Food Network: Do Not Let Community Control Leave a Bad Taste In Your Mouth

Guess what? I still read print magazines. (GASP-the horror!) One of the few magazines I still subscribe to is Food Network Magazine. Every month, I look forward to this colorful magazine (actually a closet foodie that does not have one domestic bone in my body) because of the exotic recipes and tidbits …not social media advice.

In the April 2010 edition, the Ask Ted column takes on restaurants and bloggers. The Ask Ted question specifically is, “If I don’t like a restaurant meal, should I blog about it?” I applaud FNM for tackling this question and that Ted Allen addresses this social media truth, “Chefs have to confront the reality that anyone can publish withering report cards-instantly, even in the middle of a meal.” However, the column takes a turn for the worst when Allen outlines new-media foodie “rules” of engagement before publishing a review.

The advice given by Allen is actually a set of guidelines…not to be confused with rules. As an interesting side note, in small print at the end of the column and beneath the call-out for questions for Ted is this: Check out the Food Blog Code of Ethics at  Nowhere in the body of text is this source mentioned. This source is a wealth of knowledge and brainy tidbits for the burgeoning social media foodie critic. But once again, this source outlines suggestions, not rules.

There are no rules. Social media is fair game for all to participate at any time and on any subject. Perhaps it is a matter of semantics, but the wording of “rules” scares me into thinking the chefs/restaurants can control the conversation and the magazine can manipulate the actions of the readers because most are ignorant about their online activities. Rather than position this advice as definitive, Internet publishing responsibility and suggestions for how to be a better amateur food critic should have been communicated.

Food Network Magazine, take a virtual page from the Nestle Facebook Fan Page and note that you cannot control the community voice. Embrace the engagement. Use the chatter to highlight evangelists and right the wrongs of those who are disgruntled. 

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  • Jen Zingsheim

    Good points–and I still read paper magazines too–Food & Wine and Bon Appetit. Bon Appetit had a column on food photography, and all of the would be/want to be foodie bloggers out there. No discussion of prohibiting it, but the writer did point out that it’s disruptive even if you don’t use a flash. It’s also fairly rude to those at your table.
    Some people are becoming so engrossed in social media that they are forgetting how to behave in social settings.

  • Richie Escovedo

    Lauren, I think perhaps it is a semantics thing, but I understand the feeling like it’s a bit pretentious to think that “rules” can be established in the social web.
    @Jen – Wow, it would really never occur to me to whip out a camera and photograph my food at a restaurant. Now a good bottle of wine that I want to remember, that’s a different story ;)

  • Kristen Escovedo

    Good points Lauren. I’m glad I’m not the only one who loves Food Network and yet doesn’t cook (I’m an eater, not a cooker – how grammatically incorrect can one sentence be, and still be so true).
    Living with @vedo, I think I hear “It’s a guideline, not a rule” several times a day.
    Take care~