My Five Cents: Discussing the Difference Between a Blogger and a Journalist

Tuesday, I wrote a post warning restaurants to “just say no” to people who introduce themselves as food writers and expect a free meal for a write up of their restaurant. I thought the “conversation” that took place in the comments section was, for the most part, an intelligent sharing of thoughts between readers, bloggers, restaurateurs, and anonymous commenters. Yesterday, I received phone calls and emails from people across the industry. At the end of the day I realized we have an ugly can of worms swarming around Dallas and I think it’s time we start to clarify some issues and try to make peace.

On the subject of free meals to bloggers: I received emails from PR people ratting on restaurateurs and emails from restaurateurs ratting on PR people. PR people say it’s the restaurants fault; restaurant owners blame the PR people for not vetting bloggers. My five cents? Restaurateurs, if you want to give away free food to any blogger that is your prerogative. I agree that people who are paid to bring business to a restaurant need to do a better job of bringing qualified bloggers to the table. And that means learning how to say no.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon this blog post. The author of the piece that appeared on the blog for PR Newswire is Victoria Harres. Ms. Harres is Director of Audience Development at PR Newswire, the main voice behind @PRNewswire, social media lead for @Business4Better, and a frequent speaker and writer on social media for business.

She writes a report on a monthly meeting organized by the Social Media Club of Dallas. The event “Bloggers: Truth, Lies & How to Work with Them” consisted of a panel of local bloggers and a room full of PR people. The discussion was to help clarify the air on what bloggers would like from PR people and vice versa.

I read Harres’ report at least ten times and I followed  links to the bloggers sites. What I found is this: Nobody has defined the difference between a blogger and a journalist, nobody really understands the FTC guidelines for bloggers, and many bloggers feel that they are entitled to respect and special treatment because they do it for passion. Two restaurateurs told me yesterday that they were “talked down to” because they failed to recognize several local bloggers and give them special treatment.

Let’s break it down.

The panel at the Social Media Club of Dallas meeting included technology blogger Pelpina Trip (@Pelpina), mommy blogger Holly Homer (@TexasHolly), lifestyle and photography blogger Amy Locurto (@livinglocurto), and food blogger Rachel Pinn (@Foodbitch). The conversation was moderated by Cynthia Smoot, who was an ad rep at D Magazine (D CEO) before she moved over to Gangway Advertising. She also writes a lifestyle blog, OhSoCynthia, where she chronicles “Dallas’ hottest events and coolest people.”

Smoot tells the audience that her time as a blogger is valuable. So the “fabulous pair of boots she was recently given for covering a fashion event” is justified. Holly Homer claims her passion to write should be paid for because she has a day job and is not privy to her “expenses being paid for by a media company.” She claims “we are bloggers not journalists.” Bingo, baby. That is why there are now FTC guidelines for bloggers.

I left a comment on Harres’ post about the FTC guidelines. Sarah Skerik, vice president of social media for PR Newswire responded:

Thanks for reading the blog and the comment! Actually FTC regulations was discussed during the panel. It’s something that all are very aware of and know to disclose.

Her note was followed by one by Harres:

The bloggers quoted in our recap appear to be fully aware of and in compliance with FTC guideliness — see @OhSoCynthia’s editorial policy, and @TexasHolly’s disclosure.

I visited their sites and I went back and read the guidelines. They are not in compliance and are open to being fined by the FTC.

Food writer Dianne Jacob cut through the technical writing of the guidelines and offers this assessment. Here are some snippets:

1.The FTC can fine both the blogger and the company for not disclosing an arrangement where the company compensates the blogger for a review, positive mention, or sponsored post. According to the FTC, compensation happens when you:

  • Receive a free product and review it
  • Link to the product’s website and receive a commission (called an affiliate program)
  • Receive money, product or services for posting about a product
  • Review a product or service that comes from an advertiser on your site.

2. The definition of “disclosure” is more specific. It’s not enough to make a general disclosure on your About page anymore. The discloser must be contained in the post itself. “So long as the disclosure clearly and conspicuously conveys to the reader the relationship between the blogger and the advertiser, the disclosure will be adequate,” states the article. That means you can write something as simple as, “Company ABC gave me this product to review” and you’re done.

So Smoot and Holler’s disclosure pages are not within the guidelines.

I have one more observation to make about what I learned from visiting new, for me, food blogs. We have a problem with entitlement. Smoot writes:

“I do not charge to attend an event, but I do ask that you place me on your media list and waive any admission fee in return for my attendance and possible editorial coverage.  Please note that my attendance does not guarantee editorial coverage on this website. I do not promote events in advance unless they are sponsored (paid posts) nor do I publish about events I did not attend.”

“What you (and I am talking to you, PR people) also need to understand, is that I am not a journalist. I am a blogger. BIG DIFFERENCE. The words I write are my thoughts and opinions. They are not bound by any industry code of ethics or fact-checked by an intern.  I will not be calling any publicist to ask for permission to publish something.  If you or your client put out information through Twitter, Facebook, or any public online platform, it is fair game for me to use and repost.”

Holy cow, so thoughts and opinions don’t apply to journalists? Interesting. And arrogant.

