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Calling all food bloggers: why do you do it?

Working on an essay for a special food-related issue of a literary mag about food blogging. I'd like to augment my personal perspective by quoting (and of course naming, for what the publicity's worth—come on, it's a lit journal) others about their experiences. I actually intend to mention the very act of creating this thread in the piece, depending on how it goes.

(I *think* that this topic is thread-worthy in its own right; but mods, please let me know if you'd rather sticky it and have me ask people to e-mail me directly.)

These are the two big, broad starter questions; we'll see where they lead.

Why did you start your blog? What were you hoping to introduce or add to the blogosphere?

What have you discovered since launching your blog—what do you like about it, what do you dislike about it, what surprised you?

Thanks all!

Edit: One other question where appropriate: How did you come up with its name?

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  1. I started blogging June of this year. My hope was to give my perspective on restaurants and life in my hometown and perhaps give those unsung heroes some well deserved praise while putting some reality into places that are more reputation than execution.
    I discover my hometown has a nice blogging community and have discovered some new places myself and I feel heard.
    I came up with the name based on how I thought it could be found easily by googling food and richmond and review. The link to my blog is on my profile.

    1. A few reasons I started my blog.
      1. Many people are blogging so I wanted to see what it's about. I'm a techie so this stuff fascinates me.

      2. I use my blog as a way to say, "hi" to my family and friends. My intent is not to gain readership or hits. It's just a fun thing to do.

      3. Another reason, blogging is creative diversion. My job is very left brained. I wanted to work on the right brain - photography, writing and cooking is a creative outlet.

      Discoveries, likes, dislikes, surprises:
      Discoveries - There are some very creative people out there with great photos.

      Likes - blogging is just a fun, creative thing to do.

      Dislikes - nothing really...

      Surprises - I keep my blog on the down low... However, I've received a couple comments from across the US and even from the USSR. A nice surprise!

      1. I took a food writing class through Mediabistro and wanted to put the things I learned in the class into practice.
        Also, I had recently started inviting friends to eat at Chinese restaurants and wanted a way to remember what we ate and to introduce other people to the great ethnic experiences in L.A.
        As soon as I started, I quickly found that in a huge city like L.A., people appreciated having a blog that was primarily focused on one neighborhood and its restaurants. And like Janet, I've really enjoyed spotlighting some hidden gems and local artisans.
        I don't remember how I came up with EatingLA -- it just seemed obvious!

        21 Replies
        1. re: Chowpatty

          A few other thoughts now that I've thought about it a while:
          1) I've discovered that the more you post, the more readers you'll get. The pressure to keep writing every day can be overwhelming, since I also have a day job.
          2) I've discovered that dealing with restaurant owners is quite a mixed bag. There's a large chunk of them that have no idea how to deal with the press and often don't run their restaurants very well either. They are quite capable of very unprofessional behavior and not fun to work with. Others, of course, are wonderful and happy that foodlovers are helping spread the word.
          3) It has surprised to me to see how many people have started food blogs since I did four years ago -- but inevitably many people don't keep them up consistently.

          1. re: Chowpatty

            I'm asking this now as a blogger (I started mine in Dec. 07) rather than an essayist about blogging: what do you mean by #2? Do they contact you or you them? To what end?

            On that note, maybe another question I should ask explicitly is what everybody's focus is in terms of content, though to some extent you all are covering it via the question about intent: do you review restaurants? post restaurant news? cook and provide recipes? do other stuff?

            1. re: tatamagouche

              I have attempted to keep the focus of my blog (The Seasonal Gourmet) quite narrow and on-point. It's quite new but so far the content is mainly made up of: 1) original recipes I have developed based on seasonal ingredients, 2) kitchen tips that are relevant to those ingredients, 3) farmer's market reports about what produce is available and how to use it, and 4) the occasional food/travel report. The overall concept is to provide recipes and tips that are seasonal, home-made (very few pre-packaged ingredients used) and don't require trips to 20 different stores looking for unusual ingredients or equipment. It's written in the first person but is intended to be more about providing information rather than a personal journal.

