Why I Don’t Write For A Newspaper/Magazine and Refuse to Accept Freebies…

The natural outcome of recent posts has been a question that has been asked of me publicly and privately at least 5 dozen times in the past year… and while I think I have expressed my feelings on the matter in comments before, let me outline them in a post once and for all.

Why Don’t I Write A Regular Food Column For a Local Newspaper or Magazine?

1. I don’t write professionally for the bizarre reason that I am not a professional writer. I realize that sounds like a chicken or egg situation, so let me elaborate. I majored in Finance and Pre-Law (magna cum laude) and went on to get my Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) in Corporate and International Finance from a top school where I graduated with distinction. All my life, English was not a favorite subject, and frankly, if I am to be realistic about my skills, my basic English skills are weak, 1,300 posts that have amused you notwithstanding. The more I learn in life, the more I learn what I don’t know, and perhaps what I don’t have a burning interest to know in my remaining 40-odd statistical years on this planet. And a professional writer I am not. I can’t even tell where to put the apostrophes and several of the books I have purchased in the past year to help me improve my skills sit on a shelf, lonely.

2. Just because I write adequately, as many of you may feel, does not mean that I would foist myself on the general public so readily. And since, as we have all seen, there is little or non-existent editing going on, I fear a column of mine in a newspaper would be more crooked than many of my posts, since the latter are often given an evil eye by Mrs. MM, who is far better at the English language than I will ever be. Saying that I could write equal or slightly better articles than what currently appears is not a safe starting point, at least not here, it may mean that the existing quality of writing leaves a lot to be desired. Though I must say there are some exceptions out there, and kudos to them for plodding on (Edit: To be blunt, since I have received some pointed comments below, let me say exactly who I read: I read Michaela Fenix, Margaux Salcedo, Teddy Montelibano, Lori Balthazar and Divine Mesina, and some others; I don’t get the Star, but if I did, I would probably read Claude Tayag’s column.)

3. But the real reason I don’t write locally is this… a matter of intellectual property and who will retain ownership of it. The last time I was asked to write for a paper, I was told that the average payment made to a columnist might be roughly PHP1,000 or so, plus a little more for any photos that I might add. Therefor, for say a food section in a major paper, at least when I was just starting out, I might be paid PHP1,500 for an 800-1,000 word article with photos. After a few years, I might earn as much as say PHP4,000 or more if I had achieve celebrity status of sorts. But here is the kicker. The paper (at least the one I am talking about) would insist that for the fee of PHP1,500, they would now retain ALL rights or copyright to the article and photos that I wrote. Well, excuse me. No way, Jose. I wrote the bloody thing. I took the pictures. There is no way I would sell the permanent rights for $50 or so. In other words, there is no way that many good writers would VOLUNTARILY AGREE TO WRITE A REGULAR WEEKLY COLUMN FOR A NATIONAL NEWSPAPER under those conditions unless:

– they get something else out of it… like referrals for business, or it attracts customers to a business they have on the side
– it gives them professional credibility that results in other work or income from another source
– it gets them freebies of some sort; such as travel for lifestyle writers, hotel stays, free meals, free giveaways, etc.
– or they simply want to pump up their egos and bask in the glow of some form of recognition or fame.

Now, I DO AGREE THAT THERE MIGHT BE A FEW EXCEPTIONS to these negative suggestions, and SOME GOOD COOD COLUMNISTS who do write for the sake of writing and some HAVE MANAGED to negotiate copyright retention, but these are few and far between, and it is usually someone who writes about a more obscure passion and who is truly dedicated to a cause that could benefit from the resulting publicity.

4. If the newspaper publishes my work in the form of a book, I understood that the paper would receive a lot of the earnings of such a book and perhaps me, as the writer, would get a small percentage.

So here is the conclusion. Newspapers pay peanuts (as Myra P puts it) and EXPECT TO OWN THE PERMANENT RIGHT TO THE WORK. No way I am going to agree to that. That isn’t how it is done elsewhere, and the practice isn’t going to yield them consistently high quality writers in the long run. What you will more likely get are frequently blatant, sometimes veiled infomercials of food items that run advertising in the newspaper, or hotels who have given free stays, or restaurants that have wined and dined PR and press folks. This is why the food section of many newspapers reads like a big press release. If you want to see a night and day comparison, read a couple of weeks worth of the New York Times Food section and you will know what I mean. And I must be BLUNT and SAY my comments here EXCLUDES occasional contributors who write on a particular topic, passion, etc. and often brilliantly, and do this just because they want to.

