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I'm self-appointed, you're self-appointed


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#31 nibor

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 03:27 PM

Would someone please explain to me why this is a contentious topic? I see all sorts of hackles up and don’t understand why.

#32 Miami Danny

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 04:01 PM

You are saying that because ONE post in this topic right now was unedited that therefore NO posts have ever been edited or deleted on this OR ANY board?  I had a very mild post deleted just the other day-but how would anyone, other than a moderator or host even know?  You are simply taking advantage of the fact that many people do not know or care how boards work, and how 'comment moderation' works.  I too have had letters to the editor published in the Times, and they were edited, as are my comments here, sometimes for the better, quite frankly.  Perhaps the same goes for you.  "To pretend otherwise is either ignorance or disingenuousness."    Are you pleading ignorance?

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I think the choice here may actually be between disingenuousness and delusion. Every single post of yours that's on this website is exactly as you posted it, without a word changed by anyone but you. The claim that we've made such changes is false. But still, you're being allowed to make the claim -- something you'd never be allowed to do by a print publication, which would just toss all such unsubstantiated conspiracy theories in the garbage never to see the light of day. Yes, you've had (a minuscule number of) posts removed over the years, all for good reason, all painstakingly explained to you, and never because you made an argument someone disagreed with. As I already said, websites do and should remove posts that violate their rules or the law. But you've never had your words edited. Nobody here is hiding from your arguments, false though they may be, as this exchange again demonstrates.

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First, please let me say unequivocally that I never claimed anyone here edited my posts, other than deleting them , which is pretty much editing down to nothing, which, as I stated, I don't have a problem with , and sometimes even appreciate, just like when my print editor edits me, or decides not to run one of my columns. Your argument is not with me, but with the fact that many blogs and boards DO edit or delete (not publish) comments, at their discretion (or whim), which is exactly what I posted, and which you chose not to address. The idea that print publications are the big bad wolf and that web-based journalism is somehow more pure is an argument anyone can care to make. That, however, was not my argument.

Edited by Miami Danny, 30 October 2007 - 04:22 PM.


#33 Jmahl

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 04:02 PM

Dear FG:

I want to be appointed or annointed - whichever you think is approprate.

Qualifications, I have been eating more or less some sixty years. I have been cutting and burning myself in the kitchen for almost that long. I am highly educated - more than 19 years formal education. I am qualified to appear before the highest court in the land. ( that means the world, no?)

So appoint me critic at large or something. You have the power - use it.

Enjoying the reparte.

Jmahl
The Philip Mahl Community teaching kitchen is now open. Check it out. "Philip Mahl Memorial Kitchen" on Facebook. Website coming soon.

#34 ludja

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 04:04 PM

My current quote:

"We watched him use his spoon to mold the mashed potatoes on his plate into the shape of a volcanic mountain. He poured gravy ever so carefully into the opening at the top. Then he set to work ridding his steak of fat, veins and other imperfections. It occurred to me that eating is the only form of professionalism most people ever attain."

-- Don DeLillo, 1985 "White Noise"

This does not really address the heart of this discussion but I thought it was an interesting observation... :smile:
"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"


#35 -sheila mooney

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 04:16 PM

No need to go into the basement. I provided a link to the story in my first post. But the issue is the use of "self-appointed" in the headline, and the repetition of the "self-appointed" mantra in various other stories, as well as related distinctions like "professional" versus "amateur" and "credentialed" versus "uncredentialed" none of which hold up particularly well under scrutiny.


- how do those terms not hold up under scrutiny? i sense some tendentiousness here. try this test: ask a normally intelligent person not involved in this polemic.

I have no idea what a "credentialed journalist" is, nor do I know what it means that rebuttals were "taken seriously." Does "taken seriously" mean they were published? Does it mean the writers were fired? If not, what impact is there to taking such things seriously, other than making serious faces and nodding a lot?


i am quite certain you are not unintelligent, so i will assume you are playing the sophist when you say you "have no idea" and "do not know" what these simple concepts mean. i am less certain why it's such a big deal to you. some folks are welders, some folks are foodies, some folks are credentialed journalists... and geez, by the way, i feel kind of bad that when i say (ok, implied) that i took something seriously, a person who has no knowledge of my life or professional habits would impugn that. all for a rant?

#36 Fat Guy

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 04:25 PM

Then perhaps you would be so kind as to define "credentialed journalist" for us.

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#37 cdh

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 04:41 PM

Indeed. The concept of "credentialed journalist" is a problematic one. Were such a thing to exist, then such things as licensure and regulation might be applied, neither of which is exactly congruent with our First Amendment. Other countries do, in fact, credential their journalists, and those places are considered to have a much less free press than we do.

Credentials in journalism may be earned through practice, but the right to practice should not be conditioned on credentials.

