Saturday, May 16, 2009

Ruth Reichl: Food bloggers have made newspaper critics irrelevant

Ouch! The truth hurt. 

The estwhile restaurant reviewer and editor of Gourmet met with a group of food bloggers at Olivar yesterday. (Thanks to Keren Brown for organizing.)

And one of the questions lead to RR's statement above. There's absolutely no doubt the times they are a' changin... but I'd like to believe that newspaper food critics still offer something. Maybe I'm just wishful thinking that having experience and an expense account gives professional critics an edge. 

Nancy Leson from The Seattle Times was in the audience and she asked about the sticky issue of anonymous critics who might have an ax to grind posting hateful, hurtful reviews. RR deflected the concern, saying the give and take on sites usually evens things out. 

She didn't have a very satisfying answer to my question: What are your favorite restaurants in Seattle? (She Twittered about the cocktails at Spur.) She said she didn't get a chance to get out much. Hey Lady, I will show you around town. Just say the word.

Click here for a short video of the start of Ms. Reichl's appearance.


David Hinske said...

Did you see the video of her being talked into a return as a critic and the hilarious disguises the magazine put her in? The Gene Simmons look is killer. She must have a great sense of humor.

Kristie Lauborough said...

I think there's a level of professionalism present in newspaper critics that isn't necessarily part of food blogging. For the most part newspaper critics have "rules of engagement", methods they use to ensure reviews are as fair and accurate as possible. I know many of them that I've ready about tend to make more than one visit before writing a review and go to great pains to keep their identities safe. There have been stories of bloggers, on the other hand, demanding special treatment from restaurants, firing off reviews without giving a restaurant a fair chance, and other offenses. There's also the matter of credentials. Any old Joe Schmoe can start a blog, but there are vetting processes for the hiring of a critic. On one hand, it means food bloggers can speak with the voice of the everyday diner. On the other, it means you can have people writing about things they may not be able to describe in the appropriate terms or judging a dish that they don't know anything about.

So, is the newspaper critic dead? I hope not. Truthfully, the newspaper critic and the food blogger can easily each fill seperate niches. But if I want a professional, well-written, fair review, I'll read the paper - online otherwise.