry letters and emails; that’s part of the job. If you’re worried about your “personal safety,” get out of the writing and reviewing business. Ethics are ethics, and the concept does not detract one bit from your freedom of expression.
Why not focus on actually providing detailed information on citations, quotes, and accreditation? Education, not rules?
I remember my university days and long debates about whether anything found on-line could be viewed as a credible source, and how to properly credit an on-line source. Do we need a site that sorts some of that out. I’m sure it’s already out there if we look.
Knock yourselves out with this, but I’m not sure it applies if you aren’t doing reviews.
Thanks for putting this great set of guidelines together. It’s great to have an ideal to fall back on regardless of weather or not we have professional writing backgrounds.
What everyone needs to remember is that the code is a guide- to help you when in doubt. If you choose to ignore it, that’s your decision.
But I can’t see how following it would do you any damage- just think about that when it conflicts with what you are writing and weigh up the outcome.
Be proud and honest in what you write. Code or not, good ethical practice will only raise your credibility.
Thanks Food Ethics.
Visiting a review restaurant several times may not be possible, but it’s a great ideal to have and at least makes you question weather your experience would have been different on another day.
Some comments on the specifics of your proposal at http://bit.ly/iyr2O. Moreover, I oppose this entire effort for reasons explained at http://bit.ly/4YcNb. Bottom line: food blogging should be like Outback Steakhouse — no rules, just right.
Kudos for this effort, Brooke and Leah.
As a supporter of civility and ethics in communication, as well as frankness and honesty, I don’t know why I’m still surprised at the predictable criticisms directed at any attempt to affirm those values.
“I never do those things, why should I have to follow your rules?”
They aren’t enforceable laws; a code like this is simply a statement of the standards you can expect from those who profess to follow it.
No one can enforce any sort of code on the internet, if you don’t want to subscribe to it, don’t. If you’re already more or less following such a code personally, more power to you. But there are a growing number out there who are not only careless, but willfully deceptive in their online writing.
Covert and guerrilla marketing efforts also encroach anonymously upon the blogosphere more and more frequently. I regularly receive quid pro quo offers that run from mere hints to blatant offers of exchange.
I’ll have to follow the topic and give more thought to the various ramifications, but I’m optimistic about the outcome of this.
[…] I provide the following disclaimer in good faith and in accordance with the Food Blog Code of Ethics: […]
Thank God I found this code! I’ve been plagiarizing, using photos without permission, writing fake reviews, and posting other people’s recipes as my own. Those days are now over. Thank you Food Blogger Code of Ethics, thank you.
i think this is an interesting idea and i applaud your efforts. unfortunately, it hit a nerve and many have gotten defensive. perhaps, these guidelines could have been something that was crafted by a community and not a couple of folks from “the establishment.” i don’t have a bone to pick with the establishment, but it is a bit like my folks still telling what is good for me.
where are all the challenging/opposing comments?
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very reasonable list, it is easy (i admit) to get carried away with my opinion sometimes \-:
[…] voice?). But I felt especially bad ever since my friends Brooke and Leah wrote the now e-famous Food Blog Code of Ethics. The truth is, like Julia Powell, although I write a blog and although it occasionally (okay closer […]
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[…] A while back read an article, couldn’t find back that same article, but it is similar to https://foodethics.wordpress.com/the-code/, mostly point 4. “We will disclose gifts, comps and samples”… Some ppl said food […]
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[…] The Food Blog Code of Ethics – I’m a big reader of food blogs, but that’s not why this code made the list. These guidelines were written by food bloggers who wanted an ethics code, but “couldn’t find any that already existed.” I love the initiative that they took. I love that they defied the stereotype of bloggers not being “real reporters” by holding themselves to high standards regardless of their medium. I love that these girls didn’t expect anyone else to follow along, and, perhaps most of all, I love how many people talked and blogged and buzzed about their ethics code anyway. This is one example of how social media can create fascinating conversations and can make for better journalism in the long run. So much for the Internet making us stupid. […]
Is there a widget we can get for our blogs?
Leah and I have decided to not offer a badge, since many people found the idea of something like that offensive. Thank you for your interest!
Well done! Clarity in all things, given or otherwise. The reader, hopefully, will latch on to those blogs that are open and honest and review products and restaurants properly! I was recently horrified to hear of someone stating to an owner at a restaurant “I’m a big yelper, what are you going to give me”? That kind of behavior hurts us all.
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Honestly, my biggest problem with this is simply that its extremely redundant. Number 5 covers 1-4.
Thanks for the feedback. The good news is we put the information down for people to use as they like.
[…] Rather than be damaged by the reckless acts of others, Leah and I set out to write our own set of guiding principles that carved out a path on the higher ground of ethics. We hoped our manifesto would inspire us and […]
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I’m writing an essay on local ethical dilemmas with a focus on food critics and will use this code as a reference of ethical conduct, so first off, thank you! I did wish to ask about the third clause on biases and if you believe it is ethical for food critics to identify themselves ahead of time when eating at a restaurant they will be reviewing. My concern here would be that the restaurant would have an unfair advantage, or may alter their service to better serve the critic (ensuring a positive review). Any takes?
I like….Well done!
[…] rules’ you can break on your blog. Some bloggers have adopted their own code of ethics, like this group of blogging food critics, who cite standards on accountability and independence, among other […]
[…] include an ethical statement on their site. Others have taken it a step further by committing to The Food Blog Code of Ethics. I have personally pledged, alongside thousands of bloggers, to Blog With […]
Thanks for this code it is very helpful as I start out in blog reviewing. Would you mind if I re-post this on my blog as a set of values that I intend to follow? I would, of course, give full credit to you.
Tomas, thank you for your comment. We are happy to have you link to our site and to discuss your opinions on our manifesto, but we would appreciate you not re-posting our material. Thank you for asking! Best, Brooke
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