Are we worth reading? Of course we are. And yet, this is the question that seems to have risen in my mind after reading an article by renowned food critic Corby Kummer. Kummer discusses in his article "The Food Critic In the Internet Age" (I swore it had a different title last night) what direction paid food critics are going in this new age of food bloggers and Yelp.com commenters. He comes right out at the beginning to mention that "Of course, paid critics are more reliable!" He then goes on, inadvertently or not, to dismiss anyone who is not a paid food critic - who does not have "credentials" as his friends Tim & Nina Zagat later pointed out to him.
This got into my craw. It is nonsensical to dismiss an entire segment of the online world because we are not "credentialed." And to paint everyone from bloggers such as Adam Roberts and Julie Powell to public food review site commentators such as "Anonymuss" and "FoodGirl1" with the same brush because none of have those ever-elusive "credentials" belies the complexity and, to some extent, self-policing, of the online foodie world.
I urge you to read Kummer's article. It is interesting, but if you are a non-professional, I-work-for-myself-for-free food blogger you may be annoyed by it. Or you may not - perhaps I misinterpreted something.
I am going to post here the two comments I left in response. I thought them out for a while and the first one is pretty long. These are my words, though maybe they are technically the property of The Atlantic Magazine, so they are in quotes. I don't want to plagiarize myself. I did correct one left-out word from my first comment.
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One commenter had a response to me, basically that the difference between persons such as Mr. Kummer and persons such as myself is, in a word, "CREDENTIALS." He or she did assert that our lack of credentials gave no promise that we knew what we were talking about - just as if he or she decided to give out free medical advice on a blog, even though he or she has no medical training.
I'm sorry, it isn't the same thing, as I posted in a second comment. As of right now it is still pending approval. But I saved a copy and will re-post it here. Again, adding a word or two that was left out during proofreading.
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In other words, by your estimation what I and what every other food blogger says is, by its very nature, untrustworthy. You could go to the logical extreme of that argument and assume that food bloggers must never be read, because none of them have any credentials and therefore must be talking nonsense. I don't think you are saying that, though it certainly is implied. You are making a seemingly sound though still illogical assumption.- - - - -
A similarly illogical assumption could go in the opposite direction, questioning even the value of credentials (which you did not have to scream, I might add). How do I know that a paid food critic is not being forced to give a favorable or unfavorable review for such-and-such a restaurant by his or her employer? A blogger, who does not have to even write the review, does not have the threat of losing his or her job by writing a review that is more critical or more praiseworthy - or even more "average" - than the credentialed food critic. Standing among peers, yes, but not his or her livelihood. Therefore, the food critic must obviously be a corporate shill whose words - and credentials - cannot be trusted, since I can not ever know how much influence his or her employer has over that review.
But I am not foolish enough to make that equally illogical assumption. Certainly, there are food critics whose credentials should be questioned. Before you make another assumption, I am not meaning Mr. Kummer or the Zagats, the latter being among the most respected and trusted credentialed persons in the food critiquing business (and yes, it is a business). And certainly there are bloggers who write nonsense. But to dismiss us all because we have no, ahem, CREDENTIALS, is to somewhat arrogantly dismiss an entire medium on account of the those of us who really shouldn't be typing on a keyboard at all.
My advice for figuring out which bloggers are the most trustworthy is to read through different blogs and comments, and to see which bloggers are most respected among their peers. If they are writing nonsense then you can bet that they are being called to the carpet for it. If they are not, chances are they will be talked up by fellow bloggers and perhaps even some of those same credentialed food critics. This is perhaps the closest thing unpaid bloggers such as myself have to "credentials."
I admit we don't always have the "credentials" that paid food critics have. That doesn't mean we are not worth reading. You may not have meant it that way, but you certainly implied it.
I'm not intending to speak up my own blog, so I won't add a link to it. But to keep from being completely anonymous I will note that I write the "Baltimore Snacker" blog in, of course, Baltimore.
So what do you think? Are non-paid bloggers as a rule less trustworthy than any paid food critic? Can food critics be trusted not to shill for "the man"? My answers, of course, are "no" and "yes" respectively. But I've talked too much about this. Y'all: it's your turn.