Can I write a food column in Buffalo and not be bias?

I have worked in, operated, owned and opened restaurants in Buffalo since I was 16. I am 38-years-old. You do the math.

Restaurants by nature breed. They are incestuous. Chefs, severs and bartenders move amongst this scene with dizzy frequency. Restaurants open and close and employees migrate like geese. I would be hard pressed to enter a local eatery and not run across someone I have worked with before. It is not to say that Buffalo is small as much as it infers that I have gotten around; think migrating geese.

Here I am, striving to be a local food writer in a market where I have spent my life making a living. You name them, I know them.

I could be great at this. I have all of the contacts. I have spent more than two decades building relationships. I can get all the interviews and inside scoops. Everyone will talk to me. I have done my job well, burning no bridges and solidifying my place as a bona-fide foodie. This job would be fun!

My internal dilemma is how to write about ‘them’, my friends and colleagues.

My first article is in the hands of thousands of hungry Western New Yorkers right now. It wasn’t a review, it was more of a feature. No one’s feelings were hurt.

But eventually I will have to review, and what do I do then?


6 responses to “Conflict

  1. I have tried, for the first time, to include a poll. I have tried to edit it to read “if you are acquainted” but the edit won’t accept the the word “are”. Is there a limit on words/characters? I am pulling my hair out here!!

  2. ok, now it came up…ughh! I hate writing online!

  3. I actually read your article in ArtVoice and I didn’t know it was yours until I read this post. 😀

  4. Pingback: Economy of words « UB Fundamentals of Journalism

  5. Jennifer,

    Content: 4 Great topic. Bias in journalism is tough. Journalists try to avoid conflict of interest by not reporting on people they know. Yet, good reporters develop sources and then inevitably have to write about people they know well. Your value as a food writer comes from the entree and institutional knowledge you have. It’s a priceless asset.
    You may, indeed, find yourself conflicted when asked to review a friend’s restaurant or club. The best defense is honesty. You write what you think. Eventually readers/sources come to value your opinions. This might mean angering a friend, but most likely it will be less explosive than you imagine.
    Imagination is a marvelous gift. Journalists imagine all sorts of scenarios that never happen.
    Good ending, pushing readers to comment. Look at Chad’s post questioning if reporters should blog about topics they cover. We will talk a little about bias when we cover ethics, but you raise a great issue. I wish others would comment.

    Links: 2 I like the fact that you tried to include the poll, but don’t include links that don’t work. Instead, I would have liked to see a link to journalists, ethicists or bloggers talking about this issue. That adds value to the post. It gives it intellectual weight. It expands it beyond your experiences.
    Grammar: 2 There are some small errors in this post, including in the lead, which should say biased, not bias.
    Also, hard-pressed (which is also a cliche)
    Other cliches: run across and burn bridges.
    Also in this sentence, the “it is not to say” is awkward and confusing. Say what you mean.
    Buffalo is a big city, but…
    It is not to say that Buffalo is small as much as it infers that I have gotten around; think migrating geese.
    You have a tough, tight writing style. You use simple sentences well. Keep it up.

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