Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Blogger's Are Whores

Yep.  That's what Elaine Liner, theater critic and feature writer for the Dallas Observer, tweeted me yesterday.  But, I've started at the end.  Let's back up a bit to the beginning of the story.

I've had the latest issue of D Magazine on my night stand for a week.  I finally had a few minutes to crack it open and flip through it.  Much to my delight, I came across an article about my friend, Steven Doyle, who is the Editor of CraveDFW.  The tag line for this article was, "How a once-anonymous commenter wheedled his way to an endless buffet of free meals and online celebrity." Okaaaaay. I could tell where this was going 6 words into the piece.

Jason Sheeler wrote, "Upstarts like Doyle have upended the world of food criticism over the last decade, chipping away at mainstream critics’ power base. Legions of iPhone owners now earn press credentials with the snap of a meal in progress. Are online foodies like Doyle and, say, Rachel “Food Bitch” Pinn heroes or villains? Is the new league of online food writers here to democratize criticism? Or are these part-time writers just gluttonous, self-appointed experts seeking comment glory and a free lunch"

The other quote that jumped out from the D Magazine article at me was from an anonymous publicist (shocker) who says, “The freeloading done by these guys infuriates me,” says the publicist, who compares the writers to groupies. But there’s one great thing about the bloggers, says the publicist. “I use them like puppets.


Yesterday, Andrea Grimes at EaterDallas tweeted, "Yikes! @DSideDish says Steven Doyle is a "cheerleader masquerading as reporter".  To which I replied back, "Sounds to me like a traditional journalist is intimidated by the rise of a blogger. The time's, they are a'changing!"  And this is where Elaine jumped in and added:

Oh. No. She. Did'Unt!  

I have already written about my views on Bloggers vs. Journalists.  I don't know any local bloggers who call themselves "experts" as Sheeler asserts.  As a blogger, I am giving you my opinion.  And the PR company or the restauranteur who invited me to come in - asked for it!   So, I tweeted Elaine back to retort, "Most bloggers write for the love of their genre, not for money. You hope all writers have ethics and integrity."

Nancy Nichols in disguise
See, in case you didn't know, how this normally works is that if you are a real food critic like Nancy Nichols for D Magazine, you want to go into a new restaurant all incognito so you get a true experience and they don't fawn all over you.

They go in several times and each time they pay with a credit card under an assumed name or use cash. Then they expense those meals back to their publication for reimbursement. This way their reviews are untainted by favoritism or bias.

Elaine's assertion is that restaurants offer free meals to bloggers to get articles published about them. And that after taking these free meals, bloggers mindlessly write glowing articles about these venues with no real thought to what they are saying because they are so happy they just got a free meal. I can't tell you how insulting her statement is.

Unlike Elaine, most bloggers have other full-time jobs that they do to pay the bills. They blog because they are passionate about a niche: food, arts, parenting, fashion, etc.  It's a labor of love that bloggers pour hours of their heart and soul into, not for the money (what little of it there ever is) but because they love the topic they are covering and it's a creative outlet of expression.

Media preview for Private | Social last month. I attended this event with other bloggers and traditional journalists like Pegasus News, American Airlines Way, Modern Luxury and Paper City. OMG! Real journalists were eating lunch - for free!

Lisa Petty from says, "Everyone does the junkets.  I see very little difference between Steven Doyle going to a free luncheon at a new restaurant and Nancy (Nichols) sending her intern, who later writes it up for the blog."

And as for that anonymous publicist - guess what sister - everybody's using everybody to get what they need. If you don't get your clients "press" on a regular basis, you get fired. I can't tell you how many PR firms and marketing people I have begging me to write something - anything - about their client so they can show that they are earning their monthly retainer.  I can't afford to pay for every ticket to every gala and every meal I eat for this site, because I've no one reimbursing me.  It's the circle of life.  Everyone gives. Everyone takes. Everyone wins.

“The local food media now isn’t just D Magazine, Dallas Morning News, and the Observer,” says The Grape owner Brian Luscher (in Sheeler's article), who says he trusts Doyle. “I love that the playing field is wide open and we don’t have to go through the usual channels to get the word out. I know there is some pay to play there. But isn’t that life?”

Yes, Brian. That's life.  (Sigh)  I feel an e-book coming on...