SO WHY DO I GIVE IT AWAY FOR FREE INSTEAD? Why do I have 1,300 “articles” on this blog, open to the whole wide world to see? And that attracts, 13,000 page views a day? Because I want to. And because I can. And because it is my passion. And because I enjoy it. AND I RETAIN ALL COPYRIGHT AND OWNERSHIP OF THE MATERIAL. And because I am not helping a third party who makes money out of advertising and selling papers to make more money. Because I don’t have to write about a product, restaurant or school or hotel that I DONT WANT TO, or that I think stinks. I am freer. More at home. Less beholden. More fun. More spontaneous. And almost totally anonymous. I ask from readers almost NOTHING (though I do ask for some comments or other similar efforts, and wait for this year’s charity event) in return. I mean, can you imagine my editor at a National Broadsheet allowing me to write about Shittybank (I just realized I have to post a conclusion to that)? About PIPC? About Ayala Land? About CebuPacific? About not throwing toilet paper into toilets? Get real, the editors would have conniptions and hives in a flash; even though, in retrospect, I have been correct in most of my assertions on those issues!!!

As for magazines, I think the local food magazines are significantly BETTER than the newspapers, though there are a lot of infomercials in some local magazines. I have been asked to write for several of them and I declined for many of the same reasons stated above. However, I do have to say that I HAVE RECENTLY WRITTEN two articles for local magazines, one a blurb on my favorite budbud kabog, and one on markets that should possibly see publication before the Christmas holidays. In both cases, I have not sought/accepted payments for the write-up and photographs as well. I have frequently tried to encourage global food magazines to feature Filipino food, and for the exposure it would bring the Philippines, I have ALWAYS offered to write an article for Gourmet, Saveur, Bon Appetit or Food&Wine for free, and even offered to tour a team of writers and photographers if they should ever send one to the archipelago.

Why Do I Refuse to Accept Freebies?

Ever since I started this blog, I have made it a strict personal policy not to accept freebies. I have NEVER accepted a payment or product in order to feature it on the site. I have graciously turned down or refused fabulous donuts months before they were publicly available, to the Kid’s horror, cakes, desserts, snacks, drinks, etc. I have turned down offers from hotels, restaurants and stores. I even said no thank you to size 11 shoes that were offered as a thank you AFTER I wrote an article about the product. I have declined sweets, veggies, and the list goes on and on and on. I am contacted by PR firms almost weekly, and by home bakers often. I have refused direct offers for payment so that I feature a service or product. I have always paid for the food featured in this site. There are a few tiny exceptions and they come from my closest sukis who have insisted I accept a bottle of their homemade vinegar, their latest herb, an orchid after the fact, and for these guys/gals who I have known for years, no amount of refusal would be accepted but they understand they can expect nothing in return. I think it is this REFUSAL TO ACCEPT FREEBIES that truly makes a difference on this blog. FURTHERMORE, I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO ADVERTISING ON THIS BLOG AT ALL! I don’t necessarily expect that all others will follow this rule. This is just me. I don’t think there are many professional and amateur writers out there in the Philippines who can say the same. And I think it DOES make a significant difference.

As for what comes next, obviously a book or compilation of posts is an obvious option. I am totally chicken in many ways. I refuse to do something half-assed. I am my own worst critic. But that is what makes this Marketmanila, and me, silly old Marketman. If you reached this far in the post, I am truly amazed that you have read all of it. You must have less to do right now, than even I do…heehee. Have a pleasant evening or day, wherever you may be on the planet. Thanks.


59 Responses

  1. I used to read lifestyle/food sections of a major newspaper but upon ‘discovering’ your site, I ENJOY reading your posts MORE(I don’t read nor watch about politics). It’s real, HONEST, and very straightforward. No other blogs can duplicate the information/inspiration(sharing tested recipes, tips,humor, etc.)you give to your readers. Thanks a million!

  2. Hi MarketMan! (this might be a bit of an overshare but here it goes) I actually write for a paper and I agree with your observations about the industry. However, I got into it early (I was in High School then)so my feeling toward it/experiences may be different compared to others. Up til now, I never truly understood the importance of retaining my intellectual property for the articles I write/picture I take. When I started, seeing my by-line was a reward in itself. I’ve received freebies/gone on trips but I’m proud to say that I’ve never written about anything that I don’t believe in. Though I admit that I am guilty for sounding like a press release sometimes :( Thankfully, I’ve never been put in an awful situation that I couldn’t handle (I’ve heard of blatant ‘envelopmental’ press events, PR persons from hell, etc) and I still have a say about the topics I write about. After all these years, the best thing for me still is getting a sincere ‘thank you’ from a resto owner surprised by a review I wrote (I paid for my own food, thank you). Your post stirred up some thoughts/made me rethink about my “career”. Thank you. I will think of you when I write my next piece.

    Thank you for your opinions and for sharing your knowledge about anything and everything(thank you for helping me with my thesis!). Good day!

