Short Fiction — Fair Game

“What’s that up ahead, is it a balloon?”

Grant slowed the car to a crawl and they both gawked at what turned out to be a deflated beach ball on the gravel shoulder of the road.

They had been driving around for an hour, the GPS system all but useless as they looked for a turn-off marked by a balloon and a sign.

“Okay, let me check the invite again?” Katie said, pulling a card out of her brown leather shoulder bag. “Ten miles west of the wrecking yard on highway 31, look for the balloon and the sign, park in the clearing?”

Grant was sure they were on the correct road, but there had been no balloon anywhere. They were in the middle of nowhere, they hadn’t even seen another car in over half an hour.

The trees rose up green and lush on both sides of the highway, deep gutters were full of young bulrushes not yet at the fluffy catkin stage, and the sun beat down bright and hot on the black asphalt ribbon in front of them. They had passed road kill in various states of decay, a murder of crows prancing down the centre yellow lines, and a rusty, abandoned shopping cart, but there was absolutely no sign of the entrance to the restaurant where they had a coveted reservation for dinner.

“We’ve gone more than ten miles, maybe we should double back,” Grant said, squinting through the windshield, the waves of heat dancing up from the road distorting his vision and making him doubt his own mind.

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Critics vs Bloggers (Again), with an Evil Twist

There’s yet another article making the rounds on the differences between professional food critics and bloggers. It mostly trots out the same old arguments; ones that we still haven’t been able to find a solution for, and mostly skewers bloggers for all of the same old things we’ve been skewering bloggers for all along (visiting too early, not being informed about the cuisine, not doing research, not writing well in the first place, being shills for the restaurant in exchange for free food), but there’s a new allegation I haven’t seen before…

Quite a few publicists double as bloggers to raise the profile of their clients.

Uhh… I am boggled by how seriously uncool this is. I mean, this is a huge conflict of interest, and makes all publicists and bloggers look suspect. How is a reader (and potential customer) supposed to know the difference between a fair and unbiased opinion and a blog post by someone who is not just getting paid to write about the business, but who is getting paid to promote the business to other writers? I can’t believe that people are allowed to get away with this.

If I was approached by a publicist who did this,  I’d refuse to work with them.

The question is, do I have to start checking out every PR company that approaches me to find out how ethical they are? Or is the hassle of that why they’re allowed to get away with it in the first place?

Not cool, folks, really not cool.