Harres’ post also contains complaints from the panel. They are upset by being referred to as Dear Blogger and are upset by PR people who don’t take the time to read their blogs before barraging them with emails that don’t pertain to what they write about.

Dear Bloggers, welcome to the club. Journalists get emails addressed to Dear Editor, Dear Technical Consultant, Dear Fashion Expert…I could go on all day. You should be happy you’re in the loop at all. Pelpina Tripp pleads with PR pros to “do their research. Don’t send her pitches if you’ve never seen her work and don’t know what interests her audience” and “If you don’t bother to check out my blog why should I care about your pitch?”

Then tell me why I should care about your blog if you are writing only positive reports on things you have not paid for? Who are you serving? Better yet, who are you promoting?


UPDATE: Cynthia Smoot discussesbloggers vs journalists.






  • A Food Writer

    Nancy, you hit the nail on the head with that last paragraph. I don’t understand who these blogs think they’re serving, other than themselves. Does your average Joe Blogreader really give a damn about the fancy media dinner you went to and all the lavish praise you’re heaping on the free meal? You’re not doing anyone a great service by regurgitating press releases and posting crappy photos of free meals that aren’t available to the general public. There needs to be some sort of clear line drawn in the sand between bloggers and journalists, because the line is really blurry and it’s obviously problematic.

  • Martin

    I usually try to defend amateur and blog writers (e.g. yelp), because I think they usually provide a valuable service on writing about establishments that aren’t necessarily covered by professional food writers. I enjoy reading the pros, but most of the times the places reviewed are higher end restaurants that I can’t afford to go to with my family.
    However, I agree with Nancy, that quote shows arrogance and an entitlement attitude that I find troubling.
    And someone with that attitude doesn’t serve the purpose I mentioned above either, because the little mom and pop places I am interested in don’t have PR people or money to invite moochers for good reviews.

    So, I think bloggers and amateurs have a valuable niche to fill, but they need to realize what they are and who they serve or they aren’t going to be useful or get any respect from either the restaurants, journalists or potential readers.

  • Dallaslaw

    Just to clarify, is this not a blog? Seems lately that reporting on food has taken a backseat to slamming others and defending drunks. What makes a food critic more qualified than some of the legitimate bloggers out there? Is Daniel Vaughn’s expertise on BBQ questioned since none of the correspondence sent to him is addressed to “the editor”.
    How about a journalist giving a fluffy review to a mediocre restaurant because they are tight with the owner? Is that really a lesser evil than a blogger getting a comped meal?

  • Dallasslaw, yes this is a blog. Our mission statement is:” SideDish is a food-related discussion among editors at D Magazine about the Dallas-Fort Worth dining scene — everything from good meals to bad service, kitchen gossip to restaurant news, chefs’ secrets to culinary trends.”

    I think this is an important topic for the Dallas food community. I can’t address your vague innuendo.

  • I wish you had contacted me before falsely accusing me of not following FTC Guidelines. Quite honestly, the disclosure page isn’t something that is even needed on my blog because any time I write about a free product, service, have any sort of relationship with the company, or receive compensation I am REQUIRED by the FTC to disclose it IN the post so the readers who are reading are aware of the relationship. Any post on my blog that has some sort of exchange complies with this. Google also requires that all those links are “no follow” which is something I have been doing since that guideline came down a few months ago.

    I have NEVER asked for anything free or any special treatment. I am not special because I am a blogger! I just do what any other person in this world with access to the internet is free to do…hit publish.

    Please keep me out of this unless you want to chat with me. I feel misrepresented and poorly understood and would not want to be associated with people who think they are “owed” something.

  • Okay, someone has just drawn my attention to a blog called The owner, Jennifer, writes: “Jennifer is happy to attend events and retreats showcasing products and services, as her interests and schedule will allow. Please send invitations to jmb318 át gmail döt com. Providing transportation to and from local events and expenses for childcare will make it much more likely that Jennifer will accept your invitation, particularly for evening events. For out-of-town events, please note that in addition to the commonly-covered travel expenses, Jennifer will usually require that her home-city travel expenses (to and from airport) and childcare be covered. While Jennifer is happy to be “paid’ in editorial content and unique experiences on these trips, she is not able to incur any significant out-of-pocket costs in order to attend.”

  • tmwillia

    Thanks for bringing this up. I won’t be reading Pelpina, FoodBitch (horrid name), or anything by the aptly named Cynthia Smoot. Consider me warned.

  • Dallaslaw

    I apologize in advance for not reading your mission statement because that totally legitimizes the content on your site. And on top of that, coming from the hard hitting investigative staff at Dmag. Quick, someone alert the Peabody nomination staff of the brilliant work being done here.

    In all seriousness, are you threatened by bloggers? Why publish this lady’s info? If someone is stupid enough to appease her demands, let them. I just find it hard to believe that you or anyone on your staff have NEVER received anything on the house or at a discount due to your affiliation with Dmag.

  • Sarah Clendenen

    My jaw is on the floor re: Real Posh Mom. Please tell me no one would actually pay for a car service (and babysitting!!!) for this woman?