              1. re: tatamagouche

                My focus is restaurant news and reviews. I am a professional journalist but my blog is unaffiliated with my journalism "day job." I attempt to run my blog as professionally as possible -- I don't take comped meals and if I go to a press party for a restaurant, the post is clearly marked as such. The trouble with restaurant owners that I referred to is mainly because I also review for a small community newspaper which, like any other paper, solicits advertising from restaurants. One restaurant owner was unhappy with a negative review, complained repeatedly to the publisher of my paper, accused my of forcing his restaurant to close, etc. Another took exception to a realy minor comment I made about the menu of his restaurant before it even opened, but some people are really oversensitive. I don't really ask for anything except to be informed of openings, but it takes some thinking to decide which publicity events and soliciations are worth being involved with, and which can compromise your integrity as, in my case, a professional journalist.

                1. re: Chowpatty

                  That's really interesting. Do you publicize the fact that you, journalist X, are author of blog Y, or do you keep it on the down-low? (You don't have to answer that.)

                  I guess it's obvious that I too write professionally, mostly as a freelancer with a couple of salaried gigs here and there; I started the blog when I moved cross-country without any editorial contacts or anything (sigh, what we do for love), as a way to get to know the dining scene in my new home & keep my writing muscles supple.

                  I admit that I am probably snarkier under a pseudonym than I am able to be when writing under my real name—but not less truthful; in fact, if anything, more, for the very reason you mention—no advertising, no pressure from eds to tone down criticism. I can just say what I mean.

                  I guess, based on soupkitten's comments and that thread about the Yelp scandal, there really are people out there whose agendas include blackmail and starfucking. Depressing. I enjoy blogging & the blogging community for the same reason I'm a longtime Chowhound—the opportunity to contribute to & glean insight from in-depth discussions on food & drink.

                  1. re: tatamagouche

                    Yes, it's clearly marked on my blogger profile with my real name -- and yet people are always surprised when they meet me and say "Oh, you're EatingLA!" I love that anonymous blogs can be as snarky as they want, but if you're trying to get freelance assignments and/or if you're meeting a lot of people in your city's food community, I don't know how you would stay anonymous.

              2. re: Chowpatty

                i think that a lot of restaurant owners don't want to deal with bloggers. doing so can be seen as unprofessional by colleagues, potentially problematic, etc. it is important to understand that bloggers are *not* "the press," & that the quality of blogs vary enormously.

                1. re: soupkitten

                  But deal with how? I'm wondering whether Chowpatty (or anyone) is seeking to do interviews with chefs, be added to press lists, etc.

                  Mostly I agree with you, although some changes are afoot. One restaurateur I admire in my area indicated to me (without knowing I was a blogger) how excited he was to be getting raves from "real people" on blogs, discussion boards etc. That said, some bloggers are *indeed* the press. I know a few people who write professionally under one name and blog under another, for various reasons...

                  1. re: tatamagouche

                    i'm not talking about affiliated bloggers-- example the weekly food blog by the local paper's food critic, with updates and photography not offered in the regular rag-- i'm talking about hobbyists.

                    restaurateurs do love the free publicity provided by bloggers who will give a positive mention of their establishments, discussion boards, chowhound, etc. everybody's gotten used to folks snapping a pic or 2 before starting in on their plate. hey if a pic of the eggplant parmesan or whatever winds up on a blog or a discussion forum with a nice comment next to it, that's great & thanks, or if service was a little off and the restaurateur reads about it on chowhound & can improve it, great-- online forums are able to give instant feedback that actually get back to the restaurant. little places with no advertising budget have a chance of getting noticed by an astute blogger and getting a little local buzz. online food forums and blogs are *great* for small restaurants-- don't get me wrong!!!

                    that doesn't mean it would necessarily be appropriate for a restaurant to treat an unaffiliated online blog/blogger the same as the regular press, grant the blogger interviews/access to the restaurant, etc. that's potentially problematic for many reasons. who is to say the blogger's intentions are pure, or that a year down the line they don't decide to use their blog as a platform for unsavory politics, or other objectionable content? new blogs surface and fizzle out every day. some are excellent, of course, but not every blogger is a great journalist, and most tend to overestimate their own blog's importance ;-) hey, we know it's your baby-- it's all good!

