Food Blogging 101

Is the blogger the modern-day columnist? It's a boring matter of semantics, I know. But at its root is a less-boring matter of journalistic attention to basics. Since blogs are frustrating me lately, I feel like it's cathartic to try to analyse what works and doesn't work in your garden variety blog. I've been dipping into a book by Australian journalist Matthew Ricketson. I found that some of his comments on columnists came over like "doh! it's so simple!" explanations of why blogs can grate harder than an old piece of nutmeg.


"In this celebrity-studded age it should not be surprising that columnists are the stars of print media, displacing foreign correspondents. A good columnist brings knowledge, wit and personality to their publication. Readers develop a relationship with them. Bad columnists inflame prejudices rather than inspire debate. Charles Moore, editor of The Daily Telegraph in London, once observed that to write a successful column 'one was obliged not just to express an opinion but to shout it', which is why most columns are puffed with a certain theatricality that suffers from the law of diminishing returns."


"(One) category is the pundit, a Hindi word meaning learned and skilled; these days it is applied to senior newspaper people who pronounce regularly on any and every issue. Such columns express their views freely and forcibly; readers want to know their opinion on an issue.(...) It is still rare for a feature writer to express their opinion openly; the story, not them, remains the focus. Good pundits (...)apply broad general knowledge and experience to the issues of the day. Often though, pundits are little more than crude opinion-mongers or, what Westbrook Pegler, himself a columnist, once described as 'the deep-thinking, hair-trigger columnist who knows all the answers just offhand and can settle affairs with absolute finality three or even six days a week.' Their arrogance extends to their disdain for research, let alone getting out of the office to do any on-the-ground reporting work."


"(Another) category is growing faster than the Alien - the personal columnist. They may comment on the news of the day but more likely will regale you with the latest chapter in the dog-eared book of their life. (...)Many journalists are attracted to the prospect of personal columns: there is no messy research and you can say whatever you like about a topic you find endlessly interesting - yourself. (However) writing about yourself in an amusing or engaging way requires not less but more skill than the average news story.


"(Another) columnist is the specialist called on to write about a particular issue. They are prompted by a news event; they add expert knowledge and comment. These columnists stand a chance of not running out of steam because they write when they feel they have something to say and because most specialists are continually learning new things about their field. Not surprisingly, many special columnists are academics (...) The drawback is that many academics find it difficult to respond quickly and condense their knowledge into a readable 800-word piece."


Ricketson goes on to describe reviewing, which he essentially summarises as 'one person's opinion' before suggesting that to be successful, reviewing has to be regarded as a 'blood sport.'

"A review should be entertaining as well as informative. It is not a university essay, though it covers similar terrain. It is essential to give the reader a clear idea of what the (restaurant/book/etc) set out to do and whether, in your assessment, they succeeded. Whatever assessment is made should be supported by examples and evidence."

To paraphrase Ricketson: In other words, it is not enough to simply say the sauteed red snapper with rhubarb sauce was crap.


    meta-blogging! yeah!


    i love how i comment on my own posts. am i schizophrenic?

    one thing I was just thinking, is that blog-reviews are different to columnist-reviews in print media, because the author is able to publish lots of lovely full colour photos. and a picture often says a thousand words.

    also, I guess a blog review has an aura of honesty, because there is no suspicion of
    service-journalism. we assume the blogger is on the side of the consumer, rather than the establishment.

    however, blog-reviews in my experience are far less than reliable. i hate to knock the anarchistic media style of the blogosphere, but maybe some journalists get paid for a reason.
    maybe it's possible some bloggers succeed because they adhere to all those boring old journalistic norms.

    the blogs that don't follow traditional writing formulas, that still succeed, IMHO, are the ones that don't pretend to be expert commentary. kind of like - if you don't know shit, then take the blogger-as-diarist angle. and slang-tang shorthand it up. but you better have some nice pictures or funny things to say. otherwise, shut the fuck up.


    PS: my aggression is definitely not directed at anyone on this blog!!!


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