  • Since I have been drug into this discussion, I might as well comment! First of all, I have the utmost respect for the work that Nancy Nichols, Leslie Brenner and other professional food writers publish. I would never dare compare my posts to their work. I am not a trained writer, I’m just an average gal with an opinion. And that’s the beauty of a blog, is that it gives people with an opinion a forum to connect with others who want to debate that opinion or appreciate the information we share. I started my blog in 2006 to keep my out-of-town family abreast of what we were doing in Dallas. Over the years, the site has evolved into me talking about why I think Dallas is such an amazing place to live, work and raise a family. People seem to like reading about my adventures and thus I have developed an audience that businesses want to reach, so I get invited to a lot of media events and openings.

    I feel like I am very transparent with disclosure. If I am ever writing about a client, I usually say something in the first paragraph like, “I am completely biased because this is a client but I wouldn’t write about it if I didn’t think it was worth telling you about” or something to that effect. If I am paid to host or promote an event, it always say so at the end of the post. If Nancy thinks I am violating FTC guidelines, then I guess I need to go back and look closer at what I have on the site. Yes, I have it in my About page, but that’s just to make sure it’s obvious. It’s also on every applicable post. Personally, I don’t use affiliate links. I am also completely open about my reach and influence and you can read all about my website site numbers and reach on OhSoCynthia under the Advertise Page.

    What Nancy calls being “arrogant” I call being honest. I say that “my attendance does not guarantee editorial coverage on this website” because nine times out of ten if someone invites me dine at their restaurant or attend an event and it’s awful, I just won’t write about it A) to be nice and B) because my site is to talk about what I LOVE about Dallas and if I didn’t love my experience with you, it doesn’t fit the format of my site to write about it. When I said, “The words I write are my thoughts and opinions. They are not bound by any industry code of ethics or fact-checked by an intern. I will not be calling any publicist to ask for permission to publish something” I was making a blanket statement about the fact that most “real journalists” will be looking at both sides of the story and giving you an unbiased account of the facts. Obviously, Nancy’s job is a bit different becasue she’s a critic. She gets paid to give her opinion. I am also giving you my opinion, only no one is paying me. I guess maybe Nancy feels the restaurant is paying me because I get a free meal. The way I look at it is that these businesses are reaching out to me with the offer because they value my opinion and my reach. Instead of buying a 1/4 page ad in D Magazine, they are buying me a meal and hoping I like it and will tell my readers to check them out. I dunno, it sounds like a win-win to me…

    Nancy is 100% correct in urging businesses to know who you are dealing with. I tell business owners all the time, just because someone has a blog doesn’t mean anyone’s reading it. Do the research. Whatever industry you are in, there are a handful of bloggers who are influential and have an audience that you will want to reach. But, even if someone has 10 readers, their post can provide you with a valuable back link to your website which helps with organic SEO rankings. Does that mean you need to invite them to every wine dinner? No. Maybe they get the invite for the grand opening with 300 other people. That’s my two cents.

  • Giggles

    @Dallaslaw – Why bother to have law degrees? The right to legal representation is a protected right, just as the right to a free press. But why not just call someone a lawyer and let them access to the judicial system – it’s really a personal decision of the person who hires the “lawyer”, is it not?

    Of course it isn’t. Rights do not come without mechanisms to guarantee that the public is protected from those who would use these rights to their own purposes. Thus we require (unless representing oneself) attorneys to have a certificate showing they have adequate legal knowledge and have the trust of the legal establishment.

    Nancy is pointing out that no such certificate is required to blog. But is that the same as a free press? No, journalism has it’s own requirements to ensure the public does not become narcotized to those who would disguise PR with objectivity and truth. It’s vital to do so, to keep the trust of the journalism in the public’s eye, same as the legal profession.

  • Shauna

    It’s really unfortunate that the “daily destination for Dallas foodies” has nothing better to do than get ugly with local bloggers. Seems a little silly to me.

  • Since my previous comment was removed, I second Cynthia’s statement above.

  • Dallaslaw

    @giggles, having a law degree does not mean you have adequate legal knowledge. Trust me, there are plenty in my field who are not good lawyers. Likewise, being a professional food critic does not make your knowledge of food better than a bloggers. Trust your palette, not a review.

  • Giggles

    @Dallaslaw – You bring up the minority, not the majority of both the legal profession and the critics as a counter argument? You are the one who asked about the threat from bloggers. Boom. I give your response 1 star.

  • NR

    Ugh. I have to say that I am obsessively hateful of Food Bitch. If I see her review anywhere, I just can’t support that restaurant … because her PICTURES ARE SCARY! Restaurant owners: if you want to “employ” this woman, buy her a freakin’ camera! I feel so much better.

  • Shauna and Dallasslaw, these two posts are not intended to “get ugly with local bloggers.” Restaurants and public relations firms are trying to figure out how to deal with bloggers. Now that social media is such an important element of promotion, both sides have to figure out how to deal with the number of bloggers asking for access. Yesterday I spoke with several restaurateurs who are scared to say no to a blogger for fear they will net negative press. They also don’t have the time to vet these bloggers to see how much “authority” they carry. Even PR people who are hired to help restaurants struggle with limiting guest lists to media dinners. It’s a new problem in the industry and I feel it is a valid discussion to discuss what goes on behind the scenes. We get stuff sent to our office all of the time. Do we eat it? Yes. Do we write about it? Occasionally, but we disclose that. Zee Bugatti wouldn’t let me pay for a meal I had in his restaurant when I went there on my birthday. I have 22 canvas bags from Central Market product samples sent to me. I don’t mind food blogs, I think it’s great for Dallas to have as many people as possible talking about food.But a blogger shouldn’t take advantage of a restaurant owner in the process.

