• Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Fat Guy

eG Ethics code

100 posts in this topic

In October of 2007 I said the Society would be publishing a code of ethics for online writers: bloggers, discussion-forum participants and others. After much discussion and revision, we're pleased to present our online code of ethics for member comment.

We'll be accepting member comment on this topic (if you're not a member and would like to comment here you'll need to join) for one week, after which we plan to publish the code.

Signatories to the code will indicate their acceptance by filling out a web form and displaying a badge on their websites according to instructions we'll give at that time. (Individuals posting in discussion forums, including eG Forums, will be able to link to a version of the code designed for individual users.) Adoption of the code will be purely voluntary, and the eGullet Society will not serve as an enforcement or adjudication body.

The proposed code for websites is as follows (the individual-user code will be substantively the same, with some minor language changes):

This website's readers have the right to expect:

Original content. All content on this website is the original creation of the author except when clearly attributed, such as by quotation marks, citations and credits.

Respect for intellectual property. All text, photos and other media from outside sources is republished only with the explicit permission of its owner or in compliance with an applicable license (e.g., Creative Commons), with the exception of brief quotations from written works in the context of discussing those works.

Links where credit is due. Where the creator of content referenced on this website has made it possible to link to that content, a link is given here. Where books are referenced, links are provided to allow purchase. In general, links are favored over reproduction of content.

Disclosure of comps. Where a free or discounted product or service has been accepted, a corresponding disclosure is made.

No quid pro quo. Before accepting a free or discounted product or service, the author advised the provider of that product or service that favorable coverage would not be provided in exchange for the comp, and that all reports on the product or service would represent the author's actual opinions.

Disclosure of conflicts of interest. Where the author has a relationship with the subject of coverage beyond a casual or typical customer relationship, that relationship is disclosed. Financial and employment relationships, including those of close friends, associates and family members, will also be disclosed.

Disclosure in the first instance. Where disclosures are required, they are made in the original post on the subject. Repeated disclosures will not necessarily appear in subsequent posts in the same series. However, if new threads on the same subject are opened, reacknowledgement is made with a separate statement or by linking to the original disclosure.

Terms of service. This website abides by a published list of rules that cover, among other things, participatory conduct, use of anonymity, and consequences for violations of the terms. Further, this site may operate on a platform (such as Wordpress.com or Blogger.com) that has a separate terms-of-service document. If so, this site adheres to those terms.

Fair comment. This website allows registered users to comment on the content contained herein. Free and fair comment will be permitted so long as it is civil and conforms to this website's terms of service, including this document.

Fact checking. The author of any factual statement on this website has made a good-faith effort to confirm the accuracy of that statement. Statements of opinion, however, are just that.

Corrections. Where factual errors are discovered or reported, corrections will be made promptly by editing or in a subsequent declaration.

Faithfulness to the historical record. This site has an edit window of X minutes to permit correction of typographical, spelling, attribution and minor errors. Neither this window nor administrative powers will be used to remove or alter content in a way that distorts the historical development of any content, except when the terms of service have been violated. Even then, due care will be taken to restore the content so as to preserve the record.

Revision.  This code will be revised, updated and clarified from time to time. The latest version of the code along with elaboration and discussion can be found at LINK.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think many bloggers/writers/etc. implicitly follow this sort of code, but it's nice, and sometimes very helpful, to see it spelled out in such detail. The notion of a "badge" indicating that this is the policy your blog follows is interesting. It would provide a quick way to identify sites that decide to commit (if only in words) to this level of journalistic integrity.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As you know, I think disclosure of comps is admirable and necessary.

If you're someone who posts anonymously on foodboards, though, and who makes it a practice of NOT telling restaurants that you're a foodboard poster or discussing foodboard posting with restaurants, it seems a little strained for you to also affirmatively state to the restaurant that any comp they give you won't lead to favorable coverage. Most places wouldn't know what I was talking about if I said that. They give me comps because I'm a regular customer (or someone who looks like someone that could be a regular customer), not a foodboard poster. (I still disclose the comps in anything I post, of course.)

This may be different for full-fledged bloggers (or people who insist on photographing their food).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good point. Those of us who worked on this were only thinking about pre-arranged comps, like accepting a free trip or meal offered by a publicist or chef. It would indeed be weird to haul out a no-quid-pro-quo policy when presented with an extra dish or two. For the next draft I'll rework the language to say "pre-arranged."


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ah, I get it. What I was talking about must seem like small potatoes compared to that. Thanks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would never characterize anything connected to you in any way as "small potatoes."