                    i've had no problem with print media journalists, t.v. camera crews etc coming into my kitchens, or freelance photographers under my employ-- but if a blogger wanted the same access i'd think it was extremely pushy. i'd most likely say no way, unless i knew the blogger very well personally and had a high regard for her/his blog's content and professionalism. i think that bloggers need to respect restaurant establishments-- professional reviewers, many of whom have great journalistic integrity, do! bloggers, by contrast, often have a rep for unprofessional behavior like demanding freebees and unreasonable amounts of resources. bloggers who want to dispel the negative impression many restaurateurs have of bloggers need to step up their own game and act professionally. just because you start a blog does not mean other people's businesses are your playground, and if chefs and restaurateurs are turning you down for interviews/access, you probably have more work to do to to be seen as legit. these are very general comments, not aimed at anybody.

                    1. re: soupkitten

                      Ah, interesting to hear from a restaurateur on this thread. Though I'm certainly familiar with your username, I don't think I realized your profession.

                      I actually meant that I know professional writers who blog in their own time under the radar. They are journalists, but they also run blogs not supported by their employers.

                      As for your comments re being really careful about giving bloggers the same sort of access you give credentialed journalists—that's fair, to be sure. We sometimes forget "blog" is short for weblog, meaning that it originated as a forum for very personal (however public) expression; though it has evolved, it remains an individual's domain. I'm not hiring an editor/fact-checker over here.

                      Of course, its existence beyond the bounds of journalism is what has made it so appealing to many—if, in a post about a restaurant, I feel like throwing a poem in the middle of my review, I can. As many here have already said, it's a creative outlet.

                      How do other bloggers responding to this thread feel about soupkitten's comments? Do they shift anything in your own perspective?

                      1. re: tatamagouche

                        I'm sure their are shady bloggers, but I think the same can be said of some journalists too. We're all human. I'm fairly certain there has been a professional food critic or two who has taken kickbacks in some form from restos.

                        That said, I would be cautious of bloggers intentions too, just as soupkitten said. I certainly wouldn't give them the same access that I would a credentialed journalist. In fact, I checked out a local food blog and they had a recent post about a dessert lounge here in town. There were all sorts of photographs of the chef posing w/ his sugar sculpture, various desserts, etc. and I just found it strange and annoying. It seems a bit intrusive. It was as if the blogger was trying to sell herself as a bonafide critic when she more than lacks the chops (IMHO).

                        I think the appeal of blogs is the view into someone's private life . There's a voyeuristic quality that appeals to many. Photographs and words from a person you've never met before but the more you read the more you feel as though you are getting to know them. It can be very personal. Another for instance, I was reading a fairly popular blog and I was surprised that the blogger unexpectedly mentioned a bout of depression they were suffering from. All the while writing about what interesting food she was cooking up. It was also strange and uncomfortable but interesting, nonetheless.

                        1. re: lynnlato

                          Many print reviewers mention personal details as well, which I think adds to the writing.
                          But what exactly is a "credentialed" journalist? There are only journalists who write for big papers and magazines, those who write for small ones, and those who write for the Internet, many of which are interchangeable. While major publications such as the NY Times, LA Times and major magazines have certain standards you must adhere to, many smaller papers do not. After a while in the business as a writer, you develop a reputation, and are thought of as trustworthy or not trustworthy by editors and readers. But there's no such thing as a credential for writing.

                          1. re: Chowpatty

                            Don't know, just responded to soupkitten & tatamagouche who used those words. I'm not in your biz. I'm just a lowly food blogger who is kinda sorta in the resto biz still and was once in the resto biz full time and for many, many years. I love it and always will.

