There is a great roundup on Eater highlighting the slow slipping away of the newspaper industry that I don’t think will go quite as quietly as we all think into this sweet night. The medium as we know it is dead but the body is not cold. Some ‘national’ papers will survive, such as The New York Times, but I am not sure the centuries old business model based on advertising dollars will survive. It’s a shame, but as many articles point out the insane loss of local coverage, I should point out that on the new media side of the equation, local coverage has multiplied a thousand fold. Eater points out in its June 13, 2012 post: “The national demise of print media is an inevitable, swirling vortex. Over the past few years, thousands of newspaper employees have lost their jobs, and whole sections of papers have been gutted or shuttered. The collateral damage is an absolute decimation of local coverage—including restaurant reviews—in dozens of newspapers across the country. It all comes down to money: reviewing is an expensive operation. Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema once estimated he spends about $70,000 a year dining out on the paper's dime. A full-time restaurant critic is also a position that's considered more expendable than, say, political reporting, and a mighty attractive job for budget-slicing newspaper executives to cut.” Why does this matter? Because the best way to view a local culture is by looking at its food and food systems, and how people relate to it, and the experience needed to parse that world for all of us is disappearing faster than Lindsay Lohan’s probation time. In the Eater piece Seattle Weekly critic Hanna Raskin made the point that some places are, "doing just fine without an Anton Ego type issuing culinary decrees." I think her point is that a non-negative review environment creates a healthier petri dish for creative growth. Communities need restaurant columnists to steer the conversation, provide constructive criticism within context of the community and its local standards, something part timers and amateurs are not capable of. We are entering an age where real information on restaurants will be harder and harder to come by and that’s not a good thing . . . the good news is that many great writers can be accessed online doing their own thing, like Gael Greene launching her own website after being canned at New York Magazine years ago, and new food mags such as Lucky Peach are devoting their mission entirely to food writing. The glossy monthly city and regional magazines have an opportunity to step in, fill the void, and expand coverage both online and in print. Without it, we will be without the best critical voices around the country. And that’s not a good thing. Child Silenced Over Viral School Lunch Blog
One of the truly great tragedies is the silencing of this young student who is only trying to make a difference. IF this doesn’t make you concerned/angry/aware/outraged/motivated I don’t know what will. While we are trying to make a difference for our children, our children are trying to make one for us . . . that is, until we tell them to stop. Why does this feel like a scene ripped from a George Orwell book? Dissident opinion being squashed is the hallmark of a Stalinist dictatorship—not a grade school!
I am in Aspen, more on that next week. The 30th Food & Wine Aspen Classic is in full swing. Follow along on twitter using the hashtag #fwclassic. And by the way, the rumors are true, www.andrewzimmern.com has re-launched. It’s pretty slick.