  3. I like the way you write. Your articles are full of content (not just bola and pa-cute), and yet it’s such a light read. :)

  4. I think it’s admirable that you have chosen the internet as your medium to express yourself. But I feel you have also been unnecessarily insulting in accusing local writers of agreeing to work for print simply for referrals, professional credibility for other vested interests, freebies or as nothing but an ego trip. I think you missed that just like yourself, for your blog, more often than not, a writer just wants to write. And if print is the medium that he chooses – as the internet is yours – don’t persecute him or look down on him for it. It’s true that we are paid shit for our work – not even peanuts – peanuts cost P45-P50/kilo now – we get far less for the value of the work we put in. It’s insulting, it’s true. (The magazines are worse – just recently Summit asked bloggers to write blurbs for them for free! In the guise that’s it would be for a “blogger’s page” or something. Inquirer does not generate for the food writer the $82000 annual that good ol Ruth got at the New York Times in her day but at least we get our peanuts and on time – this one with Summit was really robbery!) But back to the point, which is that sometimes a writer just wants to write! Writers are artists too, in a way, and we need an outlet. We need to express ourselves, to communicate, to share what we’ve discoverd, share what we know, share our stories. Just like you do for your blog. You yourself said you have offered to write for Gourmet for free. That’s less than peanuts. But, of course, it’s GOURMET. What, Food Magazine here is beneath you? Appetite Magazine just for the “trying-hard”? Yummy not yummy enough? Excuse us Third World citizens if print in this country doesn’t meet your standards. (Or your fees.) Forgive us if we’re not the New York Times or Gourmet, whom you would work for less than peanuts for. Sure, maybe the standards are not up to par – God knows I’ve read some horrible writing in this country and I’ve even had my share of bad days … But it’s what we have. It’s what our people can buy. It’s what our people read. And you know what, there are people out there hungry for the information you can send out who don’t have internet, who can’t log in to nytimes.com and ready Bruni (people who actually don’t know and don’t care about Bruni or Per Se’s four stars), and who have never heard of and can’t afford the P300 high brow magazines. They too would like to hear about how the Marketman made sinigang sa santol (oh but sorry, he’ll only write for Gourmet, for more exposure for Filipino cooking – but never for a local publication). In fact, they’d care more about your sinigang sa santol than Joe in California or Pierre in Southern France would. … And you don’t have to be a sell out when you write for print. You need not give in to the freebies or agree to go to openings – how do you think I get the gall to say that Ebun’s kare kare isn’t that great or that Som’s pad thai was curiously bland or that Tsukiji’s tempura is totally not worth the P600 you paid? But you CAN give a good backgrounder on MANGOSTEEN.You CAN tell people how ensaimada SHOULD TASTE. You have the gift. (In fact, I’m a fan!) And maybe the paper or magazine won’t deserve it. But the Filipino people do. And if there’s no ego-boost in the fact that it’s not Gourmet, so be it. Geez. Just write!

  5. Just to let you know that I visit your site often precisely because it has no ads, and, knowing you don’t accept “freebies”, you will always tell it as it is.

    Take your time, MM and come up with your book one of these days.

  6. i highly doubt that the reason MarketMan offered to write for an international food magazine was because he wanted the recognition for himself, I think his point was to get international attention to the Philippine cuisine, seeing as there are still a lot of foreigners who haven’t got a clue of what our country has to offer.

    MM, great job on your blog and your honest, no-frills posting.

  7. MM, I think a lot of reader’s would agree with what I’m gonna tell you about everything you wrote.

    Simply said, “Thank You Marketman for doing this.”

  8. It happens to a few of us, through fortune or hardwork or a combination of both you were able to emancipate yourself (early) from having to earn a living. You have developed a taste for living well, you have brought your skills up to your (exacting) standards and you want to share it with the world in order that it may share and benefit from your passion and experience so you start a blog. There is nothing that comes closer to experiencing love as sharing discoveries with like-minded people, kindred spirits if you like but you also expose yourself to that constant proportion of humanity whose only reason for existing is to hold in check the enjoyment of others but that is truly a minor annoyance compared to a significant number who automatically assume you are doing it for an eventual pay-off, maliciously second-guessing your intentions which is simply to let some goodtime be had by all. Why is that so hard to grasp?

  9. I don’t reckon I know a lot. I don’t have an MA, or PHd, or BVD — I wear “karsoncillos”! I do know this: You are an excellent communicator. You have your point of view, your idea, your story and you get it across to me and everybody else without muss or fuss or insult. You get to people with your words and nobody needs a Funk & Wagnalls to read you. The bottom line is you get to people. You communicate. Do not underestimate this gift. It is much more than a lot of “writers” have but should aspire to.

  10. Nobody owns you and you do not owe anybody! You can exercise your freedom to write anytime you want to. You own your clock and whatever mood your in that’s what comes up in your passion for writing – foods, flowers, rants, market offerings, etc. and I enjoy every bit of what you write in precise, succinct, passionate, witty and articulate manner. Your photographs are fantastic and pleasure to look at. Your features are variables that’s one thing I am hooked on your blog. I always have a surprise feeling every time I go on your blog – I am clueless as what you posted in for our reading. Long story short you are doing a wonderful, amusing and fabulous job with your own energy and resources. Keep up the rewarding and entertaining passion. You are the most populated blog I know of and most of us commenters are employed or self-employed in a highly competitive job market or tending to the needs of our families, or have enough to stay home and enjoy the day. You have people skills. When issue arises you know how to address them well. You are the best!