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is it necessary to link to a book, rather than just providing the title and author (properly spelled, of course?). Technical journals don't require this, and it does seem like it will just be directing business to the major resellers, rather than letting people go looking for themselves, and hopefully supporting the local bookstores.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with Peter on the linking thing. Proper attribution is important, of course, and mentioned elsewhere in the code, but linking to a retail source seems more like a polite thing to do for the author, and a convenience for online readers, but hardly a point of ethics. Is it really unethical to acknowledge a source, but not link to its Amazon listing?

ETA: with all of the revenue-sharing partner programs provided by retailers like Amazon, it seems that providing a link, could create an ethical problem, unless any (hidden) embedded revenue-sharing programs are clearly disclosed as well.


Edited by philadining (log)

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very much in the same spirit as the code proposed just last week by these two LA-based bloggers: Food Blog Code of Ethics

In any case, it's a very admirable effort and one I fully support. Thanks for your work on this, Fat Guy. Something like this was long overdue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, we were caught off guard by that effort. We'd been working on this, on and off, for more than a year (plus the couple of years we spent developing similar guidelines internally for our volunteers), thinking (to the extent we were thinking) nobody else would bother to do anything like it. When we saw that announcement last week we figured we better get on the stick. So now we're doing what we should have done months ago, had we not been disorganized, lazy bums.

I've got to run but will address the book-linking issue tonight.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As I have stated elsewhere, I do not believe a code of ethics should permit a food writer to accept comps.


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

Twitter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
As I have stated elsewhere, I do not believe a code of ethics should permit a food writer to accept comps.

I agree 100%

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But this isn't just for writers. It's also for posters on foodboards.

It's absurd to say that people like me can't accept comps. Most of the time, they have nothing to do with any writing we do.

Also, I think there's a big distinction between people who get PAID to write and people who post casually on other people's boards on the internet, as much for their own amusement as for any other reason.

Perhaps you can't have a single set of ethics rules for real food writers and people who just post on foodboards.


Edited by Sneakeater (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If I'm reading a food writer's or blogger's work and they start out by saying "I'm best friends with this chef and the meal was comped" I'm not going to hold writing about it against them as a human being and I don't think it's unethical. I may not put any value in their comments, but they gave full disclosure and as a reader I'm capable of deciding on my own whether to value their words now or not. The critical thing is the disclosure: that allows the reader to decide on their own if they are going to value the review. I see absolutely nothing unethical about writing about a comped meal as long as you state up front that it was comped. I don't think you should then attempt to claim that it's an impartial review, either, but I view that as a separate issue.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Adoption of the code will be purely voluntary, and the eGullet Society will not serve as an enforcement or adjudication body.

If the Society will have no further role in enforcing the "code of ethics" it has created, then why bother attaching the eG name to it?

I know of no other organisation that has a code of ethics that does not, in some way, follow-up on whether the members remain true to that code or not.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But this isn't just for writers.  It's also for posters on foodboards.

It's absurd to say that people like me can't accept comps.  Most of the time, they have nothing to do with any writing we do.

Also, I think there's a big distinction between people who get PAID to write and people who post casually on other people's boards on the internet, as much for their own amusement as for any other reason.

Perhaps you can't have a single set of ethics rules for real food writers and people who just post on foodboards.

Actually this set of ethics is for websites ie bloggers and such. Steven's first post says that there will be a similar set of ethics developed for posters.

Fessing up to receiving a comp is better than not fessing up. But there is no way to be sure that a comp did not influence a blogger's judgment. My concern here is with bloggers who write reviews and want their reviews to have credibility.


Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

Twitter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Adoption of the code will be purely voluntary, and the eGullet Society will not serve as an enforcement or adjudication body.

If the Society will have no further role in enforcing the "code of ethics" it has created, then why bother attaching the eG name to it?

I know of no other organisation that has a code of ethics that does not, in some way, follow-up on whether the members remain true to that code or not.

