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Ongoing Debate: Do Freebies Sway the Reviewer?

The debate about food bloggers vs. traditional print media vs. message boards vs. restaurants trying to manipulate all of the above contines to wage on. The Wall Street Journal discloses that bloggers accept free meals (shocker!), that Yelpers post favorably about restaurants that hosted Yelp parties (the cads!), and that restaurant staffers fill boards like Chowhound with positive reviews or stuff Best of Citysearch ballot boxes (no!). Yes, wading through the morass of online restaurant reporting can be tricky. But we've made the point before and still think it's sound advice: Find a trusted source, whether it's a regular Chowhound or Yelp poster with similar interests, or a blogger you think is completely honest (regardless if they eat for free or not), and that's who you follow. See, not so scary afterall. As for the shills, well, we'll continue to ridicule the sorry attempts. That's just how we roll.

The writer seems to imply that only online restaurant reviewers accept free meals, but that simply is not the case. There are plenty of print magazine, newspaper and guidebook writers who get comped meals. Some might use that visit for a critique, other use it to collect information for a story or roundup, but it's common practice. And it's not always for rinky-dink publications with no dining budget. There's a handy roundup of some websites' and blogs' stand on freebies. For the record, Eater LA's policy: Until the big expense account comes rolling in, we do accept the occasional freebie, which we will disclose in posts. However, we won't accept full comps if we plan to review the restaurant.
· The Price of a Four-Star Rating [WSJ]

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