  11. It is a juvenile way of saying it, but this last article added to your ‘pogi points’.

    This means that when we read something that you write, you are truly expressing what you think and not trying to push a product or please a publisher.

    Mabuhay ka, Marketman!

  12. I was a lifestyle writer in my past life in Manila, and recently started freelancing for a suburban Toronto newspaper here, and unfortunate reality is that the NY Times and any Conde Nast publication are more exception than the rule in terms of content and payment. Although Canadians have alot more respect for intellectual property (my Freelance Agreement does give me copyright retention), pay is still peanuts even in the 1st world. For national Canadian magazines, pay has remained stagnant at $1/word (maybe $2/word for top US magazines) for the last 10 years. It’s not surprising that many editors also tread a (very) fine line between editorial and advertising/PR. Its just the nature of the publishing industry, I think. My Malaysian journalist friend also sees a parallel coziness between editorial and PR in newspapers/glossies in Singapore and Malaysia. Even Vogue’s Anna Wintour was at some point mired in controversy with all the free gowns (or were they deep discounts?) that she received from fashion designers.

    I think a good writer should be able to distill news pegs, if any, in a press release (e.g. a new emerging food trend perhaps?). When I was in Manila, I usually treat them as story leads, and tried to look for the bigger cultural picture. Having said that, I know of several writers and columnists who turn to the power of the pen for more self-serving purposes like you said, whether business referral, personal recognition, or just take advantage of the perks of the business.

    A relative’s business was recently written up in a national broadsheet (not PDI). When he pointed out some factual errors to the writer, the editor wrote him back to say that to make up for it, they would do an additional write up on his other services…if he’d let the writer try them for free as they have no budget for it. It sounds terrible, but not uncommon when I was still living in Pinas.

    Margaux, I’m surprised Summit is really pushing the envelope asking you to write for free. When I was in Manila, they were known to pay with Robinson’s Dept. Store gift certificates. That was bad enough. But making money off someone else’s ideas seem just wrong; and shows a utter lack of respect for intellectual property, I think.

    Anyhoo, MM, I think you are very fortunate to have the luxury of your own space, and, by extension, your own voice. This kind of freedom is what many writers considered the Holy Grail. You’r right, a story on Shittybank would probably be killed, or a rant on Cebu Pacific certainly wouldn’t find their way on any Summit magazine. Because always, it seems management (or an advertiser) have their fingers on editorial content, especially in a claustrophobic publishing industry like Manila.

    But writers do try (or, at least, my writer friends do) to not go down the advertorial-ish/infomercial route. I’d like to think many are creative, enthusiastic, and intelligent enough to string together a legitimate feature, and go past the goody bags they’ve received or the junkets they’ve been invited to. It’s a challenge, but they try to focus. I understand your skepticism; but I wouldn’t dismiss local lifestyle editorial as a total PR write off either.

  13. you know sometimes I cannot relate to some of your experiences especially the international ones, but when you write about it, its so simple and true and “walang bahid ng kayabangan”. That’s what I like best in you.

  14. Actually, I really revere your lack of pretension. Marketman a write? I won’t kiss your ass, instead I will be straightforward, you area nice person but does not have a gift in that department. Sure, you can write pretty good English, but the style and the way it words are quite obvious. Connie Veneracion of Pinoycook is definitely a writer, read the first lines and you are hooked. It’s not the course you have taken , it’s the flair—that cannot be learned in any school or book. But you have taste.

  15. I think that to claim not to be a professional writer and having weak basic English skills and then offer to write articles for international food magazines seems rather disingenuous to me.
    It is about the eventual pay-off…the book. Nothing wrong with that, just business savvy, that’s all. Good luck with your business endeavor!

  16. Chinachix, in defense of Summit, they stopped paying with GCs years ago. They may not pay much, but at least the check is never late/lost.

    As for the free blurbs…I’d like to think it wasn’t a straight-out case of kuripot. Editors work with a very tight budget, so maybe in an effort to manage costs, they chose to view blogger blurbs as “quotes”? Sort of the way gossip mags don’t pay for celebrity features/quotes. Could it be that popular bloggers now fall under celebrity status? My guess is you said NO anyway, lol.

    Margeaux, wouldn’t it be great if editors could afford to have truly anonymous reviewers ala Mimi Sheraton? In her biogrpahy she said she never attended events/accepted free meals in order to conceal her identity from the resto industry. She’d wear wigs, hats, come at odd time, order ahead through dinner companions… all this effort just so she could taste the food as it is normally served and give it a sound review. Identifying her became every maitre d’s raison d’etre. MM is the closest thing to Mimi that we have here.