This is because a Code of Ethics is usually promulgated by an organization, association, company or accrediting entity and only applies to the members, employees or accreditees of said organization, association, company or accrediting entity. I'm not aware of too many Codes of Ethics that are voluntarily adopted and proclaimed by anyone who cares to do so. In any event, adherence to most any Code of Ethics is effectively voluntary and usually not strictly monitored or proactively enforced by the entity promulgating the Code (exceptions would be things like the medical and legal professions). In most cases, if large scale ethical violations are committed by someone who is supposed to be under a certain Code of Ethics, someone complains about that person to the appropriate organization, association, company or accrediting entity, which then decides whether or not to kick the person out of the organization or association, fire the person from the company or withdraw the entity's accreditation of that person (or, in rare cases, impose punitive measures). In a case such as this, the eGullet Society is in the position of being an accrediting entity. So, presumably, if someone emailed a Society manager and said, "so-and-so has your badge on his blog, but I have proof that he engages in quid pro quo positive reviews in exchange for lavish comps" the Society might decide to tell the guy he can't display the badge any more. Other than that, there really isn't much more to do. Keep in mind, by the way, that violations of many of the items in this Code would difficult if not impossible to definitively demonstrate. What people are doing by voluntarily displaying the badge is openly proclaim that these things are important to them, and that they have agreed to abide by them as a way of giving certain assurances to their readership.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Fessing up to receiving a comp is better than not fessing up.  But there is no way to be sure that a comp did not influence a blogger's judgment.  My concern here is with bloggers who write reviews and want their reviews to have credibility.

Credibility is, in my mind, a separate issue from ethics. Ethics is a bare minimum: then, you have to have a good palate, and good judgement, and a good experience base, etc. All of these things weigh into how much I value your review, but they do not matter one whit when it comes to whether or not you are behaving ethically. You told your readers that you were comped: they can decide for themselves whether that biases you or not.

Edited to add quote.


Edited by Chris Hennes (log)

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In a case such as this, the eGullet Society is in the position of being an accrediting entity.  So, presumably, if someone emailed a Society manager and said, "so-and-so has your badge on his blog, but I have proof that he engages in quid pro quo positive reviews in exchange for lavish comps" the Society might decide to tell the guy he can't display the badge any more. 

But it has already been stated that "the eGullet Society will not serve as an enforcement or adjudication body." So then anyone can display the badge and not fear having it revoked since the Society really doesn't care if the code is followed or not, or at least that it what is implied by stating the Society will not be enforcing it.

What people are doing by voluntarily displaying the badge is openly proclaim that these things are important to them, and that they have agreed to abide by them as a way of giving certain assurances to their readership.

But still, anyone can display the badge implying the code is being followed, and yet not follow the code at all. In those cases, the badge would be providing false assurance, would it not? Would that not then taint the eG name (assuming the name has not already been tainted)?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Credibility is, in my mind, a separate issue from ethics. Ethics is a bare minimum: then, you have to have a good palate, and good judgement, and a good experience base, etc. All of these things weigh into how much I value your review, but they do not matter one whit when it comes to whether or not you are behaving ethically. You told your readers that you were comped: they can decide for themselves whether that biases you or not.

Edited to add quote.

If a reviewer is considered unethical he can not have credibility.

Accepting a comp for a meal that is then reviewed casts both an ethical and credibility shadow over that review no matter how good/fair the intentions of the writer.

For one thing, accepting a prearranged comp generally means that the restaurant will know the reviewer's table at the start of the meal. If the reviewer knows that the restaurant knows his table then he should be sufficiently savvy to know that the restaurant will give him VIP treatment.

How can that reviewer then write with credibility about the meal? And if the reviewer knows that his meal received TLC, how can the reviewer ethically present that meal as representative of the restaurant?

Edited to apply 6th grade grammar rules overlooked in the original post.


Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

Twitter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
As I have stated elsewhere, I do not believe a code of ethics should permit a food writer to accept comps.

Here's a question, based on some of your previous opinions on this matter: Do you believe that this is a matter of ethical obligation or is it because you feel that someone who writes about food on the internet "won't be taken seriously by mainstream media" if he accepts comps? I am rather inclined to agree with Chris that ethics and credibility are separate issues.

Also, I'm curious as to your thoughts about which and what kind of blogs or internet writers you're talking about. Don't you think there is a reasonable difference between, say, a writer at The Feedbag or Serious Eats New York (never mind someone like Mark Bittman) writing about a comped meal, and more personal food bloggers such as, say, John Sconzo or Mitch Weinstein writing about a comped meal? And how about a more serious "reviewer" amateur such as Marc Shepherd? I can understand that Marc might feel an increased need to avoid comps compared to John and Mitch, for whom I think there is no obligation whatsoever. Or, perhaps more interestingly, what if Alex and Aki or Shola write about a free meal they got from a colleague? Shouldn't be able to do that? Why not? Meanwhile, I'm not sure it makes sense to differentiate between all bloggers and all forum participants. Certainly there are plenty posts in these forums which are every bit as detailed, personal and thought out as any blog post.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
As I have stated elsewhere, I do not believe a code of ethics should permit a food writer to accept comps.

