Regarding the articles by Tan Hsueh Yun and Rebecca Lynne Tan

2010August07-NDP-22

I just like this photo, don’t read too much into it

I got a message from a very angry Camemberu which was preceded by another message from Julia. Both were referring to articles published in the Straits Times’s Life Section. Both articles were riffing off the recent food blogger non-event involving what appears to be an inexperienced PR person.

In any case, this is the first time I’ve seen Camemberu so worked up.

It had to do with Tan Hsueh Yun’s article “Temptations of a food writer” published on 28 August, 2010. With Singaporean cynicism being what it is, she does not have an easy time trying to show that her food writers are beyond reproach. But she is diligent in that respect.

I say that from experience because I once forwarded her a story told to me by a wine distributor that someone working for (or freelance) was asking for free wine to be delivered to and sampled at a Christmas party. Her response was fast and very thorough. The truth could not be established conclusively but I would say the investigation was carried out as far as it can go and the wine distributor said no more about the matter to me.

I don’t envy her position; it’s hard to show objectiveness when some of the restaurants reviewed can also be advertisers.

Unfortunately, the “Temptations” article can be seen as an attempt to capitalize on the food blogger incident and occupy the moral high ground. It smells of insecurity. It was also, I feel, an exercise in self-aggrandizement. I think this is where it rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.

I won’t bore you with the obvious but I did make some notes about the article that I’m curious about:

  • The article does not talk about restaurant or menu launches where the media is invited to sample the food (not strictly a review), more of an announcement. This, I think is a gray area.
  • Oft-times Wong Ah Yoke writes in the plural; his budget must be really large, or he’s very well-paid or perhaps he just has friends who go Dutch. If so, the question of objectivity arises, as in how much is he being influenced by his dinner companions?
  • If you rationalize about tasting the food sent to you, you’ve already compromised your integrity. Writing about those food samples that you “really really like” not only encourages people to send more, it kinda destroys the position the article tries so hard to occupy. Sort of like the man who says to the virgin: “Don’t worry, I’ll only put it in halfway”.

I think what people take most offence at was her final paragraph about greedy monkeys. I didn’t take offence but merely found it meaninglessly excessive to the point of being trite just like a everything-but-the-kitchen-sink Mentaiko Pasta recipe.

2010June19-Mentaiko-3

Butter-based Mentaiko Pasta Sauce – Simple, elegant and good to eat

Truth be told, I am more perturbed with Rebecca Lynne Tan’s article “Guidelines for food blogs?” published on the 26th August, 2010. It reads like a hack job with nothing more than a series of quotes from people, perhaps on a spreadsheet in Google Docs, strung together with no discernible point or conclusion at the end. Churnalism.

She writes that Brad and “other food bloggers” think that a code of conduct would be a good thing for the community but the rest of the article does not seem to support that view. But that may not be her point, which is my point.

But “blogging industry”? Blogging is merely a channel, a means to an end, it is an expression of gleeful creativity and freedom. It’s not an occupation, no matter how many success-challenged writers people try to convince you.

And to highlight the meaninglessness of the article, her final paragraph is a quote by a bank associate – and why not? since they’re experts at everything including the economy – who feels that it takes sophistication (whatever that means) and good grammar to be a New York Times restaurant critic.

2010July16-FoodFestival-72

So what’s my point in conclusion? Well, I’m a food blogger and I do not need to have a point. That is the freedom and essence of blogging, food or otherwise.

Perhaps this is the real reason people are trying to hate us.

Anyway, it’s a busy week for me and actually I do have a post about food blogging that I’ve been working on for a few months but for now, I am sure you will agree with me when I say that Laptop Greedy Monkeys would be a strong name for a rock band.

Polka!


Posted on 7th Sep 2010 in Musings

  —  

There Are 7 Comments

 

Nicholas commented on September 7, 2010 at 2:01 am


LOL I’m not sure when blogging became an ‘industry,’ but if had known, I never would’ve started :p


 

Camemberu commented on September 7, 2010 at 11:06 am


Ah so gentle, Ivan!

You nailed it on the moral high ground, insecurity, self-aggrandizement and the gray areas. But one more thing – it’s still “free” food for them, since the media reviewers eat on ST’s budget, not out of their own pocket (of course HY knows this and tries to say they also pay if they bust the budget – but the point is: they HAVE a budget). And on top of that, they get PAID a salary for eating and reviewing food!

“Greedy monkeys with laptops” is actually more childish and stupid, than offensive. But she was clearly quite proud of it, to use it as her finale sentence.

Agree that Rebecca’s story is strung together like a lazy report. But ultimately, with that banker associate quote at the end, I think her point is – why even bother with guidelines, when bloggers aren’t to be taken seriously.


 

ivan commented on September 7, 2010 at 11:22 am


@Camemberu: That’s because I don’t see it as an attack on food bloggers.

There is a more insidious group which I am writing about (for a while now). These people, I don’t like.


 

ivan commented on September 7, 2010 at 11:23 am


@Nicholas: I know! It’s too much work! 🙂


 

Missyglutton commented on September 7, 2010 at 8:21 pm


Great conclusion 🙂


 

Ivan commented on September 7, 2010 at 8:42 pm


I also like that say!


 

[…] if we begin to wonder if the taint carries down to the junior executives. After all, I noted in my previous entry that that self-rationalization, on the part of consuming freebies, is a slippery […]


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