  • Thank you for commenting Cynthia.

  • Dallaslaw

    If you ever feel guilty about any food or goodies sent your way, shoot me an email and I’ll take them off your hands to help ease your mind. I provide my own transportation and childcare.

  • Stacy

    Isn’t a blogger just an enthusiast or hobbyist who toots their self important horn to boost their arrogance and ego? Many lack ethics and professionalism as Nancy has noted above. Trust me, Nancy, you are getting a standing ovation from event planners and restaurant/bar owners all over DFW!!

  • Jack Perkins

    I can’t believe that Cynthia Smoot or anyone like her is worth the effort it took to write this.

  • server

    Nancy you are awesome! All of bloggers that get free meals, drinks, etc. Try tipping the people serving it to you. That’s all.

  • Hamburger Helper

    Nancy – I think DallasLaw’s not-so-vague innuendos refer to your relationship with that M Restaurants chap, your increasing passive-aggressive comments about Daniel since his success and your ongoing coverage or alleged substance abuser John Tesar But you already knew that.

    The attacks against your competition diminishes you. You don’t seem to know that despite repeated comments.

  • I’m a local family food blogger. I’ve been at it for 2 years and have found a good amount success. I do it because I enjoy it and created a career when I unexpectedly had to leave my old one to raise a family. What you say is dead on. A blogger should be reminded no matter how good or recognized they are they are NOT entitled to free goods/meals/services. If a blogger is in it for these reasons then they are destroying the whole point of blogging and giving serious bloggers who just want to write their opinion. Who’s going to take us seriously if bloggers can no longer be trusted. this is the one thing that seriously sickens me about the blogging world… unjustified arrogance.

    It is a blogger’s responsibility to stay true to their work just as it is the responsibility for restaurant owners, PR, and corporations to background check and use reliable bloggers.

    Thanks for bringing light to the subject.

  • Hamburger Helper,
    My relationship with Dick Washburne, an investor in M Crowd, was never a secret and it has been over for three years. My passive aggressive comments about Daniel who? Daniel Vaughn? My god, I’m his biggest supporter. My ongoing coverage of John Tesar? I know nothing of his drug habits and I’m sure there are plenty of other places I write about where there is some kind of substance abuse. Whether you like him or not, Tesar is a news story in this town–good and bad news and I cover news makers. I am not attacking my competition because they are not my competition. I am trying to shed some light on what is going on in the restaurant industry. And at the end of my posts, I use my name. Unlike you.

  • Troy

    There’s no such thing as an honest blogger. Once you get past the professional sites like Sidedish, City of Ate, and Crave DFW, things get really ugly. People with no integrity looking for handouts can’t be trusted to be honest about anything and people know it so they don’t get a real following. I’ve seen this from the industry side. These bloggers won’t BE your regular customers and their eight readers won’t either, so stop empowering these losers!

  • Jonathan

    Nancy, I’m sure there are real restaurant critics out there that take issue with what you do within ‘their’ space. Just as you are doing to what you perceive as lesser bloggers operating in ‘your’ space. I understand your need to legitimize what you do vs others, but there’s no difference. You personally haven’t paid for most of your meals. The barrier to entry in the blogging world is low. If you have issues with that, pick another career that requires schooling, license, board approval, etc.

  • Kp

    Bees swarm. Worms wiggle.

  • Jonathan, you are misinformed and wrong. “You personally haven’t paid for most of your meals” is a bogus accusation and I will be happy to send you 16 years worth of expense reports. Every other point you make is out the door.

  • KP, you are so correct. Thanks.

  • Anyone – journalist or otherwise – to feels entitled to anything deserves nothing.

    At Gay List Daily, we’re neither a blog nor a traditional magazine, we’re somewhere in between…an e-zine for gay men (and people who like the same things as gay men), if you will. If I ever found out that my writers were acting even slightly as arrogant and as demanding as many of the bloggers described, I’d be pissed off and completely embarrassed…and they’d be fired.

  • fledgling

    Crave DFW “professional”? Uh no.

  • Martin

    Nancy, I think Jonathan means that you don’t have to eat your costs (no pun intended) since you get reimbursed by D Magazine (hence the expense reports).

  • Martin

    Oh, and as for bloggers being useful. Two good examples to me are Daniel Vaughn, who did BBQ blogging way before he got onto your site or TV, and DFW Food Truck Foodie, who (together with now defunct Big D Food Trucks)has been great in reporting on Food Trucks in the DFW area. Y’all are now pretty decent in putting up a schedule etc., but they were way ahead of you and still are better at reporting new happenings.
    So there are good bloggers, who contribute to the genre, but I agree that not all seem to grasp proper ethical behavior in blogging.