The appropriate credentials to be a food journalist should be wide experience with foods, and a capability of putting words together in a way that others understand and enjoy reading. Neither of those is exclusive to reporters who work beats.

Edited by cdh, 30 October 2007 - 04:43 PM.

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#38 Miami Danny

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 05:15 PM

A credential is an attestation of qualification, competence, or authority issued to an individual by a third party with a relevant de jure or de facto authority or assumed competence to do so.

Whether or not the 'credential' has any value is certainly open to discussion, but what a credential is , is less so.

#39 cdh

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 05:39 PM

You really think that dictionary boilerplate applies to journalists?
Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

----- De Gustibus Non Disputandum Est

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

#40 slkinsey

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 07:48 PM

So, what you're saying then is that there is no such thing as a "credentialed" journalist?


Anyway, the American Heritage Dictionary says:

Usage Note: The use of the participle credentialed to refer to certified teachers and other professionals is well established (She became credentialed through a graduate program at a local college), but its more general use to mean "possessing professional or expert credentials" is still widely considered jargon. The sentence The board heard testimony from a number of credentialed witnesses was unacceptable to 85 percent of the Usage Panel.

Of "credentialed journalists" wikipedia says:

Some countries impose restrictions on who may work for the press or in a journalistic capacity, and require that anyone allowed to do so carry a government-issued credential. This allows these countries to exert a substantial amount of control over freedom of the press, by selectively granting, withholding, and withdrawing press credentials.

Some government and non-government entities may also require or issue specific credentials of or to persons wishing to interact with them in a journalistic capacity.

This may be done to control the dissemination of information about the entity, to ensure favorable reporting, to limit the number of persons acting as press, and so on. These credentials are often independent of any government credentials, although some entities will accept government credentials as a justification for their own, or in lieu of their own.

In the United States, for example, no national press credential exists because it has been held to violate the freedom of press provisions of the country's constitution, but individual government entities (such as the White House and the military) and many non-government entities issue and require press credentials for their own spheres of influence.

This suggests to me that there is no such thing as a "credentialed journalist" in the United States. What would that mean anyway? If the East Pawtucket Bugle hires someone to be a "reporter" or "critic" for their does that make this "credentialed journalist" more legitimate than Andrea Strong?
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

#41 Miami Danny

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 09:30 PM

You really think that dictionary boilerplate applies to journalists?

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Does the definition of a word somehow not apply to journalists?

Edited by Miami Danny, 30 October 2007 - 09:32 PM.


#42 HVRobinson

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Posted 30 October 2007 - 10:33 PM

Interesting read so far. Bottom line is... a food critic is somebody who writes about food. Period. Now the heart of the question is really how to distinguish a competent critic from the usual Bozo. If you look at the early films (they really weren't tapes) of Julia Childs in the kitchen... she really wasn't a spectacular cook or teacher. It took her a while to find her voice and her venue. Why should it be different for any food writer? What is the credential? In my eyes it is earned by pounds of reviews published, by requests to compile guides, to speak to groups, to teach, to share the joys of gastronomy, of service and hospitality. A food writer does not need to be a good cook... but should be able to speak knowledgeably about the food in a correct context. As for who appoints, anoints, blesses, elevates or dashes upon the rocks the writer... that would be us. We have the voice to review the reviewer. We can take a pompous ass down a peg or two, or we can thank the skilled wordsmith for their contributions. If you don't like it... you have a few options... do a better job, don't support it, or bitch loudly. Two of these are constructive.

hvr :shock:
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#43 Miami Danny

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 03:09 PM

Interesting read so far.  Bottom line is... a food critic is somebody who writes about food.  Period.  Now the heart of the question is really how to distinguish a competent critic from the usual Bozo.  If you look at the early films (they really weren't tapes) of Julia Childs in the kitchen... she really wasn't a spectacular cook or teacher.  It took her a while to find her voice and her venue.  Why should it be different for any food writer?  What is the credential?  In my eyes it is earned by pounds of reviews published, by requests to compile guides, to speak to groups, to teach, to share the joys of gastronomy, of service and hospitality.  A food writer does not need to be a good cook... but should be able to speak knowledgeably about the food in a correct context.  As for who appoints, anoints, blesses, elevates or dashes upon the rocks the writer... that would be us.  We have the voice to review the reviewer.  We can take a pompous ass down a peg or two, or we can thank the skilled wordsmith for their contributions.  If you don't like it... you have a few options... do a better job, don't support it, or bitch loudly.  Two of these are constructive.

hvr :shock:

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If 'bitch loudly' means what we're doing here, then I think only one of them is constructive.

#44 ruthcooks

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 03:56 PM

My daughter once called me a "self-appointed food expert" and she didn't mean it in a nice way.

Please add my name to the list of people who want to be appointed.

