FOODSTUFF: position on food bloggers versus journos?

You’ve probably seen the foodie furore over this week’s Mail & Guardian article gone to the blogs.I know many of the personalities mentioned and enjoyed the article and comments immensely - and that’s not because I was mentioned!

For the record, I have a journalism degree which taught me about research, ethics, checking sources and finding news. It’s probably that training responsible for my spending far too much time researching a commissioned article than it’s worth. I have a speciality in food and wine writing, and generally get feedback from editors that they value my ideas and proposals, and enjoy the fact that my copy requires relatively little editing.

But… I’m also a food blogger. Unlike most bloggers, I post food-or-wine-related things that impress me, when I find the time and inclination. In other words when my paid writing has a gap and other responsibilities finish. There isn’t a lot of time left after being a wife, mother, property owner and occasionally spending time exercising or hanging out with friends. It’s my choice to kick back from technology at some point.

There are some excellent bloggers doing a brilliant job without payment, but not all rely on blogging to make a living (there are exceptions). I admire their daily dedication, but I also love paging through a glossy or hearing/reading the news on paper. There is no denying that we find content and context on the internet, even if we sometimes have to sift through the gossip.

But I’ve been at the closing end of too many regular gigs in South African magazines to know that print media is struggling through declined advertising, and it’s affecting the livelihood of many hard-working journalists. Fulltime staff are commissioning less copy because their budgets have been slashed. Blogs are partly responsible. Unless you’re in sport, business or politics, it’s practically impossible to make a decent living out of freelance journalism if you’re avoiding PR and advertorial - the standard payment has been R2 per word since 2000, when I returned from working in magazines overseas. If you’re lucky that pays a phonebill or two.

For me it’s well beyond worrying about a free media lunch or two, and who you’re going to have to sit next to. Print and internet bosses are all trying to figure out how to connect with social media and be relevant. Similarly, in the areas I write primarily about - restaurants and wineries - I’m hearing this winter that it’s even harder to stay afloat, fill tables or encourage splurge wine sales. Meanwhile more strikes from those with jobs. Anybody have any solutions?