  • Martin, good point. Jonathan if that is what you meant, sorry to have jumped you.

  • This is an important discussion, and I’m proud of the way you’ve led it, Nancy. But the “swarming worms” did make me giggle. Thanks to Kp for pointing it out.

  • Mike

    I always assumed all food ‘bloggers’ not named Nichols, Reitz or, yes, Brenner, were idiots to be taken lightly. I guess I was pretty much right.

  • Rob

    This has been fun reading all of the comments – food blogging should be for fun and for the enjoyment of food – don’t expect free food or preferential treatment – support your local restaurants and let’s keep the dallas food scene moving forward

  • PRGirl

    I handle the public relations for several restaurants in Dallas, and I absolutely love that you are bringing light to this subject, Nancy, because we PR professionals are still trying to navigate the blogging world. I am really on both sides here…we have hosted blogger events at our restaurants before, but I completely agree that you need to do your research before inviting anyone to your restaurant because, sadly, anyone can say they are a “food blogger” these days. That said, I don’t agree with the unjustified arrogance that a lot of these bloggers seem to have inherited after playing around in the field for a couple years. My BIGGEST pet peeve is those who don’t leave a tip. We just gave you a free meal – the least you can do is give your servers a couple dollars for the time they spent waiting on YOU instead of paying customers.

  • Jonathan

    Nancy, Taken from you initial blog post that got this started: “I do not review Sevy’s, and it is one of the few restaurants I go to on my own nickel.”

    Based on this, I meant that, apparently, you personally don’t pay for most of your meals.

  • OIC

    “Mike” = “Reitz”

  • CH

    Why would a blogger ever mention who they are? How needy and really kind of pathetic that they would need to tell anyone in a restaurant who they are. If they think they should be compensated then maybe they should get a real job. I think bloggers should be kind of like secret shoppers. Telling a restauranteur that you are a blogger makes you look more like a beggar.

  • Jonathan, you are entirely correct. Again, sorry I jumped you. Misunderstood your sentence.

  • Jonathan, the point is not that Nancy is personally or not personally paying for her meals. The point is that the meal is paid for (by our company). This makes a difference between what she does versus what other bloggers do. She’s not given the same preferential treatment that a restaurant owner or chef might give to a blogger he/she recognizes.

  • damien

    Sadly, I just come to sidedish to read all the drama and’s like reality tv!

    As for “food blogging” yea right…

  • I personally find it a little crazy that nobody is jumping on the fact that Dmagazine (a company who gets paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for advertising and publicising businesses) is talking trash about people who just enjoy writing about food. Bloggers are people, and peoples’ time is valuable. A free meal or access to an event is far less expensive than what it takes to get some advertising in a “legitimate” publication like Dmagazine. In reference to the original article, food bloggers who are that rude and inconsiderate of other diners are a rarity, and the majority of us are offered free meals or items, we do not demand them. In reality, most bloggers are just nice, creative people who enjoy sharing their thoughts. That’s the whole point of blogging/social media/human interaction. I’m sorry Nancy, but right now you are just being a bully to independent bloggers. I know controversial content is a big traffic driver, but not at the cost of being a decent human being.

  • JTT

    @Justablogger. NO, the reason she picked this fight, which the entire industry applauds, is because she witnessed an entirely criminal act take place. A blogger skipped a tab. Who dines out and believes that an excuse like “not having any money” is acceptable or legal?!

    Yes, bloggers are just “creative people” but they were the BULLIES. NN wouldn’t be pickin’ no fights with innocent, harmless bloggers. We have dealt with it. It’s an ultimatum, a threat to the restaurant. From Elite Yelpers to Doyle to the Dining Dallas twerps, my server gets interrupted mid-sentence for them to announce the fact that they are “food critics.” Generally, my servers are run ragged and if something doesn’t get comped, I’m in for a bad review or no review at all.

    If you HONESTLY believe that your content will actually drive people to my doorstep, show me the proof. If a Yelp party for hundreds of freeloaders doesn’t bring additional business, why do you believe your blog will bring me business? Most restaurants who can’t afford advertising can’t afford to be giving away food either.

    If you are offered free food, it should be because you have been a wonderful patron. Not because you threatened my waiter at the start of service. We provide comps and special gifts for our biggest VIPS, but that’s because our VIPS have committed to us. They spend their money at our place, albeit more expensive, because we are independent, because we are a small business, that relies on their continued support. You can’t imagine how far a private dinner party goes when we are in our slowest months. Small businesses just cost more, all around, to operate. We don’t pay slave wages and we just have more overhead.

    Bloggers haven’t committed to anyone, except themselves. They don’t give a **** either way if my restaurant fails or succeeds, if I can make rent this month. What they care about is where they will get their next free meal and “sharing their thoughts.” They are narcissists, enraptured with the HTML image of themselves, how wonderfully clever their puns are, how many likes they can get, how horrible it was of my server to deliver a glass of wine late: 2 minutes after they ordered it. Bloggers are NEVER repeat customers.

    My VIPS, who we do comp, they care about keeping me afloat. They treat my servers with dignity. They care about making people feel special, not about letting the world know how special THEY are.