  17. Not only does the power of internet make the world seem smaller but it also brings out the writer in us. With a few keyboard strokes your innermost and even mundane thoughts, including brilliant ideas proliferate the net in an instant. No matter what kind of medium you use, be it on paper or blog, (paid per word or gratis) all writers are alike; the knack of transforming spoken and unspoken word in to written form for everyone’s reading pleasure.

    MM,keep plodding on.

  18. re: freebies

    i see nothing wrong with accepting it for you to notice or give someone’s product a try. just because you accepted a freebie doesn’t mean you HAVE to give favorable reviews or write-ups. doing so will be the ultimate sellout. you think you have to give only favorable reviews in exchange for the freebies — that’s a Filipino mentality. the fact is, you don’t.

    how is it that it is okay to receive freebies in the technology field (e.g. getting a free iPhone or the latest gadget) to write a review yet it’s not okay in other fields, say food/entertainment to do the same thing?

  19. MM, nagpapakatotoo ka lang. ang iyong mga sinusulat ay binabase mo sa mga karanasan mo … you tell it like it is, no BS, no pussy-footing. and since this is YOUR blog, shempre yo can write whatever you want in it. kaya nga it is refreshing to read your ramblings … walang pa-cute, hindi nagpapa-pogi, and i kinda like your brand of humor, the sly digs, the wry self-deprecating lines … i look forward to a thousand and more posts, and i wait with bated breath. you may have stepped (and still will step) on some toes and bunions along the way, but that’s all in a day’s work for you. write on. i cherish the day that my dear kooky friends yolly and bevs told me about your blog and i looked it up. i never stopped reading, i never stopped looking. you always make my day.

    bravo! :-)

  20. My lifestyle can now be said to be like that of a hermit—a bit isolated but then so connected to the world via Internet. I had my share though of “struggling” with intellectual property rights…especially when we (friends and colleagues) were moving for just the right compensation and billing in childrens’ books. Of course, producing these books was still sheer fun but dialogues with publishers and writers were our only venue to air our sentiments. Iba talaga kapag collective ang effort (andaming compromises) kaysa mas individualized. Print media is collective and blogs are God’s gift to free speech and expression! Thanks for your passion, MM! You’re entitled definitely to whatever you have to say…and I know you say it out of conviction always. That for me, is an important element in journalism.

  21. You write exceedingly well and i enjoy your prose very much. And your posts on food, travel, other things besides aren’t only highly informative but are almost always written in a style infinitely better and more interesting than that employed by personalities regarded by the clueless as this country’s top food/lifestyle writers. i still think a credible publication (e.g., Businessworld’s High Life which reimburses writers who advance money out of their own pockets to pay for food in restaurants being reviewed) the Makati Business Club’s magazine, Philippine Business, Rogue Magazine (investors include Inigo Zobel; the publication’s contributing writers generally can afford to pay their own way when reviewing food and restaurants); Town & Country, Philipine edition whose writers mostly come from the same group writing for Rogue), among very few others) could use an unbiased article from you on food, travel and other related subjects. Manila, nay, this country, sorely needs someone with taste as fine and discriminating as yours to give a really good guide and an objective (personal) view on such matters…

  22. MM, I truly appreciate your posts that are honest, witty, insightful and stem from your wish to share with your readers. You do have the gift and the generosity to share it with others thru your blog. I also am with you in most of your rants and raves.

    But let us not belittle nor impute such low motives on those who write for a living. (I am with Margaux on this.) As the phrase “write for a living” implies, they are not as blessed as to be able to refuse payment or freebies. Some are good writers but need to rely on their writing for their daily needs.

    Having said that, I would also say that, as writers who are paid for their work, they have the added responsibility of having intellectual honesty and creative originality. They owe it to their readers to write good articles and to give the appropriate credit where necessary.

  23. Chinachix and MyraP, that was informative. So, please tell me that the advertising revenues that publishers get are not enough to give writers decent pay? No wonder many periodicals and magazines have less good writers! I advertised full page in one popular fashion magazine and it cost me about P95,000.00 including VAT. The same fee for full page ad in a major daily. With the proliferation of blogs, I call on the academe and continuing education to strengthen basic English and writing skills! I will enroll na rin. Thanks guys and gals, I will start reading the books about writing that I purchased 3 years ago and is gathering dust! Great if I can enroll in a class too. Enterprising individuals, this is an opportunity area!

  24. by the way, i just read all of the comments so far and may i just exclaim, BRAVA! MARGAUX! you articulated your thoughts on Marketman’s entry so well! BRAVA!

  25. it’s the matter-of-factly style that i love about you MM! Your topics are interesting and fun to read. I look forward reading it every single day. Like the rest of the guys, you also make my day.

  26. I admire your principle and passion Marketman! One time we gave a simple gift to show our appreciation to an Embassy personnel after a study tour. He said,I cannot accept your gift, in our country that is a form of bribery. I was impressed!

    As they say, I hope you tribe increase Marketman.

