Recently I wrote a post about handling freebies that got a ton of attention, thanks to people who re-Twittered (re-Tweeted?) it. Some bloggers commented that they are not journalists, and therefore rules about handling freebies, reviews, and promotions do not apply.
I wasn’t so sure, and thought I’d do some research. Let’s look at three definitions of a journalist:
According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a journalist is
- a writer or editor for a news medium, or
- a writer who aims at a mass audience.
According to Dictionary.com, a journalist has several meanings:
- the occupation of reporting, writing, editing, photographing, or broadcasting news or of conducting any news organization as a business.
- the “press”
- a course of study preparing students for careers in reporting, writing, and editing for newspapers and magazines
- writing that reflects superficial thought and research, a popular slant, and hurried composition, conceived of as exemplifying topical newspaper or popular magazine writing as distinguished from scholarly writing.
And according to Scott Rosenberg, author of Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It’s Becoming, and Why it Matters, “blogging could be journalism any time the person writing a blog chose to act like a journalist — recording and reacting to the events of the day, asking questions and seeking answers, checking facts and fixing errors.”
So according to each definition, food bloggers are journalists. You aim at a mass audience (your blog is public), you write in a popular, non-scholarly way, and you record and react to the events of the day (even if they occur in your kitchen), asking questions and seeking answers.
Semantics aside, most of what food bloggers write is the same format as published content. Publications have columnists who write humorous first-person essays or opinions about current events. They have cookbook reviews, recipes and product reviews. Sure, your posts contain links, the content is usually shorter, and photography makes step-by-step recipe writing clearer and visually appealing. But basically, it’s the same thing.
The bottom line is that you are not reinventing the wheel. You are producing recognizable, familiar material in a different medium. Therefore, rules of ethical behavior apply.