  • JustaBlogger

    JTT, maybe I didn’t make myself clear enough when I called the blogger rude. I agree whole-heartedly that someone who requests access to a dinner, disrupts paying customers, and then skips on the bill is absolutely unacceptable. The issue I have is that most food bloggers aren’t like that, and it is rude to generalize them all as wicked, entitled, leeches on restaurant owners. I have a 100% “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” policy on my blog, and have never even left a bad review on a site like yelp. I always tip my servers well, regardless of whether or not I pay for my meal, because I know how much BS they have to put up with and how much they get paid. As far as the benefit you receive from a blogger, (this is my opinion and you can take it or leave it) but I happen to have a humble network of friends/readers who are avid diners (like myself) and who love to pick restaurants based on the recommendations of their friends. This is the essential basis of food blogs and social media. We didn’t start writing to be an advertising outlet for restaurants. We started writing to tell our friends about the food we like. It was restaurants and PR people who began reaching out to us. You can think what you want about bloggers, but I can tell you this, I am not your enemy. I am your target audience. I am a young, professional, fairly well off, courteous, food lover who enjoys telling his friends about the restaurants he likes, and so are every single one of my friends.

  • JTT

    The blogger was not “rude.” She was unethical and took advantage of the diplomacy of Amy S.

    Unfortunately, your statistics, based on my own experience, are inaccurate. I’ve been shanked by bloggers 97% of the time they come in. Your motives are different that the 97%, but NN’s generalization about them wasn’t inaccurate.

    “What’s on special?” Industry people know that is a give-away line for either a very sophisticated diner or a cheapskate. It depends on what YOU mean when you ask.

    1. It means that you want something special, off the menu, something specially flown in, or custom-made and you are willing and able to pay for the experience of this special. Special means special.
    2. What’s on sale? You don’t care about selecting the best food, you have a budget to stick to, and come hell or high-water, your server won’t steer you away from your $10 budget. Special means cheap.

    97% of bloggers are the #2 diner. They don’t have the means or SPECIFICALLY, the EXPECTATION and INTENTION, to pay for a dinner, drinks, tax and tip. They’ve never made a commitment to the restaurant, its future or the people there. My VIPS know all of my staff’s name. They include dining in their budget. They bring friends and they sign up for every single major event.

    So you’re one of the “good guys,” but NN is not your enemy, either. The avenger of my “friends” (restaurants) is not my enemy. I have never met NN, she’s never been in, never done me any special favors, nothing. Again, it effin’ sucks to be the whistle-blower, to point out something that’s unethical. In my experience, the messenger gets shot. Put away your bebe gun, man. Just stick up for yourself, but realize that most of the bloggers are self-important leeches.

  • Dallaslaw

    @justablogger, you and your blogging breatheran are just scum. You have the “entire industry” against you. Unlike bloggers, the good folks at Dmag ensure that no restaurant ever fails;-). These people just don’t get it. The action of one individual is obviously how every blogger behaves. It almost seems like JTT and his buddies would like their non “VIP” bothers to keep their idiotic views to themselves. Surely no self respecting person would rely on a site like Yelp for reviews/opinions because what would we non “VIP” types know about informing others of our opinions on food and service. Every single poor review on Yelp was the result of a non comped meal or denied ultimatum. A crappy meal or service cannot be had in Dallas.

  • JustaBlogger

    JTT, it’s sad that your experience with bloggers has led you to these conclusions, but I will respectfully bow out since nothing I say can change those past experiences. Maybe one of these days my wife and I will stumble upon your restaurant, and if we love your food, we’ll tell everyone about it. That’s just what we do. Thank you for the enlightening conversation and I hope you have a wonderful evening.

  • JustaBlogger

    Haha, @Dallaslaw, you had me pretty ticked for about half a second. =P

  • The Guy

    First of all, thanks to Nancy for bringing to our attention an issue that has obviously struck a nerve with a wide range of people. The incident at Sevy’s demonstrates blogging at its rudest, but a blanket statement against all bloggers is off base as well. I can’t tell you how many great bbq places I’ve been to because of Mr. Vaughn, who before he became well known, was just a guy logging thousands of miles covering the state in search of a food that got him out of bed in the morning. All on his own dime.

    Do sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor serve a purpose, having common folks give their unprofessional opinions on dining, hotel, etc. opinions for a given region? Absolutely. Are these sites subject to corruption, with false reviews submitted by competitors, disgruntled former employees and their ilk? You betcha. It’s buyer beware with blogs, and the readers are the buyers.

    I think many blogs started out being the therapy of laid off workers, housewives/househusbands and similarly bored types that just wanted to be a voice in the wilderness. “I exist!” they cry out, and they do. For better or worse. But I think it’s time the Greater Dallas Restaurant Assoc. got together and decided how best to handle this and published a blanket policy. I, for one, would hate to see a good restaurant close just because a crabby blogger was denied free grub and posted a scathing review as retribution.

  • damien

    @ the guy if a restaurant closes because of ” a crabby blogger” was denied free food.. it prob has no business staying afloat in the first place. Your “VIPs” and patrons will support good value, food, and service regardless of social media or reviews.

