The Food Blog Code of Ethics

Today, the bloggers at Food Woolf and Spicy Salty Sweet launched a site hosting what they have declared to be the food blog code of ethics.

A number of things about this rub me the wrong way.

First, this was apparently a closed project between two individuals. They created a code of conduct and published it, asking other food bloggers to sign on. Many will. This will, undoubtedly, result in a higher visibility for these two bloggers. (I realize that this very post is contributing to that marginally.) Is this a scheme for such exposure? I don't know. Maybe they mean well. Maybe they are honestly concerned with the ethics of food blogging and responsible journalism. If so, though, why didn't they try to recruit others at the ground level? Doing so would have been the responsible and up-front thing. It also would have made their code stronger.

Second, the code itself is flawed. It has some parts that have nothing to do with ethics. For instance, it includes the statement, "We will not plagiarize or use images from others." Plagiarizing is clearly problematic morally, but equating it with using "images from others" is irresponsible. There are many places where it is appropriate to use images from others: you can get their permission, you can license them, you can purchase them, you can hire someone to take them for you. This isn't even including fair use. Yes, they probably meant "illegally using images from others," but that isn't what they said. In an open project, someone would have caught that.

Third, the code is created in such a way that it can't be opened or turned into an evolving document. They could start over with another code, but this one doesn't have a version number. They are creating a list of people who agree to abide by it. Changing the code will invalidate that list. This was sloppy.

This isn't to say that the majority of the code's content is bad. It isn't. Most of it is common sense: don't plagiarize, factcheck, cite your sources, disclose biases and potential conflicts of interest... on the other hand, most of this is common sense. I don't think we need it. People, however, will likely grab the little badge so that they can claim they follow it and pat themselves on the back (and get a link on the blogroll).

Comments

Hi Kitchen Hacker,

Thanks so much for your thoughtful post. We definitely believe that everyone's entitled to their opinions and you've pointed out some things we definitely need to clarify, particularly regarding images. We had intended to say "without attribution" - because many of our colleagues have noticed their photos (and their words) appear on other sites without any attribution.

We've been talking with friends in our blogging community about this for awhile, and finally decided to put something down. The code isn't static, and we're eager for feedback. So you if you have more, and would like to get into the conversation, feel free to email us.

Thanks!

Leah Greenstein

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