Lack of trust in reviewers
The public's trust for critics or reviewers seems to be waning and it is visible even in the media where we see articles that either question the problem or support a specific side, urging people not to trust the opposing side. This targeting is not limited to a single type of reviews either. Whether with film critics, book critics or – a more recent addition – video game critics, the same problem persists. Some of this distrust stems from simple differences of opinion but there is also the possible concern that critics might have a conflict of interest. To put it more simply, people think these critics might be bought.
For example let's consider food critics. Who from among the general populace can ultimately become a food writer or restaurant reviewer? What are the ethical rules these journalists must adhere to?
The answer to the first questions lies within the hierarchical management structure of a newspaper, for example. I'm sure that managers have set standards and set criterion for selecting the best candidate for the job.
Regarding the second question: They must avoid all conflict of interests and any situation that can damage their impartiality, respectability and credibility. To be more precise:
It is not ethical for a restaurant owner, partner or manager to work as a restaurant reviewer or food and beverage writer.
Those who continue to work as chefs should also avoid working as restaurant reviewers.
The articles should not be written by people who openly or confidentially work as PR representatives at a restaurant or for other companies in the food and beverage sector.
Allow me to skip right through feeble protests on how these people could act objectively or prevent their feelings more accurately causing their interests to interfere with their journalistic work. This goes against the principles of ethical journalism.
Even if we set aside the expertise facet of the issue and assume all the people who work as restaurant or locale reviewers are the foremost experts in their field, there are other issues to consider.
These reviewers must avoid freeloading tendencies. They must pay for every meal that they eat or the media organization they work for must cover the costs.
Our colleagues in this field must not accept gifts from owners of the subjects of their articles, avoid PR events and invites. They must avoid using their status to gain advantage for organizations or reservations.
Restaurant reviewers should pay attention to avoid bringing unfair competition. They must stand at an equal distance to every establishment, research properly and judge fairly when comparing them with one another.
Friendly relations with restaurant owners and managers that can cause puff pieces, must be avoided. In other words, promoting the places of people who are from our social circles while disregarding the ones owned or managed by people who are unknown to us is unacceptable.
The list can go on and on but it is clear the underlying message is actually quite similar to ethical guidelines that every journalist must follow. Simply put, hold the interests of people who you report for, not the people you report on. Advertisement in the guise of a review is not as subtle as you think it is.