And that’s exactly what happened to Josh Ozersky, a food writer who got married recently in New York and showed poor judgement when planning for his wedding.
The trouble started when he accepted food from his buddies in the business as presents: free bread, dips, seafood, lasagna, strip loins, and a free place to hold the event.
Then he devoted his column on Time magazine’s website to promoting the food and purveyors, never mentioning that his buddies supplied the goods for free, and saying most caterers “aren’t really good cooks” anyway.
Another food writer, Robert Sietsema of the Village Voice, busted him in an open letter, suggesting the food and venue could have cost $24,000 and asking whether he paid. And then the New York Times did a fascinating story about not only Ozersky but the whole issue of restaurants getting an increasing number of requests for free meals.
Time got so many comments on Ozersky’s column that they closed it, and later issued a statement: “Josh is friends with a variety of chefs and those relationships inform much of his writing. Usually, those connections are clear in his work. This piece describing his wedding, however, lacked adequate disclosure. Josh should have made his personal ties to the chefs in the piece clear and disclosed that the food and the venue he was describing were gifts. Josh understands that such proper disclosures are to be made in the future.”
So obviously, Ozersky screwed up. It’s best to disclose when you get a free meal or product, at the very least. Whenever you’re being treated in a way that’s not identical to the way your readers would be treated, you have to fess up.
So let’s discuss: Are you friends with food purveyors and chefs? Have you ever considered whether this might cause a conflict for you? Or do you think it’s inevitable to have friendships with the people whose food you admire, and whatever happens, you can handle it?
Thanks to Cynthia of Life of Cyn and Carole Bidnick for sending me links.