New! A Word or Two About Blogging


Since I occasionally talk about brands on this blog, I thought it was a good idea to address the issue of food blog ethics.

This blog is totally sponsor-free. But I think it's important to showcase brands that I use and like, especially when they are based in Wisconsin or Michigan, my home states.



As a trained journalist - I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Journalism Bachelor of Arts (JBA) degree in 1983 - I know better than to accept material items in return for a glowing review.

There was a time when, working as a newspaper reporter, I never accepted anything beyond a glass of water from a source. Having said that, I will note that on occasion, the subject of my feature stories often sent me flowers after a particularly compelling article I'd written. I felt uncomfortable at first, then I realized it would have been ungracious of me to reject these thoughtful gestures.

Sometimes people just want to do something nice for someone else. I understood that. Besides, I like flowers!

I did, however, return a gift certificate from someone I did not know. People I did know sent me things, too, and because I knew them prior to writing the story, I generally accepted them. They were small items: A scarf, a CD - things people knew I liked. Still I felt a bit guilty.

I have mixed feelings about bloggers who accept food, money, sponsorships, etc. I was absolutely appalled to see a well-known niche blogger try to raise money through crowd sourcing a year or so ago. I was still more appalled - if possible - when I learned that some style bloggers, in an attempt to appear successful, might actually imply they received items they in fact purchased with their own money.

I admire professional bloggers who make a living from their blogs, but I will probably never be more than a rank amateur.

But, in the interests of transparency:

On two occasions, I have reviewed books for this blog, but only when the books fit the blog's theme. In this post, this one and finally, this one, I made recipes from Great Lakes ships, where my father earned his chops as a chef. I also reviewed this book of Paris history and photographs.

On only on occasion did I accept a freebie from a company, and that was here.

Some bloggers write sponsored posts or in some other manner represent a food label or other organization that promotes food, a trade group, for example. Were I approached to do this, I would make a decision on a case-by-case basis. I would have to feel pretty passionate about a product or service to say yes.

I'm small potatoes and unlikely to strike it big in the blogging world. When I started blogging in 2006, only a few social media sites existed and only a few bloggers used them with great skill. Most of us started out recording recipes for family and friends. In addition, I wanted to learn blogging techniques so I could share with my college freshman and sophomores to whom I taught print journalism basics.

About a year after I began blogging, I took a job that required all of my emotional and intellectual energies, and my posts became fewer and less about food (those that were repetitive have been deleted).

Life intervened. I was also dealing with several family illnesses at the time, and a work-related injury of my own. Frankly, if I didn't post about it, I cannot recall much of what I ate during that time.

While I was gone, blogging changed. People who blogged for fun began blogging for money, serious money, if some of them are to be believed.

Six months ago, I pondered shutting this blog down. I'm glad I didn't. The couple hundred visitors I get each day, many of whom are friends, are what has encouraged me to keep going. I still find great satisfaction doing this, and learning things in the kitchen and in life that I never knew before.

While I was on hiatus from serious blogging, the Federal Trade Commission imposed ethical standards for bloggers. Since late 2009, bloggers must disclose items received at no cost and sponsorships.

I would do that anyway. But sometimes I worry that when I talk about a specific brand (usually one from Wisconsin), someone will get the wrong idea.

No one pays me for anything I do on this blog. Yes, I use Google Ads, but I won't get rich off that mechanism. I think my last payment was in 2008.

I sometimes link to other bloggers here. I try to link only to high-quality, well-respected bloggers who have displayed high ethical standards or Web sites that offer concrete information about food, food prep and kitchens. And Wisconsin brands, of course.




Comments

Christine said…
Very nice write-up, Mimi. We seem to share blogging ethics to a tee. One of my caveats in accepting a book to review is that, upon reading it, it is my choice whether or not to write the review on my blog. I seem to get fewer and fewer solicitations because of this, which suits me just fine.
Btw: didn't you just love Terry B's cheesecake recipe?
Mimi Johns said…
Fortunately the two books I received were good ones! But I agree with you: I'm not going to praise a bad book. I might offer a mixed review, but that's about as far as it would go.

I've been terribly disappointed by some of the shilling I've seen in the blog world!

Yes, I want to make that cheesecake. With or without topping.
Ah yes it has changed. The only "pay" I'll get from it has been and will be fun and meeting some really fun people. Right now my time is really limited.
M.D. Johns said…
Same here, Tanna. Love meeting new online friends.

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