“The sole aim of journalism should be service. The newspaper press is a great power, but just as an unchained torrent of water submerges whole country-sides and devastates crops, even so an uncontrolled pen serves but to destroy.” — Mahatma Ghandi.
With regard to the subject of food there is honest and educational journalism, but also some mediocre as well as bad one that is controlled by greedy, business and that is solely concerned in feeding people’s brains with a lot of worthless trivia, misinformation, distorted truth and superficial entertainment.
The problem is that with the continuous stream of media material and entertainment that we are inundated with in every instant of our lives it’s often difficult for people that are not media savvy to distinguish what’s good and what is not.
For instance: I have known restaurants reviewers who have been paid under the table by wealthy restaurateurs to write bad articles about other restaurants in order to try to discourage customers from eating there. As most people are very influenced by what they read in newspapers or magazines such articles can be so destructive to make a restaurant to close down and the people that work in them loose their jobs.
I also know restaurants reviewers that praise restaurants in their articles irrespective of their quality only because the restaurant’s owner they write about is a friend, therefore doing so they give to the public a distorted view of what the restaurant is really like.
Moreover I know that when it comes to writing about the celebrity chefs of the moment the amount of baloneys, hype and made up stories written in the media or shown on TV programmes is astonishing.
This is because in my experience modern celebrities can often be very vain and conceited about their success therefore when interviewed they can say lots of made up stories in order to look good, professional and likable to the public.
This said there are also genuine food and cookery journalism that besides entertainment is also focused on important social issues such as: obesity, food waste, food banks, food quality, in improving meals in schools, hospitals and care homes, health, food prices and so on. Unfortunately, those who write them are not always given as much space in the media as those who write trivial information.
One bad aspect of restaurant journalism, especially in London and the UK in general, is that it only inform people of expensive restaurants where many people cannot afford to eat and rarely or never of good eating places where one can eat well, have good service and spend reasonably or little. This is because eating out in Britain is often seen as a matter of social status or showing off one’s wealth. In other words in Britain the eating out mantra is: ‘You are who you are according to where you eat’.
So having said all this what can be the solution?
With regards to restaurants or food shops for the consumer the solution is in not only to rely on what one reads and sees on the media but to ask and listen to what people that have been to a restaurant or buy food in shops and supermarkets say, especially to those people whose tastes and knowledge of food as well as common sense one trusts. As for the food and cookery entertainment industry to realise that food education is not about promoting and glamorising celebrity chefs nor giving out millions of fancy recipes that most people cannot afford to eat but instilling historical food culture and passion and above all respect for food, the environment and for those animals that are used in farming
This is what people did and often still do in Italy. In short they know about good restaurants, bars, cafes, food shops and supermarkets mostly by reliable word of mouth and in that way they are never disappointed or waste their money in bad meals, lousy ice creams, inedible pizzas or bad coffee and so on.