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Biting the hand that feeds

Most of you who read this blog will know that I am a communications professional by day, blogger by night.

These worlds collide frequently: I get to practice writing when I blog, which helps my ability to communicate with clients. Sometimes I'll meet other communications professionals and they find out I have a food blog. As a result, I may get pitched as a media outlet for their clients, which is fun.
I practice disclosure on this blog so there's no funny business about products, venues and services that are represented. If you have concerns or questions, please visit my blogging code and restaurant review criteria and feel free to leave comments.
Earlier this week, on Thursday afternoon, something happened in Toronto that a couple of friends flagged for me. (Thanks to Kim and Bryan for pointing it out.)

Claudio Aprile, who is the owner of gastronomie-heavy Colborne Lane and the newly-opened Origin, wrote a snarky post on his Origin blog about food bloggers. The original post has since been deleted. Here is what is said:
A short message to all people that have or plan on coming to Origin with huge zoom lenses and flashes that induce seizures, the food critics and wannabe food critics who end up just being lonely bloggers in front of their Mac at 3 a.m.
  1. Do your research before you arrive. Have an open mind.
  2. Understand the concept and accept the fact that Origin is not Colborne Lane.
  3. If you can do a better job than me and my staff then why aren’t you doing it?
- C.
The Toronto Life Daily Dish blog picked up the story immediately, as has been their gossipy (and effective) custom of late, with the rather provocative title, 'Claudio Aprile sticks it to food bloggers.'

Shortly thereafter, the debate spilled onto Twitter with Suresh Doss of Spotlight Toronto and Brock Shepard of The Burger Bar taking opposing views. (It should be noted that Brock Shepard's initials are BS. Just kidding!)

Read the comments from bottom-to-top to see the chronology:


Shepard mentions that 'real' journalists call before coming, which I take issue with. 

No they don't

That's the whole point of neutral, objective reviews: you're not supposed to know the journalist is coming. Shepard ultimately calls for some ethical standards in reviewing, which I also feel lukewarm about. Sites like Yelp are fueled by real people.  There's no code - they can have a variety of opinions, biased or otherwise and that's that.

Similarly, blogging is a form of citizen journalism. With certain exceptions, people do it out of passion/ interest and others relate to these blogs for exactly these reasons: they are real opinions by real people, not experts.

Ultimately, I think it's kind of strange that Claudio Aprile or Brock Shepard would publicly criticize the food blogging community in Toronto. 

Maybe it's the communicator in me (and maybe you can call me opportunistic), but this could be a pretty influential group of brand ambassadors, no? If I were a restauranteur, I may very well have mixed feelings about bloggers/ citizen journalists, but, would I call them out? HELL no! That's not good business.

And by the by, I'll be going to Origin in the next couple of months with a giant chip on my shoulder. Silly Aprile is making things harder on himself than he needs to. Don't bite the hand that feeds.

6 comments:

  1. Glad to hear your thoughts on Claudio Aprile's now extinct blog post. I was surprised to read his entry hating on food bloggers, especially since they are a great way for businesses to get the word out about them.

    Wonder what Aprile was thinking or what propelled him to publish that post? My guess was a bad review by another blogger? That aside, he shouldn't pass judgment on all bloggers, the few doesn't represent the many.

    I'll definitely be looking forward to reading what you have to say about Origins when you publish your review in the next few months.

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  2. So let me get this straight: if a bunch of people find out about a new restaurant, go to it, love it, and tell all their friends about how great it is, then it's a "buzz" and the restaurant benefits from "word of mouth." But if the same bunch of people find out about a restaurant and blog about it, they're losers because they're not being paid to write about it. Isn't that what the original, now-deleted blog post is saying?

    Did I miss anything?

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  3. Kim, I think you're probably right. I don't know what set Aprile off, but clearly something hit a nerve with him. I completely agree that he shouldn't let one bad apple spoil the bunch. (Food puns are flowing right now!)

    Katherine, thanks for your comment. I think you've pretty much got it spot on.

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  4. For a full perspective, you might also want to look at the tweets from James at Gremolata.

    Different types of articles require different approaches. When doing a profile, media always makes prior arrangements - the restaurant knows you're coming. When doing a review, the review part is supposed to be anonymous, then (with mainstream media) arrangements are made for a photographer to come in. That's why the G&M photog was there and Aprile let him go - because it was pre-arranged.

    But what of critics - bloggers or otherwise - who come in and aren't anonymous? Who bring big cameras and use flash instead of a little pocket size digital? They sort of kill their anonymity, don't they? I mean, if the chef can see your big ol' camera and pair it up with tweets the next day, you're not exactly working hard at keeping under cover.

    As for citizen journalism and sites like Yelp - just look at all of the lawsuits that have come up with restaurants bribing "reviewers" for good reviews, or Yelp administrators offering to remove critical reviews for a fee... I wouldn't trust a review on an open forum if you paid me.

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  5. Hrmmm... What can I say other than this whole situation makes me feel rather sad... Can't we all just get along?! (Yes I am a hippie ahaha)

    I was planning on going to Colborne Lane for my birthday in Oct. - I think I'll still go but I think I'll have this ever so slight underlying feeling of not being welcome there after reading what Aprile said. I mean Mark and I are pretty low key at present as food bloggers, we don't "announce" we're food bloggers because we don't want any special treatment. We just have a point and shoot camera right now. I really just want to go and have a fun time for my birthday and enjoy good food and if we get some good pics it'll become a blog post on Tasting Toronto. What's the harm in that?

    Anyways, nice to hear your perspective Jess because you, like I, are in the "full time PR, part time food blogger" category :)

    Cheers! -Stacey

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  6. Hi Sheryl, thanks for commenting and pointing out the difference between a profile and a review. I suppose it would be weird to do an anonymous profile?

    Thanks for pointing out the Gremolata stuff too. He has a point- it's always polite to ask if you can take a picture. That should be standard protocol.

    I know what you mean about huge zoom lenses and flashes. I don't understand who would have been doing that in origin. Most amateur bloggers wouldn't have those kinds of lenses. It just doesn't made sense.

    To talk to your point about Yelp, I wasn't aware of all the dirty underhandedness behind such sites. I know agencies like Buzz Agent do that kind of astroturfing, but I (perhaps naively) thought it wasn't as prevalent in Canada as in the US.

    If I'm looking to try a new restaurant, I still Google around and see what's being said on a variety of different sites: mainstream media, public opinion sites like Yelp and Chowhound, as well as personal blogs.

    Ultimately, I'm still pretty curious as to what set Aprile off that he felt like raging against bloggers collectively.

    Stacey, I kind of feel like you. I just blog because I like food and it's a hobby and interest of mine. I've never done it thinking I would get anything special from it.

    For Aprile, I'm really sorry that someone clearly mistreated him and caused him stress. I definitely don't it was constructive for him to wig out as he did though and put a whole group of people into one nasty category.

    Like you, I just want to enjoy the experience at his restaurant and I always hope for the best wherever I go.

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