Disclosure: I received a discounted rate for my conference registration for IFBC in exchange for promising to write a certain number of posts. In addition, Sabra Dipping Company sponsored me for this event. All opinions–as well as my enthusiasm–as always, remain my own.
You may recall that I attended the International Food Bloggers Conference in Seattle in September 2015. While I’ve already shared with you some of the fun stuff from that trip, today, I want to talk about something more serious that I’ve been mulling over in the months since: authenticity.
IFBC opened on September 19, 2015 with keynote speaker Kim Severson.
Severson is the Atlanta bureau chief for The New York Times, but she originally came on staff to write about food in 2004. And from the start of her speech, I knew I liked this woman.
She started with a story from Ruth Reichl comparing the digital food revolution to online porn–I know, stay with me here–and how, unlike what many feel online porn has done for the bedroom, the digital food revolution has allowed food to become real again. “We are no longer living in a world of artificial strawberries,” Severson said. What you see online is making cooking and tasting a part of life again. It’s what people are really doing in their kitchens, every day, and it’s inspiring others to don their aprons, pull out their mixing bowls, and get to work. But this comes with a great responsibility.
Blogging is not the same as traditional journalism.
There’s a saying that Severson shared with us: “Even if your mother tells you she loves you, you better double check that.” Journalists know to check and then double check their facts and sources. Is it true? Is it real? They’re careful about accuracy and how they craft what they want to say.
We all know this. Part of the appeal is that bloggers are real. What you read comes from everyday people–they could be you!–and that makes what they have to say relatable. There’s a comfort in that. What’s written about can be achieved, because they did it, and you can do it, too! Trust forms. Affections flourish. It’s a shiny, happy place.
Until it isn’t.
If you take shit, you’re gonna get shit. – Kim Severson
As you know from the disclosures I place at the top of my sponsored posts, I partner with different brands on projects that include recipe development, photography, and, sometimes, sharing my thoughts on a product. I make it a point of disclosing this because a) it’s the right thing to do, and b) the FTC requires me to do so. It’s all about transparency. Making sure no one feels the wool has been pulled over his eyes.
This can also be viewed as a slippery slope. How influenced are your opinions by the fact that someone paid you to write about their product? How impartial can you be if a restaurant comped your meal? And I’ll admit, for the average Joe, that’s pretty impossible. It would be hard to take a freebie and then turn around and throw it back in the sponsor’s face saying you hated it.
But these partnerships are also how bloggers make money. And some make very good livings off of it. Me? It’s a second job, but I love that I have the opportunity to pursue it.
What’s the point of all of this?
What you see is what you get at Poet in the Pantry. I write what I feel, I share what I see, I take what I make and I try to turn it into something interesting for you. I don’t want you to feel that I’ve abused your trust. We’re friends, right? That’s why I will continue to always disclose if a post is sponsored, if I have a relationship with a brand I’m writing about, if the awesome dish I ate was comped by the restaurant. It doesn’t invalidate what I have to say–but you should know about this and take it for what it is. I try to work with brands that I like anyway, so I’m not unduly influenced, because I’m already enthusiastic about their products. And I hope you’ll feel that enthusiasm, too.
Thank you, Kim. Thank you for making me think a little bit more about my craft and the accuracy of my statements. It’s good for all of us.