Actually, I would like my "certificate" to be carved in stone, if possible. and a "So there!" added at the end. :cool:
Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

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#45 Fat Guy

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 06:38 PM

I've been thinking about this issue of me handing out appointments, and I think there may be a more legitimate way of doing it than just having me bestow bogus credentials. Rather, I'm going to get with my colleagues here at the Society and we're going to publish a list of guidelines -- things like if you get a comped meal you have to disclose it in your writing (basically, the guidelines our volunteers are already required to adhere to) -- and if you sign off on those guidelines you'll be able to display a credential in your eG Forums posts as well as on your blogs and elsewhere. This will take a little while to engineer, but I'll note it here when we're ready to roll.

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Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#46 Lesley C

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Posted 31 October 2007 - 07:58 PM

I did not run write that piece in the Gazette, but I am the Gazette’s restaurant critic.
As someone who has so-called “credentials” (with certain people at least) I can say that yes, they make a difference. I think you have to have spent at least some time in a professional kitchen to understand how a restaurant works. Yet ultimately experience on the beat is what makes a critic worthwhile. It takes a while to get good at this, and there’s something to be said for tasting most every risotto in the city before evaluating yet another.
I know of no bloggers in my city who eat out frequently enough to have a strong grasp of the scene. I wouldn’t have thought that when I started out, but after eight years at it, I understand that longevity is a critic’s true strength, seeing restaurants come and go, watching chefs evolve, determining whether international trends are influencing the scene, etc.
Many bloggers I read tend to head out to the “branché” restaurants and post the occasional review when they’re up to it. I have to go everywhere, 50 weeks a year, and I eat a lot of seriously lousy meals. And those lousy meals are important because they make me appreciate the good ones all the more.
I recently interviewed two of Montreal’s best food bloggers, whose focus isn’t so much on restaurants as food culture. To my surprise they told me their ultimate goal was to switch to print. And an excellent sommelier and wine blogger, Bill Zacharkiw, was recently named the Gazette’s wine columnist. He hasn’t posted an entry in his blog since the paper published his first column.
(The flip side to this is that every food writer I know is now panic-stricken about getting some kind of web presence going, mainly the almighty blog.)
As for restaurant critic requirements and credentials, I know many restaurant critics, some with extensive professional cooking credentials who are eyebrow-raisingly corrupt, some with no credentials (and it shows), and some who are respected more for their writing than their opinion. But at the very least, shouldn’t the public be reading a review by someone with some expertise in the field rather than someone who just loooves to dine out? Music critics need not be musicians, but if they are just music lovers why would anyone who shares their level of interest care what they have to say?
Of course, there's the way you say it.
As Jay Rayner writes on the Guardian blog regarding this topic, “The fact is that newspaper restaurant critics are not employed to sell restaurants. They are employed to sell newspapers, and what editors therefore need from us is the ability to write a readable, entertaining column week in week out. Food knowledge or an understanding of restaurants comes a distant second.”
So I guess that’s why Rayner runs his menacing mug next to his posts, as if he’s saying, screw all the formalities, we’re really just here to be outrageous, strut our stuff and give people something to talk about at the pub. OK, but if you’re going to do that, why even use the review as a backdrop? Why not just run a Dave Barry-style column? I bet Dave Barry sold a lot more papers than Giles Coren.
Ultimately, a reviewer should A) be an entertaining writer -- a la A A Gill or Alan Richman -- in order to get those papers moving B) have some cooking background to gain a minimum of respect from the foodies and the chefs C) have experience on the beat to really understand the scene D) not be corrupt (whatever that means on any given day in the restaurant world). Tall order, it seems, but look at the best in the business and you’ll see that’s just what they’re doing.
More power to ‘em, I say, whether it be on a blog or in print.

#47 Daniel Rogov

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 05:06 AM

I am 100% behind what Lesley C. wrote above concerning the qualifications of the restaurant critic. In fact, that post made me realize that "accreditation" may be the wrong word – perhaps what we should be looking at is the question of "qualifications".

First of all, accreditation smacks just a bit too much of forming a guild, and as is well known, all guilds eventually turn self-protective and a good deal of their effort is towards blocking out those not already "in". Guilds also lead to a form of elitism of which we have suffered too much in our lives at any rate. Second, as is well known, any form of accreditation requires a committee. The logical question that then arises is: "Who accredits the accreditors?"

