Jan 222013

In advance of my talk on ethics for Food Blog South this weekend, I’ve been researching product posts and thinking about what motivates people to write them.

I’ve been trying not to get annoyed when I see so many problematic posts, but it’s not working. So I thought I’d get this subject off my chest.

Of course YOU don’t make dumb decisions like this. But I bet you’ve read lots of posts that make you shake your head. What were these people thinking? I bet I know:

1. This came in my email. I’m so humbled and honored to be chosen! This explains why a food blogger raves about a car, or frozen peas when her blog is about candy.

2. A company gave me this for free. I owe them so much! Other than a polite reply and a responsible discussion, bloggers don’t owe Continue reading »

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Oct 232012

While preparing for my trip to Australia for Eat.Drink.Blog next month (I know! So lucky.), I came across this article in the daily paper there. It portrays food bloggers as naive amateurs willing to flog products, people, and restaurants.

A PR firm invited a handful of Australian bloggers to a demo of dried soup stock by Chef Marco Pierre White. The author of the article ridiculed food bloggers for writing about the event and endorsing the product, as did several others he quoted. A sample:

“Do you know how many newspapers ran [news] stories on Marco Pierre White during his visit?” asks Ed Charles, a prominent Melbourne blogger and freelance journalist (who did not attend the event). “None. Firstly, because most people under 40 haven’t heard of Marco Pierre White, given he hasn’t cooked in a commercial kitchen since 1999. And secondly, because what PR people have realised is that bloggers are a nicer audience to deal with than journalists. Very few bloggers are critical and if you give them something to write about they will just publish it.”


But then, I say the same thing when I speak at food blogger conferences. I am tired of Continue reading »

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May 232012

Mark Scarbrough (Photo by Lucy Schaeffer)

I’ve been on a career counseling jag lately. With bloggers asking me how they can “monetize” their blogs at every turn, and established food writers lamenting the lack of work, I’m looking for ways to generate income on all food writers’ behalf.

Ever wanted to become a spokesperson, to supplement your writing? Lots of food writers do it, and some have been very successful. Here’s an interview with two writers who have taken that path.

Mark Scarbrough, with partner Bruce Weinstein, has published 21 cookbooks at six publishing houses with over three-quarters of a million copies in print. They have been national spokespeople and developed recipes for The U. S. Potato Board, JIF, Smucker’s, The National Honey Board, and Bacardi. In 2010, the California Milk Advisory Board sent them on a two-week, ten-city tour to promote their book Real Food Has Curves: How to Get Off Processed Food, Lose Weight, and Love What You Eat.

Amy Sherman is a San Francisco-based writer and recipe developer. The publisher of the award-winning food blog Cooking with Amy, she has also blogged for Epicurious, Glam and writes frequently for Cheers and Gastronomica magazines. She is the author of Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Appetizers and WinePassport: Portugal. Amy has been a spokesperson three times for two brands.

1. Let’s start with a definition. What is spokesperson work?

Mark: Bruce and I consider ourselves to be spokespersons whenever we Continue reading »

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Feb 282012

Food Network fired star Anne Thornton for adapting recipes a little too closely. (Photo: Food Network)

Yes, one of my favorite subjects was in the news again recently: the perils of adapting recipes. Here are two recent developments that affected a cooking show host and a food blogger:

1. Show cancelled because of adapting recipes. The Food Network cancelled the show of TV Chef Anne Thornton because she adapted recipes based on making small tweaks to the recipes of others, apparently.

Media outlets went crazy when the news hit that her show, Dessert First, was not renewed because many of her recipes were “plagiarized” from Martha Stewart and Ina Garten, specifically a German chocolate frosting and lemon bars.

“You take what you learn from them and then you riff on that,”she said in her defense in a story in the UK Daily Mail. “As for lemon squares, there’s only so many ways you can make them, so of course there will be similarities.”

Her comment sounds similar to those I’ve received on this blog. And I don’t necessarily disagree with Continue reading »

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Jan 312012

Increasingly, recipe writers are finding their own content appearing somewhere else.

Part of the problem is how ridiculously simple it is to lift work verbatim. On the net, just copy and paste. Some online companies write code that does it. In print, just retype a recipe verbatim, and present it as yours.

Here’s what Gwen from Bunky Cooks said in the comments of a previous post here in Will Write for Food:

“I was amazed at the number of people who came up to me after I spoke on a panel on ethics at IFBC in New Orleans last year. They said they had no idea that there were ethics they should be adhering to when writing their blogs.

“Isn’t some of this just common sense? Aren’t we responsible for our words and actions just as you would be in a job or at school? Why do some people think the internet is a place where everything is free and anything is yours just for the taking?”

Good questions. At least she and I got the opportunity to educate. I also spoke on an ethics panel for IFBC last year, and talked for 50 minutes on the subject last weekend at Food Blog South in Birmingham, AL.

Here are some new developments from last week where both individuals and companies are involved:

1. Recipes ripped off as an e-book. Elise Bauer got Amazon to shut down a page where someone in Bangkok scraped the content of Simply Recipes into an e-book and sold it on Kindle. A reader of her site Continue reading »

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Jan 242012

Has anyone not heard of David Lebovitz? He’s a super successful American food writer blogger living in Paris. He’s also a gorgeous photographer, author of five cookbooks and one memoir, and author and co-author of two apps.

I first met him on email in 2005, when he endorsed my book, Will Write for Food. Recently we spoke about his success and philosophy on food blogging, writing cookbooks, social media, and how he finds the time to get it all done:

Q. Why do so many people adore your blog? What is it about you and your subject matter?

A. It’s a combination of things. Part of it is I started a long time ago so I’ve had a long time to practice, to learn about blogging and build a site. Part of it is I live in Paris and that interests people. Plus I worked as a professional chef, which is part of the mix. People say they feel my blog is very personal; they know the person behind it.

My blog is largely about cultural differences because I’m a foreigner living abroad, and the longer you live somewhere, the more it gives you more credibility. And perhaps people can relate to being an “outsider.” Years ago I was more of a critic of certain aspects of French culture, but now I’m more of an observer and I try to be more neutral. The longer you live somewhere, the more you understand how people are and I’ve become more integrated, too, and understand the culture better.

Q. How has your blog changed since you started your website in 1999? What kinds of posts do you no longer do?

A. Now I microblog on Twitter (105,000+ followers) and Facebook (26,000+ followers). I used to do Continue reading »

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Nov 012011

How often do you think about farm workers when you choose your food, cook it, or write about food? Yeah, I thought so. Me too.

Last week I went to a talk about agriculture and social justice by writer Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation; Greg Asbed, co-founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW); and Lucas Benitez, co-director of the coalition.

Schlosser spoke plainly about how conditions for farm workers have not improved since he took a year to write about the servitude of strawberry pickers for the Atlantic in 1995. In fact, he said, it’s worse now. Minimum wage, adjusted for inflation, is now one-third less than pay in the 1960s and 1970s. And on top of poor working conditions and pay, some states have passed draconian anti-immigration bills that have terrorized farm workers and cost farmers money.

What struck me most about what Schlosser said is how the food movement does not seem to care. As food writers, we’re part of the food movement too. We write about food, farmers, even animals, but we don’t write about who supplies our food. Yet we should be grateful to farm workers for making it possible for us to eat healthy food every single day, he argued, and help them earn a living wage, with decent working conditions.

So as food writers, how likely are we to cover this topic, and how does it fit in with the writing we already do? Granted, most of us aren’t going to choose a career as Continue reading »

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 Posted by on November 1, 2011 at 1:39 pm