  • JTT

    NN’s “blanket” statement was 97% accurate. It’s like calling the Park Cities rich. I’m sure there are some middle-class people there, maybe 3%. I’ve never met one, but that’s okay. I’m a grumpy, cynical, ornery curmudgeon so I’m prone to gross generalizations.

    There are good bloggers. It’s just rare, like 3% rare.

    Vaughn is different because he is an actual self-educated EXPERT. Truly, I did not know there was thatmuch poetry about meat. In fact, he developed an entire dictionary/vocabulary to speak about bbq. (However, I do think a few of his posts are tainted. There are a few raving posts about some joints that are just plain bad. It’s not good food, but since he got a personalized tour (and probably some free food) he gave them a glowing review. It’s not perfect.) I don’t think Foodbitch, ohsocynthia, whatever, none of them are experts by any stretch, whatsoever. And yes, I agree, that blogging started as a way to vent. But it’s a little narcissistic. Like being a reality TV star. I also don’t watch the Kardashians, so I’m just not with the times. I can’t accept the new social media world.

    Problem with “commoners”:
    My last 12 or so Yelp reviews have been awful because “common” people think their budget-focused opinion is an accurate depiction of my restaurant. If your entire bill consists of Happy Hour snacks, why are you qualified to make an overall assessment of my entire menu? Your bill was $25 and you expect us to roll out the red carpet for you? The average VIP bill is $80-120 for two. Yelpers don’t order anything that’s not discounted. We don’t discount our entrees or special dishes that are representative of our chef’s style. I trained my servers to make suggestions. Take them. If you order chicken, don’t judge me based on your budget and limited palate. (Obviously, I’m not frying chicken)

    We have friends who own retail shops. If I only came in twice a year during their semi-annual clearance, I would not doing them any favors. Restaurant people are not rich. At all. My home is the size of my VIPs walk-in closet. But I do, emphatically, believe in supporting small establishments. They need my money. I spend more a lot at my friends businesses and restaurants because I support them. Restauranteurs are common people who feast like kings, when they can. When we dine out, we enjoy ourselves. To the bloggers and other common people out there, consider focusing less on consuming THINGS for yourself so you can spend more on other people, supporting THEM.

    Vaughn was whole-ly committed to dead animals on a bed of wood sticks or coals. Most (97%) bloggers are committed to themselves and what THEY acquire for FREE. We want people committed to supporting the industry.

  • JTT

    @Dallaslaw, no we have screwed up. We accept those crappy reviews. But I would have rather them complained to our face, so we could reconcile the issue then and square up.

    I don’t want to wage a war. Restaurant people are “commoners” – we don’t have JDs or MDs after our names, USUALLY. Those are usually our investors. We don’t own a lot of fancy things. But we are generally very committed to supporting other establishments.

    And yes, I’ll take that wager. The “entire industry” supports NN calling out someone who skipped a tab. It’s an unthinkable crime, worthy of being banned, if you skip a tab and you are in the industry. No joke. Your reputation would be sullied and you wouldn’t be hired anywhere else. Don’t know how you could justify theft, when there wasn’t an out-right agreement. Guess you don’t practice contract or criminal law.

  • Jonathan

    JJT, simmer down. I, for one, support local restaurants on my own dime- eating out an average of 10 times per week. But i’m in the advertising industry and I can’t tell you what a bad wrap restauranteers get, known for not paying their bills. Collecting from a restaurant is like collecting from a ticket broker. It’s next to impossible.

  • Dallaslaw

    @JTT, I get part of what you are saying but you can’t make blanket statements. Regardless of what industry or neighborhood you come from, a dollar is a dollar. My parents own a catering business and I grew up in that business. I have served numerous people in my indentured servant era as a child. No Park Cities here.

    My last few Yelp posts were Lucia (6 visits), Boulavardier (2 visits) Ritz Carlton Palm Beach (hotel, not restaurant, 2nd visit ocean front suite) and a wonderful taqueria (great chicharonnes taco). I think I’m savy enough to figure out the true nature of a place on more factors than a singular review.

    So why discredit services like Yelp or a good blog? Prior to social media, reputation was purely word of mouth or by reviews like DMN or Dmag. That was an awful lot of power for a reviewer to hold. Now, diners actually have a medium to share real time experiences. Seems to me like Nancy doesn’t like this, nor you for that matter. Her post was not just about a tab being skipped, it was about her obvious disdain of bloggers. Plus, you said it, restaurants love comping meals to make up for crappy service. I didn’t choose to go out to get awful service and hopefully get a meal comped. I think that is insulting-upsets me more actually. So now you think a free appetizer or drinks will make up for a ruined evening?

    As for the type of law I practice, it’s not criminal or contracts-transactional, corporate stuff. But I do watch a lot of Law and Order;-). Seriously, theft of services, look up the Texas Penal code. Cities enforce this all the time-it’s a big issue in New York.

