Larissa Dubecki is, as I’m sure almost all of you are aware, the No.1 restaurant reviewer for The Age.
In a comment piece she has let fly in spectacular manner about food bloggers, rampant compromising and basically all the general all-round sleaze she can fit into her magnificent rant.
Here are just a couple of the paragraphs:
“You see them on blogs the next day with really enthusiastic write-ups about how fabulous the venue, the food, the drinks and the owners are (always, mind you, with a little disclaimer at the bottom about how the writer attended as a non-paying guest – their integrity is scrupulous).
I’d love to go (I might even get my face in the social pages!) but, alas, there simply aren’t enough nights in the week. When everyone else is off having their fun, boring old me is off trying to slip into a restaurant unnoticed under a fake name so I might appraise it from an objective point of view to give consumers the best advice about where to spend their hard-earned. How about THAT for a shit sandwich.”
You can read the whole thing here.
Actually, I agree with many of her points.
And if the “Melbourne food blogger who is well known for approaching newly opened restaurants for a feed in return for a ‘review'” she refers to is who I suspect, then I share that disdain.
But, oh dear, she’s taken such a broad-brush approach.
It’s simple – not all food bloggers are the same.
Consider The Sauce regularly covers restaurants in the west that are extremely unlikely to ever gain coverage in The Age.
As well, while the writer may grumble about the “shit sandwich” she is so unhappily forced to eat, she works for a commercial organisation that accepts advertising moolah from all and sundry and which no doubt makes all sorts of deals along the way.
The Age and Fairfax are in the marketplace.
Such a high-handed approach would only make perfect, irrefutable sense if Epicure and The Age Good Food Guide carried no advertising whatsoever.
But they do.
And while The Age may be scrupulous about always paying for meals it reviews, is it such a stretch to mention the “media passes” its sports writers utilise to gain non-paying access to AFL games and much, much more?
The Age is also listed as a “partner” on the website of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival. The nature of that partnership is not disclosed, but naturally the newspaper can and does run heaps of stories about the festival.
As well, such a sweeping put down fails to acknowledge the good work that many of Melbourne’s food bloggers do.
This fact, by the way, is periodically acknowledged by The Age and its Epicure section themselves.
Indeed, they have helped Consider The Sauce itself on a number of occasions and I remain very grateful for that assistance – including two stories on the fabulous Westies: Dishes of Distinction!
Perhaps if I am to worry, the very real prospects of becoming an unemployed journalist should occupy my mind.
Truth is, though, the idea of becoming considered a flogger is much more troubling!
I started off reading it thinking it was reasonable, but changed my mind when she described her job as a sh*t sandwhich – surely she’s got one of the best journo gigs in the State! What she misses is that readers, such as me, are smart enough to know how her re owes differ from those of a blogger who has been to a famil – doesn’t mean the blogger’s experience is invalid. Keep up the good work reporting on our local eateries – most of which will never be visited by Larissa!
Thanks! Yes, the “shit sandwich” comment was odd, eh? Maybe a sign not to take any of this sort of stuff too seriously.
I have 690 blog posts related to food now… some places of which LD has never visited
Exactly. What LD doesn’t take into account is that blog readers are discerning individuals who follow those whose tastes/parameters mirror our own. I enjoy reading LD’s reviews but they are rarely for restaurants I can actually afford to eat at or in locales I can easily reach.
Great piece, Kenny—you make excellent points, especially in regard to the uncomfortable relationship between advertising and editorial.
Hi Caron! Yes, this writer may well be in a position to take this sort of stand. But in a broader context, the publication for which she works is just as compromised as we all are. As you know, Bennie and I prefer to pay!
Absolutely, and I’ve always admired that about your blog, plus your full disclosure at all times. You’re right, too, about the writer of that piece making generalisations: all blogs are not the same, as you point out.
I do too. but if there is a new restaurant and they have invited me… well fine am happy to help them
Larissa seems quite hung up on conflicts of interest for bloggers. But it’s long troubled me that her partner’s restaurant gets a fair number of mentions in The Age’s food section, yet I can’t ever recall seeing a disclaimer about his connection with the chief food critic. I’m not saying that she personally has given favourable press to his establishment, but there have been many reviews/mentions/quotes in articles without any reference to the connection that I remember.
Wow … now that I didn’t know.
I just did a Google search, constrained to The Age website only, for LD, her husband’s name and the restaurant’s name. The only disclaimer I found was one prior to the restaurant even opening.
In a very limited defence of Larissa Dubecki, I’ve seen more than one disclaimer about connections via her husband.
Back to the topic of bloggers, I am still dismayed that – thanks to establishments inviting bloggers – most new blog posts cover the same places, the same dishes, and have almost nothing to differentiate one review from another. Melbourne’s food blogs are becoming increasingly homogenous, and tedious to read as a result.
