Food journalists serve their communities by stimulating more informed conversations about what we eat and why. Our primary responsibility is to share news, ideas and opinions as fairly, accurately, completely, independently and honestly as possible.
We strive to honor our readers’ trust by always upholding the highest ethical standards. To that end, the Association of Food Journalists has developed the following set of standards to protect its members’ integrity and preserve their credibility. These guidelines should be considered supplementary to the codes of ethics presented by leading journalism organizations or a journalist’s employer.
Although these guidelines are applicable to members working in a variety of situations, the Association acknowledges that situations will sometimes arise which aren’t explicitly addressed here. Members with specific concerns are encouraged to consult their editors or the Association to resolve the dilemma in a manner consistent with the core principles outlined here.
These are our five core principles:
1. We take pride in our work, and respect the work of others.
(1) Food journalists should write under their real names, and make their contact information available to the general public.
(2) Food journalists should use their bylines only in conjunction with material that they have produced. Food journalists should not attach their names to reprinted press releases or articles provided by publicists.
(3) Food journalists do not plagiarize content. Material from other sources should be credited, and actively hyperlinked if presented online.
(4) Originators of unique information or opinions should be acknowledged in any work indebted to them, and the source material actively hyperlinked if presented online.
(5) Food journalists should always honor copyright laws, including those pertaining to recipes and photographs.
(6) To assure accuracy, press releases and material from other sources should be substantiated. Secondhand information, such as rumors published by a competing publication, should not be presented as fact.
(7) Factual errors should be corrected promptly and prominently.
(8) Expression of opinion, editorials and articles devoted to the writer’s own views should be clearly labeled as such and thus easily distinguished from news reports.
(9) Social media is not a refuge from the expectations of exemplary conduct. Food journalists should observe the Association’s standards in all public communication.
2. We do not abuse our positions.
(1) Food journalists should not flaunt their titles in hopes of securing favors for themselves, their friends or their relatives. Favors could include restaurant reservations; desirable tables; party invitations or free food or drink.
(2) Food journalists should not accept gifts valued at more than $50, whether sent to them directly or distributed at an event. Exorbitant gifts should be returned to the sender or donated to charity. If food or drink is comped at a restaurant, the food journalist should make every attempt to pay for what he or she was given.
(3) Food journalists should not accept invitations to privately dine for free in a restaurant. Offers of free travel or lodging should also be refused.
(4) Food journalists should very carefully weigh invitations to participate in media dinners and other invitation-only events at which attendees will be feted with food and drink. It is worth remembering that only the most financially-fit organizations are situated to host such affairs, and journalists risk creating the perception of bias by participating in them.
(5) Food journalists should refuse samples of food, drink or any other product which they don’t intend to evaluate for publication.
(6) Food journalists should not sell or otherwise profit from samples they receive in the course of their work.
(7) Food journalists on assignment may accept complimentary passes to cultural and educational events which can’t be manipulated for the enjoyment of the media, such as plays, films, conferences, seminars and lectures.
(8) Food journalists attending events for personal pleasure should not use their position to gain access, discounted or free admission.
3. We avoid conflicts of interest.
(1) The Association is committed to the absolute separation of editorial responsibilities and advertising interests. If an article or publication receives sponsorship, it must be clearly noted.
(2) Food journalists should not make deals in exchange for access, special treatment or discounts. They should not vet story angles with publicists, allow sources to preview coverage or make promises concerning story placement.
(3) Food journalists should not enter commercially-sponsored contests promoting specific food products.
(4) Food journalists should not write about organizations which employ them, or with which they are politically or financially involved. While the Association recognizes that food writing is not a full-time job for many writers, food journalists should not seek employment in the food, drink or restaurant industry in the fields of public relations or sales.
4. We recognize and respect diversity.
(1) While pure objectivity is impossible, food journalists should aim to acknowledge and examine competing points of view.
(2) Food journalists should present opposing viewpoints fairly and accurately.
(3) Food journalists should avoid perpetuating stereotypes and prejudices.
5. We are committed to total transparency in our work.
(1) If food journalists accept anything for free, including a meal or product sample, it must be acknowledged in coverage of the item or experience.
(2) If food journalists write about current or former employers, co-workers, friends or relatives, the relationship must be disclosed.
(3) If food journalists suspect they received special treatment in the course of reporting a story, they should share their suspicions with their readers.