  27. Okay, let me clarify a bit. I do not think ALL local food writers only write for the benefits or the money. I agree completely with a lot of what Margaux states; and I DID leave room for the exceptions from my negative statements, which gladly, two of the exceptions are readers of this blog and have left comments here. I do read many of Margaux’s articles and like them. I do always read Teddy Montelibano’s articles and like them too. However, if you do a real analysis and review copies of the last 200 food articles in the food sections of the major dailies, then you will see just how heavily laden the articles are with press releases, product launches, etc. I haven’t done an actual analysis, but off the top of my head, I would say at least 60-70% might fall into the “hmmm, do I want to read that” category. That is the basis for the comments, I am writing about the norm, not the exceptions. And it is the NORM that will impact the vast majority of readers. As for writing for the sake of writing, BRAVA! and BRAVO! That is the MAIN reason I DID agree to write an article for YUMMY on a topic close to my heart. And unlike Margaux, doing it for free didn’t bother me. Actually, I think Yummy is one of the better local food magazines (which as a newbie, is NOT heavily laden with ads) and I did agree to take no pay and I do retain copyright of my photos as well. I wrote the article because it was an interesting topic and no, I do not get recognition other than as Marketman. As for the papers, as Margaux suggests, I have offered to write for free as LONG as I retain copyright to material and photos and so far no one has offered that. So saying I wouldn’t write for the sake of informing individuals is simply wrong. I do it on this blog. I would do it for a paper. But I want to retain the copyright. Why should I give it to the paper for less than peanuts? As for writing or helping Gourmet, one of the other commenters got it right, I wouldn’t be writing for recognition (and if I used my real name, even more so everyone would be clueless) but rather for the attention it brings to Philippine cuisine in general, as anyone who has read this blog for some time knows, that is a pet concern of mine. As for restaurant reviewers, I still stick to my personal view that this job is best done when you are unknown. Margaux is one of the few I know that does not say only good things and is the only one on print that I can say isn’t fully positive. However, if I were to review restaurants for a newspaper, I would want to visit a restaurant at least 3 times and bring 3-4 people with me so that we would be able to try a lot of the food under several instances…that alone would cost PHP15-20,000, so you see why a restaurant review done that way would cost too much for the “tight budgets” of the local papers. And WHY do they have such tight budgets when they have so much advertising? Furthermore, besides content of the articles, one must look at the profession or permanent source of income of the writer… many are owners of restaurants themselves, have shows, run cooking schools, etc… and that makes it even more necessary that they conduct themselves as professionally as possible. At any rate, I welcome and appreciate everyone’s comments.

  28. I know people think they can remain objective despite receiving a present. But I would say that is extremely difficult. If one flies you to Palawan, books you in a well known hotel and feeds you for three days, but you have a mediocre stay, how many writers will really write it like it is after you have agreed to accept say PHP40,000 in travel and hotel freebies? Not many, I would think.

  29. Way to go MM, I (and I’m sure most of your readers) really admire your convictions! It’s great to know you enjoy what you’re doing, we feel your passion and honesty in your posts — which really keeps us hooked :) I make it a point to visit your site everyday, it’s a refreshing break from the stress at work :) Keep it up!

  30. Dear MM,
    I know I am just repeating thoughts brought forward, but feel I need to express them myself also. Much as I have truly enjoyed and learned from your myriad posts, appreciated your style of writing, I have a dissimilar view.

    As previously noted, you do indeed have the luxury of having made your living, and this is the difference. Writers have to make a living to feed, clothe, educate, shelter themselves and their families, among the most basic necessities of life. As noted above, they are artists, their medium is print, and this is how they can make a living. Perks come in any job, just as long as they are honest on what they write and are not swayed by the free products (which may be the only way they can try the product because they or their employer do not have the budget), then they are still speaking their truth. I still expect them to have the knowledge and writing skiils of a good professional writer, though.

    I am not familiar with the local Filipino food magazines or newspapers but guessing that they do not have the budget and reources of those other great magazines and newspapers, then they may not be that bad afterall, gauging from what I’ve read on the comments of the various blogs so far. I still believe in our Pinoy talent.

    Let us express our opinion but embrace tolerance, kindness, magnanimity without put downs. Yun lang po.

  31. Well, as for me, I’d rather read you than most of the professional writers in there.. I could relate more with you than them, and I think that (relating to) is very important if you want to have good and widespread readership.

  32. “I know people think they can remain objective despite receiving a present. But I would say that is extremely difficult. If one flies you to Palawan, books you in a well known hotel and feeds you for three days, but you have a mediocre stay, how many writers will really write it like it is after you have agreed to accept say PHP40,000 in travel and hotel freebies? Not many, I would think.”

    I couldn’t agree more.. I’m definitely not a writer, but as a reader, I want to read something that I KNOW is true; It’s not supposedly so much of a reason (although let’s say it gravely affects the writers) that the writer is trying to make a living so he or she does this or that, why, aren’t we all trying to make a living (or even the lamer reason that the publishing company has no or tight budget, like DUH??!?)?? Because really for an artist (as some of you claim writers are), for me it comes as though you are “boxing” yourself.