Hi there! Well she seemed very sniffy indeed about disclosure statements offered by bloggers, so I’m not sure why similar efforts should be deemed acceptable in her case. Another issue would be that while she would never review her partner’s place, she reviews over and over places with which it is in direct competition. Regardless of the realities and disclaimers and whatnot, perhaps it’s not a very good look as it opens her up to criticism.
Most people I’ve talked to about this – and the John Lethlean piece in The Australian – like myself are happy to agree with various of her points. But what rankles somewhat is the lack of acknowledgement that it is not really a black-and-white situation, be it The Age or blogger “events” that are being pondered.
Kenny’s disclosure: For some time I have been running Consider The Sauce Feasts in association with various eateries. The fifth, upcoming CTS Feast sees me for the first time actually entering into a business partnership with the restaurant concerned. Am I going to let this debate stop me? Nope. A CTS Feast is as much an endorsement of an eatery as is a positive review on my blog itself.
And it’s worth noting that a food blog doesn’t always have to be just about reviews. There can be newsy items, profiles, think pieces, non-food stories for broader context and so on. As well as the Feasts, CTS in partnership with FFB last year started the Westies: Dishes Of Distinction food awards. Soon I hope to be running a blogging course at a western suburbs community centre as well as doing some public speaking at service clubs and the like. There’s a bagel-making workshop with Michael Rosen of Rosen’s Bagels coming up, too. And I have one other Big Plan waiting in the wings that with a bit of luck may come to fruition before the year is out!
I used to follow blogs new and old much more assiduously but now basically just look for westie reviews wherever they may be. I do know that myself and my pal at Footscray Food Blog are thrilled to bits that the overwhelming majority of our blog and FB comments come from ordinary punters and not other bloggers. Though they are always welcome, too!
There is, it seems, something to be said for living and blogging in the west. And I don’t mean just the great food and the great people who make it! As a journalist, media nut and blogger, I take some interest in these sorts of stories and controversies. But by and large they come and go without much attention being paid. So I am largely clueless about the trend you lament.
I doubt, for instance, that the blogs to which you refer would write about – as I have in recent months – the Lutheran Longest Lunch at St Matthews in Footscray or the Seddon Cricket Club’s Multicultural Day! 🙂
Splendid isolation, eh?
Hi there 🙂 I couldn’t find any disclaimered articles on theage.com.au since 2011. No asterisk on a piece that awarded the place in question “Best food cafe” in the 2012 Good Cafe Guide.
I found 5 separate reviews of the establishment since Feb 2012 listed on the mobile version of goodfood.com.au… only one review from July 2013 had a disclaimer. So I do admit that sometimes there have been articles with disclaimers but apparently lots without also.
Which is not to suggest anything improper other than it’s a bad look to be criticising others when this sort of thing is happening in your own masthead.
Just in case it wasn’t clear… None if the articles I saw was written by Larissa Dubecki. However I still think it’s poor form not to add a disclaimer to a review or article about a colleague’s husband’s business.
mine arent and I am always happy to visit new places along the way. Occassionally we do have sponsored posts and things that the restaurant gives us
And nothing on the Lutheran Longest Lunch on The Age either! Looks like you scooped them, Kenny 🙂
Hi, just letting you know that a disclaimer runs every time Pope Joan is mentioned – look at page 2 on Epicure where all things legal go. Also in the front pages of the Good Food Guide, etc. I have never had anything to do with PJ’s mention or its reviews. And btw, the “shit sandwich” comment was ironic.
Thanks. Would welcome comment from you on the other issues raised here!
Me thinks LD is dissed by many bloggers because she is in fact a ‘real writer’. That is a pro with a real job; the respect of her peers, and fans just like me who appreciate her knowledge and lurrrv her dry wit. LD also knows how to use tricky concepts like irony to get you literal thinkers out there into a possibly injurious state of high dudgeon. Alas, many of you fell headfirst into her trap again, and now you all look like twats to us normal people. Sorry, I’m just the messenger – keep on flogging…
Normal? You don’t sound very normal to me … BTW, I am a blogger who has been a writer and journalist for four decades and counting – “a pro with a real job”. Though the difference between real and unreal when it come to delineation of “real” writers v “unreal” bloggers is very blurry indeed these days. Anyway, nice one digging up such an old post! Of course, “LD” – can I call her that, too? – no longer works for The Age.
Ha ha yes its a very old post and I’m just messing with ya – but in my opinion LD is often unfairly treated in online forums by people who don’t seem to get that restaurant reviews (particularly the great ones) are often eccentric, personal accounts of a singular experience.Lets face it anyone who can write can produce a restaurant review but honestly how many fans of the genre would want to read it? Not casting aspersions on your own skills with the quill – hope you have another 4 decades in the biz – A.
Fair enough. But the above piece was not written in response to a review. Another 4 decades in the biz? Bloody hell I most certainly hope not!