Here's a question, based on some of your previous opinions on this matter: Do you believe that this is a matter of ethical obligation or is it because you feel that someone who writes about food on the internet "won't be taken seriously by mainstream media" if he accepts comps? I am rather inclined to agree with Chris that ethics and credibility are separate issues.

Also, I'm curious as to your thoughts about which and what kind of blogs or internet writers you're talking about. Don't you think there is a reasonable difference between, say, a writer at The Feedbag or Serious Eats New York (never mind someone like Mark Bittman) writing about a comped meal, and more personal food bloggers such as, say, John Sconzo or Mitch Weinstein writing about a comped meal? And how about a more serious "reviewer" amateur such as Marc Shepherd? I can understand that Marc might feel an increased need to avoid comps compared to John and Mitch, for whom I think there is no obligation whatsoever. Or, perhaps more interestingly, what if Alex and Aki or Shola write about a free meal they got from a colleague? Shouldn't be able to do that? Why not? Meanwhile, I'm not sure it makes sense to differentiate between all bloggers and all forum participants. Certainly there are plenty posts in these forums which are every bit as detailed, personal and thought out as any blog post.

As I said in an earlier post to this thread:

My concern here is with bloggers who write reviews and want their reviews to have credibility.

Beyond that I believe that one writing a serious review does have an ethical obligation not to accept a comp. If one does not present his writing as a review then I do not have a problem with accepting a comp.


Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

Twitter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Holly, I agree with you completely, right up to the implication of your last sentence (ETA: in the post before this one): As I said, in my opinion, behaving ethically is a bare minimum requirement for achieving credibility. It is certainly not the only requirement.

And if the reviewer knows that his meal received TLC, how can the reviewer ethically present that meal as representative of the restaurant?

It seems that where you and I disagree is that in my mind, once the writer has stated that the meal was comped, I no longer perceive the review to be impartial, and I doubt anyone else does either. It doesn't seem to me that the writer is any longer "present[ing] that meal as representative of the restaurant."—now, he's just some schmuck who got a free meal and is writing about it. I mean, what is the writer going to say to recover from admitting the meal was comped? "Hey, this meal was given to me for free. But this review is 100% impartial, I SWEAR!!" I think that once you, the writer, say "I was comped," you are by definition no longer claiming to be impartial.


Edited by Chris Hennes (log)

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If a reviewer is considered unethical he can not have credibility.

Yes, but the reverse is not true.  A reviewer may be considered extremely ethical but not credible.  This is why these are separable.

Accepting a comp for a meal that is then reviewed casts both an ethical and credibility shadow over that review no matter how good/fair the intentions of the writer. 

For one thing, accepting a prearranged comp generally means that the restaurant will know the reviewer's table at the start of the meal.  If the reviewer knows that the restaurant knows his table then he should be sufficiently savvy to know that the restaurant will give him VIP treatment. 

How can that reviewer then write with credibility about the meal?  And if the reviewer knows that his meal received TLC, how can the reviewer ethically present that meal as representative of the restaurant?

First, of course, we should acknowledge that not all comps are prearranged. Beyond that, the reviewer can certainly ethically comment on a prearranged, full comped meal simply by disclosing that the meal was a prearranged full comp. That satisfies the ethical obligation. It is then up to the readers to decide whether or not the reviewer's review is credible -- again, demonstrating why these two things are separable.

I think you are confusing a "Code of Ethics" with a "Code of Conduct" or a "Professional Code." This is easy to do, I suppose, since they are often given under the same names and they are often combined in one Code. But a "Code of Ethics" is designed simply to ensure ethical behavior, nothing more. In contrast, a "Code of Conduct" or a "Professional Code" usually includes ethics but is also designed to further certain goals that are outside the realm of ethics. A Professional Code might include things such as "we give top knotch service" or "we will match any price" or "every surface of the bathroom will be disinfected" that are designed to increase confidence and credibility. But bathroom sanitation or discount prices in DVD players are not ethical considerations. So, for example, forbidding all comps on the basis that doing so will increase credibility would be part of a Professional Code but not an Ethical Code.


Edited by slkinsey (log)

Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
My concern here is with bloggers who write reviews and want their reviews to have credibility.

Beyond that I believe that one writing a serious review does have an ethical obligation not to accept a comp. If one does not present his writing as a review then I do not have a problem with accepting a comp.

What does that have to do with the larger universe of food bloggers and forum participants then? Wouldn't these considerations of yours be better addressed with a "Food Reviewer's Code of Ethics"? And doesn't something like that already exist? Here, in the Association of Food Journalists' Critic's Guidelines?

Meanwhile, who is to say what is and what is not a "review"? Is this a review? How about this? This?


Edited by slkinsey (log)

Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.