Being reviewed and receiving press about your establishment is an inevitable part of any retail business. Sometimes it works out great, sometimes not so great. We try the best we can and if someone doesn't like us then it's our responsibility to do better.
My understanding of reviews are that they happen anonymously. A critic arrives at your venue under the cloak of secrecy and evaluates what is what in your establishment. Occasionally a place might pitch a story and invite a food writer to their place. Or a local food writer/blogger might approach a business about writing a feature on them. That happens too.
One thing that should never happen is a reviewer/writer receiving something for free. An astonishing moment in my restaurant career came when a local reviewer in Brooklyn approached my employers about paying for their meal. We all reacted with incredulity. How could that be impartial if you are receiving a free meal? It defies all logic.
If you can't afford to pay for the meal/product you have no business reviewing/featuring it. It diminishes the value of the item. The power dynamic changes from "I'm interested in your product and it is good content for my paper/blog/newsletter" to "I'm doing you a favor by reviewing your establishment/product". There is no room for quid pro quo in this dynamic. If it isn't mutually beneficial then the relationship shouldn't exist.
I know that there are producers of products out there who send samples of their products to media hoping that someone will take notice and feature them. That's their prerogative (an a calculated business decision) if they want to give away their product. It can be a very savvy option and I place no judgement if that is how they choose to promote their product. The ocean of specialty food products is vast and it can be difficult to be spotted.
We've received some wonderful press. Every reviewer that we have interacted with in the TC has been professional and none (to my knowledge) have expected anything for free. In my utterly humble opinion I think we've presented some interesting things to write about. I hope we continue to and that local media/bloggers/pamphleteers continue to find us compelling.