                          2. re: lynnlato

                            For me it's just a great outlet to express how much I love food. It's an additional vehicle for me to have food pleasure. Not everyone one I know gets it the way us foodies do. It can be cathartic for me to do a data dump and just lay it all out there on my blog. In a very true sense I do it for me. When reading others blogs, say yours for example I just get a rush feeling the passion others have for food. When you describe a recipe or a restaurant I can connect to what you're saying because you're speaking our shared language ( foodlish) . When the person blogging lacks the chops it just wont work. I read the same local blog that you mentioned and no connection happened. This chick sounds like she can pound back some groceries, but no knowledge, no love of quality ingredients, no passion , no way. So for me when its good — like yours its great and when it's not all its good for is comic relief.

                            1. re: GodfatherofLunch

                              You rock, GFL. Thanks! If only I could write - ha! Like you said, it's mostly for me to share w/ others who are passionate about food. That's all. I'm not trying to be a writer or a photographer or both. I'd say seeing yours inspired me that I could have one too. Then I read a thread on CH about what host was the best and next thing I knew I was up and running.

                              Love the comic relief aspect of the one... thanks for the heads up! HA!

                              1. re: lynnlato

                                Thank You, nice of you to say. If my blog inspired you in any way I am extremely flattered. If anyone seeks inspiration the GodfatherofLunch blog can be found at http://gflreport.blogspot.com/
                                I don't think I'm much of a writer. I can be funny and maybe even sarcastic. Some punctuation might be a nice addition. Should have paid more attention in school instead of clowning around. Hear that kids?

                            2. re: lynnlato

                              Lynnlato...could you provide the link to the blog? I'd be curious to see the entry of which you speak (the one about the bout of depression).

                              1. re: tatamagouche

                                Yep, and I'd just like to add that this person is amazingly talented. She takes phenomenal photos and writes very well.

                                http://www.thewednesdaychef.com/the_w...

                                1. re: lynnlato

                                  it's a wonderful blog & tatama, the wednesday chef blog runs ads. Example you were looking for, see the right side of the blog main page.

                                    1. re: tatamagouche

                                      There are also bloggers who refuse ads and/or free stuff. For instance,
                                      http://becksposhnosh.blogspot.com/200...

                2. I started my blog a few months ago (see my profile) for a number of reasons, many of which echo what has been said by others:

                  1. I've been doing recipe development for quite a while now as a creative diversion and want to do freelance writing for other outlets. I would also like to one day write cookbooks. Developing a website that (hopefully!) features solid recipes and visuals is a small step toward getting some experience and exposure.

                  2. I am passionate about my topic (cooking with a lot of local, seasonal ingredients) and want to share my ideas with others. While it is something my family has practiced for decades, I feel that the message is a timely one given some of the issues in the media today.

                  3. At the very least, it's a way to keep in touch with friends and family (although my blog tends to be less of a personal diary than some).

                  4. It's a great creative outlet. I have a background in teaching and design so I love putting it all together.

                  As for what I've learned: the biggest thing I've learned is that it can be difficult to get exposure. There are literally hundreds of thousands (if not millions!) of blogs out there so getting noticed can be difficult. I've submitted to foodgawker.com which helped get some attention but the number of hits each day can really vary (plus foodgawker rejected my last two submissions because the photos weren't up to their standards!). At the end of the day, I'm really having fun with it and I did manage to get a freelance gig so we'll see where it all goes.

                  1. I've always loved food and photography (not that I'm particularly good at it)... and then Chowhound came into my life and someone started a thread asking what blog host site folks here preferred. As I read the thread it sparked an interest in me. I enjoy writing, sharing w/ others from near and far and being creative and the idea of learning some new techie internet stuff also appealed to me.

                    Three months ago I started www.mamaliciouseats.wordpress.com and it's been a huge learning experience. I've gotten a lot of comments from CH folks and that's always interesting to connect w/ fellow CHers outside of CH.

                    I write about family recipes, cooking, farmers markets, deli's, picnics, restaurants - basicly anything remotely related to food. I enjoy the creative outlet.

                    Oh, and the name... my 6 yr old son started calling me mamalicious a few months ago. It seemed like a no brainer for me!