    Finally, what do you have against chicken? I love chicken-it’s healthy and tasty-ask the guys at Oak and Driftwood. So if I order chicken and a nice bottle of wine, I’m a lesser customer than the guy who orders wine and a steak? Thanks! And happy hour? Does anyone still go to that once college is over? Think about the source of the happy hour complaints, more importantly, you should stand behind everything your restaurant puts out. Disclaimer “JTT’s happy hour snacks are not indicative of the actual food served in this establishment. They are solely intended for increasing bar sales”.
    I’m not sure of your background, but you have a very dismissive opinion about the common folk you claim to associate with. Not everyone has $120 to spend on each meal. That $20 ticket was earned though that commoners hard work and they deserve no less than anyone else. They could and should take that money somewhere else. I truly hope your restaurant is not one that I visit.

  • Thanks to all of you for discussing this issue. My purpose was not to make a “blanket statement” against bloggers. My intent was to point out that restaurants face many problems dealing with bloggers. I’ve listened to their concerns for years. After I witnessed a food blogger at a wine dinner hopping around and hassling diners and taking photos, I began to research other sites and I was stunned to read pages where bloggers proclaimed they were entitled to respect and special treatment because they do it for passion. It may be a small percentage at the local level, but when restaurants have to comp 30 to 60 “bloggers” for a media dinner because they were advised to do so by a PR person or social media expert, then it trips my curiosity. If you buy an ad for a magazine or newspaper to increase your business, you want to know the demographics of that publication so that you feel you are getting your money’s worth. I suggest bloggers make up a sheet with their demographics and justify their true reach. For the record: I am not against food bloggers. The more people are talking about the restaurant industry in the Dallas Fort Worth area, the better. Obviously, there is a problem between independent bloggers, PR companies, and restaurant owners. Call it a growing pain. I’m the messenger here, not the policy writer. If we don’t talk about it, we can’t fix it. Again, thanks for your thoughts.

  • Hurray for Nancy.

  • Caitlin T.

    Nothing bumps up your views than a juicy piece of gossip. Pity that you have nothing better to do with your time than to post crap like this. You attacked another journalist and then make yourself out to be the authority on the subject and remove an implication to you by calling yourself the messenger.

  • Giggles

    @Caitlin – Calling this “gossip” is almost as funny as calling the blogger “another journalist”. But thanks for the laugh.

  • Jesus Christ

    JTT= John Tesar. Now Johnny, go back and attempt to open that restaurant so the bloggers can beat down your door.

  • Caitlin T.

    @Giggles, I know you find most things humorous but I don’t. The journalist Ms. Nichols wrote about is well-respected and writes good articles. She paid the bill. Lumping her in with others who routinely ask and expect for freebies was wrong.

    I didn’t think the story was newsworthy. It is gossip. With so much going on in the food industry in Dallas, I think there are better things to write about. Thank goodness there are other writers for DMagazine that think so too. I enjoy reading their informative news posts without all the drama.

  • Dallaslaw

    @Jesus Christ. If that is him, then it’s unfortunate. I have not had the chance to try any of his places yet. I usually like waiting a couple months after a place opens but his don’t seem to last that long.

  • PRGirl

    @Nancy – WELL PUT!

  • It’s not just restaurants that have to deal with bloggers. I do some film publicity and there have been people who show up at the press screening demanding to be let in because they have a website. Or when we did press kits, want one of those. (We actually caught one of them selling the press kits and posters they got at screenings.) It is the sense of entitlement that gets me.

  • I transitioned out of the hospitality industry about 20 years ago into consulting and this article shows how much things have changed and … how much things have remained the same.

    For what it’s worth I managed 4 Star / 4 Diamond hotels and restaurants and while we didn’t have the social networks that exist today, we did have our share of people coming in our doors asking for comp meals and rooms in exchange for their review in hard copy publications.

    Our philosophy was pretty simple … if you have to let us know in advance and ask for it to be comped, you were only looking for a freebee!

    I can tell you that that only time we ever knew that the AAA had inspected our property was when we received their letter telling us about their visit and the rating they had given us. Look at and read any legitimate restaurant critic and you understand why they don’t publish their picture in the byline of their articles … and they don’t go looking for free meals.

    As for you bloggers who are want-to-be journalists … when you can actually be paid by a publication for your word smithing (there actual is a difference between having a passion and having a profession) you can begin to call yourself a “journalist”, until that time you are little more that a techi wanting to mooch off the restaurant industry.

    And for you restaurant owners and managers who shurk in the corner because you think some unknown person who owns an IPhone, pays $10 a year for a URL, and calls themselves a blogger might get PO’d because you call their bluff … you are only feeding the problem and need to stop your insanity.

    And finally … if you are a restaurant owner who needs to compensate people with a twitter list to praise your food and service … it won’t be long before your customers will close your doors!

  • rosie

    Dear Nancy:
    As a veteran newspaper reporter and graduate of the University of North Texas School of Journalistm, I
    Thank You for addressing the “blogger v. journalist” issue. As a freelancer, I always stress that I am not
    a “blogger” precisely because too many of the newly-minted writers never even heard of the WSJ Stylebook, AP Stylebook or any other writer’s guide!!
    Having worked briefly for the WSJ, and having written for a major newspaper, I recall being warned not to
    accept any “freebies” while working for them. Nonetheles, freelance writers are not required to comply
    with those rules. So it’s really up to the writer and his or her own ethics, or lack of.

  • Pingback: FTC Disclosure Guidelines for Bloggers()