    I think, it all boils down to convictions, where do you draw the line? I think this is what MarketMan is pointing out, it has been very clear for him from the start where his limits are (or what he could and could not do, or what he would and would not do), and from there his creativity and passion works. True, he probably is more privileged than most of us, BUT IT’S NOT THE POINT. I don’t why people (and I mean not the just the writers) refuse to get out of their “boxes” and tolerate this kind of “reality”?

  33. MarketMan, you’ve certainly stirred up some discussion here! A couple of comments:

    1) Newspapers in the US pay peanuts too. Some magazines do as well. Making a living from full-time food writing is difficult in the extreme.

    2) Offering your services for free diminishes your appeal, at least in the US food press. Major US food magazines assign articles to professional writers, and part of being professional is expecting – nay, demanding – to be payed for your services.

    If you’re serious about wanting to raise the profile of Philippine food in the overseas press by writing for one of these mags, then the way to do it is with a well-written, thoroughly-researched pitch backed up with a few excellent clips (which can be from your website). Getting published in the likes of Gourmet requires much, much more than dangling a freebie.

  34. Hello MM and all,

    The comments seem to focus on the dilemma of what is acceptable or not acceptable in the writing profession when in comes to gifts and freebies. I am obviously not a writer, but I think there would be a code of ethics written by writers or journalists to govern these issues. There is a real danger, I believe, if rules of morality or ethics were allowed to change on a case to case basis.

    A friend expressed surprise at the practice here in the Philippines of interviewees “treating” or paying for meals with interviewers/writers. She said in the UK, the writer/interviewer would have to insist on paying her bill to comply with her magazine’s code of ethics.

  35. hi,

    i’m a fan of mm, lori and yummy. i was first a fan of lori’s fantastic photos and so realistic descriptions before i discovered the world of MM. i agree that you are not the best writer around in terms of composition. and that you are not the best food stylist and photographer. but i also agree with most of the comments posted here that your blog is so refreshingly real. i know that when you say it’s good, it’s really good. we believe what you say.

    i’ve always wanted to be a writer but i know that is not the practical route. i never found enough time to blog or to simply jot down my thoughts, but i plan to, in the future. you are very fortunate to indulge in this luxury in writing for the sake of writing, and in publishing it in your own terms.

    i also feel for the food writers here in the phils, im sure most of them would want to remain as objective as possible. smart readers can easily differentiate REAL foodies from those wanting the additional press release. all im saying is, i wish there was a wider form of exposure and publicity for the REAL foodies out there. for one, i think yummy’s creation is a step in the right direction. but i honestly crave for more events, organizations or simple EB’s that will bring together the food “passionistas” in the philippines.

    many filipinos love their food and would love to share their experiences with others. i just wish we could all find a darn venue.

  36. Deanne, if you’re interested in foodie events that bring people like us together, the Salcedo Saturday market has cooking demos once a month, right there in the park. I believe the sked is posted on the bulletin board at the entrance. It’s not too hi-tech, but it’s a great way to meet people who share your interests. Actually, just being at the market and getting to know the people and vendors there is fun in itself. People are very chatty there :)

    Yummy also has a cook-off at shangri-la plaza mall on Sept. 30. This is more of an event-event, and maybe you can meet other readers/writers/staff who will attend.

  37. wait a minute… am I wrong, this is a BLOG right?! I expect that its about the bloggers experience (a diary on the net???) and not an ad of something. I know some blogs have gone on different directions but I am a fan of this one because its just that… a blog, MM’s blog. His decision to stay a blogger and not a write for any paper/magazine is part of his own experience and that’s just it. We may have our own views but… we are really not MM… WE are lucky he shares his experiences and thoughts with us.

  38. Hi Robyn, you are utterly correct. And actually the freebie dangle about Gourmet is a side comment. The emails I have sent the top magazines in the U.S. have really covered the issue of Philippine cuisine as a whole, not Marketman or Marketmanila. I have invited many of them to come see the Philippine markets to see the produce, and the food made by good local cooks, etc. It was more to obtain coverage for Philippine cuisine as a whole. And as part of that offer to help, I did offer to bring folks around the country to places where they might be interested, to markets, small artisanal bakers, smoked fish and fermented fish makers, etc. I also offered to line up local chefs who could show them the dishes, give them a feel of the local cuisine. It was definitely much more than a probalby horrific marketman article. I have been at this for two years. And while none of it may be a result of my badgering, several articles, albeit brief, have come out in the top magazines recently that feature Filipino food. Saveur with its new editor and his personal love for Southeast Asia will be an interesting twist… As for writing in the Philippines, I have thrown down the gauntlet at all the top papers/magazines with this post, in effect… I would happily try to write them several well-researched, properly attributed, interesting food articles for FREE, as long as I retain copyright over the article and photographs. I would rather NOT get paid $20 bucks and they get to publish the article in their own books that are sold to the public in the thousands… That would sound like a good deal to me if I were an editor on a tight budget with an eye for real food writing.

