There was a further thought on the issue of blogger ethics codes which I was going to include in my initial post on the subject, but decided not to. Coincidentally, it just happened to present itself again today. The question is whether this is just a blogger issue, or whether (as I think most people assume) print journalists are adhering to the standards described in these codes, and whether it's legitimate to expect them to.
Word out of Chicago is that Esquire restaurant writer John Mariani is making the rounds. Indeed, somehow it's common knowledge (to MenuPages Chicago, at least) where he's dining before he even arrives. MP Chicago gives a link that may help explain its Nostradamus-like ability to foretell the future, a story from a few years ago indicating that Mariani had sent a four-page list of requests to a restaurant he was about to visit, including requests to be comped for "everything from cab fare to his hotel bill." A later story in the L.A. Times took Mariani to task for non-disclosure of non-anonymous, comped meals.
Mariani still is apparently far from inconspicious. Here's something of a play-by-play of his current Chicago visit:
Not exactly the best example of following the American Food Journalists' Critics' Guidelines. But my point here is not to single out John Mariani. Though this may be a somewhat extreme example, it seems that often these rules can be honored more in the breach than in the observance even by "professional" journalists. Read this Wall Street Journal story on the Miami satellite restaurants of Scott Conant's Scarpetta and Alfred Portale's Gotham Steak in the Fontainebleau Resort and tell me if you think there's any chance the author paid more than one visit to either restaurant. Admittedly it's a bit of a fluff piece, and the writer did have the good sense to venture beyond the NY outposts and pay a visit to local product Michy's, so I'm not all that troubled (though it is curious that the local consensus seems to be that Scarpetta's getting it right and Gotham's got issues, and the writer had it contrariwise). This local review of a newly opened Italian restaurant, I Corsini, although it makes parenthetical mention of a second visit (in which the only dish described is referred to as "perfectly cooked" and "savory"), takes so much joy in describing the service and kitchen snafus from the first visit that it's completely lost in the shuffle. Was the service equally abysmal on the second visit? Is it fair to judge a restaurant based on "one appetizer, one pasta, two entrees, and one dessert"? Maybe so. Additional comments on the place seem to indicate the review was pretty much on target.
Particularly with newspapers cutting back on budgets and facing increasing competition from online media, it may be unrealistic to expect all of these rules to be honored by the traditional media outlets as well. Which really matter, and which can be compromised? The funny thing is, if I read enough of their work, it's always been pretty easy for me to figure out the reviewers I trust.