Omnivore - Dealing with a potential conflict of interest

There are many things that go on in the world of food writing that pose a possible conflict of interest. Restaurants offer free meals in exchange for reviews. Advertisers pressure publications for reviews and become upset if the reviews are not as positive as they had hoped.

I hope it goes without saying, but here at Creative Loafing we take our integrity very seriously. We visit restaurants anonymously, admit if we are recognized and always pay our own way. Our advertisers in no way affect whom we review or how positive those reviews are. A couple of weeks ago, when our Best of issue came out, my brother overheard a conversation in which a woman was claiming that we only give awards to our biggest advertisers, citing the winner of Best Seafood. Funny, we didn't give an award for Best Seafood. She must have been thinking of the Reader's Pick, Six Feet Under. I have no control over what you crazy readers pick, although sometimes I wish I did (Hooters for Best Looking Waitstaff? C'mon guys, have some imagination).

A few months back when my husband became the chef at a bar and restaurant in East Atlanta, I knew there was a potential for conflict of interest. The place is not somewhere I would usually review, and even if it were, I would obviously not write anything on it in this case. But it is exactly the type of place my colleague Cliff Bostock would cover in his Grazing column. I sent Cliff an e-mail saying that my husband was going to be chef at a new restaurant, and if Cliff wanted to write about it we would have to have full disclosure about the connection. Cliff sent me back an e-mail saying "Uh, I think I'll stay away from that." And that seemed like the end of it.

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