  39. those comments will inspire you more to continue what you love doing and what you do best. keep up the good work mm!

  40. This is only my personal opinion, but food writers who have never accepted free meals, free food, free demonstrations or classes that would otherwise cost money, free trips, free hotel stays, free produce, related gifts, etc. are probably few and far between. If you add to that food writers who do not have an obvious related interest, whether they take advantage of that in their writing or not, and by this I mean a cooking school, a restaurant, an HRM school, a retail establishment, home baked goods or food products, other items of a commercial nature, and you have crossed out most of the food writers who write for the major newspapers. Sassy Lawyer is probably one of the few who I might guess would pass these “screens” but I don’t get the paper she writes for so I haven’t read too many of her columns. I realize I sound extremely strict in what I would consider to be the screens for a food writer I would be more inclined to read, but that is just my personal opinion. Obviously millions of folks don’t really think it is an issue and are more than happy to read the food columns in most of the major newspapers…And if I were to talk about other lifestyle writers… my wild guess is that the odds of finding ones who have not received related gifts is probably even higher… If national newspapers were serious about journalistic ethics, why not state outright that individual writers receiving freebies (or who push their own related interests) is completely unacceptable (but leave room for the test kitchens, etc. to test new products released and forwarded to the magazines writing/editorial team)???

  41. I see this blog as very admirable, making my life better and at the same time lighting up people’s days. MM simply makes people happy. If this isn’t a good thing, then what is?

  42. Here are some interesting internet links on ethics in journalism… I think any serious journalist, food writers and editors included, should read the relevant parts of at least the first link to the NY Times with respect to gifts, freebies, travel, accomodations, free tickets, being “incognito” to experience as any other citizen would, etc…

    The New York Times Company Policy on Ethics and Journalism
    Journalism Ethics: Gift and Meal Ethics (covering excerpts from the Chicago Tribune, LA Times, + 4 other papers
    You are what you eat : a commentary specifically on food journalism ethics
    Statement of Journalistic Ethics by the Daily Press, Inc.

    Basically, what they say is that journalists, including food writers, SHOULD NOT ACCEPT FREEBIES. And don’t write me to tell me we are different because we are a poorer country. Please. Read and learn.

  43. Amen to all the points you raised, MM, especially as regards ethics in journalism. Ethics, like grammar, should be pre-requisite for any journalist, serious or not, 3rd world or anywhere else.

  44. MM you did the most honest and decent thing for yourself and for all of us who regularly lookforward to your posts.

    Bravo and may you have more plentiful years of discoveries and adventures to share with us.
    You earn distict respect from us. and we thank you for making our day 7x a week.

  45. that’s right don’t let them dictate to you, those communist. It’s more fun when you can just express yourself, instead of you morphing into what they want you to appear. MM OR M&M LATELY. I’M THE RED M&M, YOU BE THE BROWN ONE. THAT’S OUR CODE AND MY SISTER WILL BE THE LELLOW GREEN M&M. WHEN WE LOSE THE WEIGHT WE CAN DROP THIS M&M BUSINESS.

  46. Hi MM,

    In referrence to Margaux’s comment, Summit is actually paying us for that blogger feature in November for Yummy.

    Frankly, I have such high regard for Yummy that I would have done it for free but I do believe that writers should be properly compensated for the products of their creative process.

  47. Franco, I never expected to be paid and never asked, but I did make sure I would retain copyright, particularly of photos as I sent them many to choose from, and my dealings with Summit have always been very professional…

  48. Have I found soulmates in Mr & Mrs. MM? Wherever I travel, it is a must to try the street food in the weekend markets to the white table cloth….
    Food, for me, is a living museum of the people who inhabit the place I am visiting. Hence, what joy and what delight, that this morning I accidentally found a foodie blog owned by a cosmopolitan Filipino couple. The pages are visually clean and healthy looking with vibrant food colors. An Asian bow and an English curtsey to both of you. Please continue to share your food finds and stories….
    You have chosen the best venue to share your food passion… newspapers are becoming dinosaurs… they exist for political reasons….
    What I want is a blog free of politics but chockfull of info on where to find the best veggies, nuts, organic stuff, best homemade stuff…especially the Season is a few months away…
    Like you, I am lucky to have lived in various continents, and now am back home for a long while….
    Thank you… What a foodie find you both are!

  49. Wow, I just wanted to know what is tanglad (see, i’m not a food enthusiast, just fond of eating) and I was led to this blogsite. Then, I was hooked. I actually read through the whole exchange above. The relevance of this to me is that I believe in most of the same writing principles that you stand for. I also maintain a blog but simply to have a medium of expression. No commercial agenda whatsoever. Reading your blog served as an inspiration. Thank you.



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