Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Singapore Food Journalism - Distinguishing Authentic and Legitimate Food Views

Whether you like it or not, food marketing is everywhere these days. On main media and especially, on social media platforms.

You might be just an individual, taking food pictures for the fun of it. But once you establish a following, invitations from food establishments will invariably start to come.

That is when the line between honesty and hype starts to get somewhat blurry. And this is precisely where much debate has arisen over what are legitimate commentary and opinion pieces and what are not.

Frankly, I have often been caught in a quandary over saying what's true and not slamming someone when food is generally bad. Most folks will try to use the excuse that taste is subjective.

But that's essentially saying nothing. Not when half of the social media posts you see nowadays are just a regurgitation of press releases. In other words, the marketing people have done their job well. Getting the message across all the requisite media channels.

And it does not help when a large section of the social media influencers are doing this for the wrong reasons, not when the bulk of these people have no genuine interest in food at all. Heck, I doubt they even do any research, and rely solely on the media materials provided to them.

It is symptomatic these days that when a new dining concept or brand is launched, backed by a powerful media campaign, to see your media feeds populated by the same food photos captioned by the same messages.

This creates a problem and irony in that social media marketing has become totally unrepresentative of what a legitimate dining experience is like. We need to rise above this, and this is referring to the ones that have a matter of genuine influence and following.

Disregarding those that buy their way into the social media circuit, for this group deserve little respect for their totally false intentions. I am referring to the ones that still enjoy eating and cooking and sharing their gastronomy with the rest of us.

Yes, press releases are essential for the base information and agencies are crucial to get access to the owners and chefs for that direct extrapolation of data. But we also need to do additional research and gain experience along the way to fully comprehend not just gastronomy and culinary knowledge, but also to discern the good from the bad.

The fresh from the processed. The new from the old. There is so much to write and to opinionate beyond the official marketing blurb. And one of the best ways around this is to learn cooking.

Understanding how a dish is put together will equip you with the culinary insight to review commercial eateries and food. Looking around, I only see a handful of folks that I can count on for a reliable opinion on food. And that is counting the mainstream media.

Food journalism here is still in its infancy. Counting the main media, very little food investigation is done on their own. Most of the time, we are fed (pardon the pun) the places to go for our weekly broadcasts. This has made the food scene and food influencers partisan to the businesses that can spend marketing dollars.

That is also why hawker food is rarely covered in today's fast moving social media. Most street food vendors do not have the resources nor know how to engage PR consultancies to showcase their offerings. In fact, they are far too pinned down in their stalls to think of anything else.

These hawker heroes deserve the same media attention as the next big thing in Korean and Japanese food. As influencers with repute, we have that responsibility to exercise our influence beyond the big boys in the industry.

There should be a greater need for the folks within the community to understand the local food industry better too. It's easy to criticise, but it is even harder to substantiate that criticism with objective evidence and clarity.

Don't just say it's good or bad. Take the extra effort to expound on why you like or dislike something. That will give your opinion context, and subsequently, authority. Reviewing food is more than just saying "shiok", "chio" and "cmi". Being an authority requires clear writing and explanation.

If you are an influencer or a food blogger, evaluate why you are doing this. If you are in this for fame and money, here's a little tip. This is not the place to get rich and famous.

With the new tax rules affecting social media practitioners, you will need to turn professional to really benefit from this. And being famous (or infamous), brings along its own set of flak, stress and controversies that will not affect the regular person on social media.

On the other hand, if you love food and making food, this could be a great outlet from your daily work. Take the time to learn, and truly learn. This is the most important aspect.

With that knowledge base, you will not only feel authorised and empowered. You will actually appreciate the food that is put on your plate and develop a greater admiration and respect for the people working behind the scenes.

Food journalism needs to grow here. And it is already difficult with the befuddled ones having the wrong agendas. But there are those that believe in exposing, sharing and writing the great food stories of Singapore.

And when you can contribute a piece that can resonate with the food community, it makes doing this blogging and influencer thing, very worthwhile.

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