Drama in Bloggerland...

Have you guys seen this post? Melissa at Alosha's Kitchen posted a recipe--with credit...and her modifications. Apparently Cook's Country didn't take too kindly to use of their recipe without permission and asked her to remove the post.

The weird thing is...the degree of reactions to the blogger world. On the one hand, you get Cook's Country actually hiring people to police their recipes and on the other, you get people like Dorrie Greenspan who proactively go out and comment on people's blogs. ("Yes, use my recipes and tell us about your experience." Things went awry? She'll even chime in with some helpful tips.) I really respect Dorrie for that and consider it one of the qualities that endear people to her.

This Cook's Country incident shines a spotlight on a number of issues in the blog world. Should bloggers be held to journalistic standards? The premise of a blog is a bit of "dear diary" on the web...for all to see. Who knew they would become so wildly popular? (As a side note...I find it particularly amusing that journalists are now writing blogs as a job requirement...but that's another story.)

But the question is: Where is the line between blogs and true journalism?

It's a perplexing question for a number of reasons. At the recent Food & Wine Best Chef events, they covered this issue. How do restaurateurs handle bloggers? Since I bring a camera everywhere I go, it's been fascinating to see the reactions. My experience run the gamut...free dishes from the kitchen (oh, camera, she must be important!) to not-so-polite requests for "no pictures" (food is art, and that's considered proprietary.)

Word on the street from the Food & Wine event?

Ignore bloggers.

But is that really the answer?

Do you really want to ignore someone who will likely give you free press...and no matter how large their readership is...spread the word about you? Having worn a PR hat, I can assure you, it's ain't cheap to create buzz. If bloggers are going to come along and do it for free...do you really want to ignore it?

But then there's the issue of accountability. If you as a dining patron are holding that restaurant accountable for a good meal, should the restaurant hold you accountable for higher standards in reporting? Being on the internet and the supposedly anonymous place that is, it's no excuse for malicious or vindictive rants. That's the kind of thing that gets a "real" journalist fired. And unfortunately, it's the stuff that drives web traffic--good, bad, and the uglier, the better. (Hits are hits, right?)

My own role is just as ambiguous...and has me taking a giant stride back, and asking myself lots of questions. Yes, I've got backdoor access into some drool-worthy kitchens, and I've got more than a handful of friends whose name you might recognize. Over the past couple years, I've had some mind-blowing experiences, and many of them never make it to my blog. Looking back, I wish I had written more. Whether I held back or was just too busy...it's probably a combination of both, but I wish I wrote more.

I too am caught up in the ying-yang of the blogger world. I have a new writing gig over at Examiner.com. And since I travel with a camera and a notebook every day...after each and every event, people ask me when the post will come. (When will you write about me?)

Since I attend 6-7 blog-worthy events a week and I have a full-time job, unfortunately I can't write about everything--even the events I really wanted to talk about.

The notebook?

The camera?

I keep those close because at the pace I'm going...I don't want to forget my life.

So, ying-yang happened when I was invited to visit a friend at her restaurant gig. I came home giddy from the experience and wrote a post about it. (I worried about professional bias, but since there had already been tons of buzz about the place...decided I was in the clear.) And yet, days later I was bumping into a snag, "When did I give you permission?" Permission? It never occurred to me to ask permission. Camera, notebook, two blogs...and you're my friend.

Did I really have to ask for permission?

The answer is yes.

Ying-yang, you see? 99% of the people I deal with can't wait for me to spread the good love, and then I bump up against one person who changes the entire course. Yes, I need to ask for permission. Yes, I need to learn the rules of journalism. I should be held to a higher standard and I'm grateful for it. (Time and distance has helped temper my judgment. When it first happened, I was hurt and angry, for sure.)

It's a murky arena out in bloggerland. New rules are being written. It's that shifting grey area (am I a journalist or am I just a blogger? And what rules apply to me?) that is still sorting itself out.

My theory?

Higher standards are better for everyone...including myself.