With regard to qualifications, I would propose as a minimum the following:

(a) The love of dining out and the sense of optimism that must precede all criticism. People who hate restaurants should not be restaurant critics!
(b) A large and ever growing repertoire of experiences in dining out. People who dine out twice a month are not qualified to be critics. They are, of course, entitled to their opinions but have too small a repertoire to make valid comparisons.
© A discerning palate and the ability to make valid comparisons between various dining experiences
(d) A keen knowledge of what happens and what should happen both in the kitchen and in "the front"
(e) The realization that food is not merely something we eat and later eliminate but is a reflection of human history, psychology, sociology, religion, anthropology and physiology.
(f) The attainment of realistic standards – that is to say that it is not the critic's likes and dislikes that are of ultimate importance but the standards to which the dining experience adheres
(g) The ability to report and analyze without prejudice. (i.e. Whether one likes or dislikes a chef or restaurateur should have no bearing whatever on the dining experience)
(h) The ability to write in a coherent, informative manner. Whether one remains a formalist or an entertainer is much a matter of personal style. So long as the other qualifications are met, both are valid methods of criticism
(i) The knowledge that the ability to analyze and criticize is an entirely human trait and not one to be abused for personal gain, power or favor

None of the above precludes the amateur (either in the English-language sense of beginner or the French sense of "lover of") from writing. That does, however, imply that the beginner should be approaching criticism in what many philosophers have referred to as "the naïve way" – that is to say, the open and honest acknowledgement of lacking of any but the moral requirements listed above. Indeed, we all start somewhere…..and the naïve critic should never feel the least bit embarrassed to admit that he/she is just "starting out on the road". If anything such a statement is much to one's credit.

As to the moral side of criticism – for all of the discussion, there are no dilemmas. One either has or does not have and maintain integrity. More simply perhaps, one is either honest or one is not. All one has to do is acknowledge that even though the critic's major moral obligation is to his/her readers there is also a moral obligation to the restaurants that we are reviewing – and that obligation is honesty and integrity.

I am clearly not saying that all critics are wise, intelligent, honest or discriminating. What I am saying is that if we are going to read and value a critic we should know from where he/she is coming.

Edited by Daniel Rogov, 01 November 2007 - 05:08 AM.


#48 Fat Guy

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 05:37 AM

That list of qualifications disqualifies most professional restaurant reviewers, and qualifies plenty of online discussion participants and bloggers. Indeed, any serious list of qualifications that doesn't rely on self-fulfilling notions of print-media imprimatur is likely to exclude most of the people who have the print-media imprimatur and include many people who don't.

Still, it's a bit of a futile exercise to list qualifications when there simply are none. I'm not even sure most of the items on that list constitute qualifications. They're more like criteria. But to me, the only meaningful criterion for a restaurant reviewer is: does he or she write good reviews?

I also think if we unpack some of the qualifications on that list we find some interesting details. For example, both Lesley and Daniel have said that frequency of dining out is important. I agree that dining out a lot gives perspective, however the overwhelming majority of newspaper critics base their reviews on either one or two restaurant visits. Only the New York Times and a minuscule, elite group of publications have the budget for three or more visits. And most reviewers write one review per week. They're freelancers or reporters who cover other beats. They're not like Frank Bruni, writing reviews based on five visits and keeping an online diner's journal about unreviewed restaurants. So in total they're dining out as little as once or twice a week for their jobs.

I personally know several dozen amateurs who dine out between five and seven times a week, and a few who dine out closer to ten times a week. Not including breakfasts. The average Zagat survey participant reports dining out 3.3 times a week. On the whole, lawyers and investment bankers who are interested in food probably dine out a whole heck of a lot more than most newspapers' restaurant reviewers. They're also better-traveled, drink better wine, etc.

Moreover, very few newspaper critics come to the table with vast dining-out experience. The the extent they ever acquire such experience, it's something they acquire on the job by doing the job. If you compare newspaper critics on the day they're hired to highly involved online discussion participants and bloggers, you'll surely find that the online amateurs are vastly more experienced. That's true even at the level of Frank Bruni and his predecessor William Grimes. Eventually, they acquired inimitable experience, but the public had to endure a year or two of on-the-job learning first. That's hardly a qualification. That's just seniority, which has little to do with merit.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#49 Lesley C

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 06:31 AM

Steven I think you missed my point. I'm not talking about the number of times a critic visits one restaurant (which to me is often a huge waste of time) but the number of restaurants visited. Those bankers and lawyers probably aren't checking out every new place that opens as well as the old ones still hanging on by a thread , something a reviewer must do.
Also, I think your opinion is based solely on the New York scene, where people dine out A LOT. In a city like mine, I know of no one who regularly dines out five times a week.
If the New York bloggers are strong, great. But I can't say I've read any blog covering my city's fine dining beat that I consider essential reading. Interesting, yes, but essential or influential, no.

Edited by Lesley C, 01 November 2007 - 06:32 AM.


#50 Fat Guy

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 06:58 AM

Steven I think you missed my point. I'm not talking about the number of times a critic visits one restaurant (which to me is often a huge waste of time) but the number of restaurants visited. Those bankers and lawyers probably aren't checking out every new place that opens as well as the old ones still hanging on by a thread , something a reviewer must do.


I think I covered both of those points: the number of visits per review and the overall number of restaurant visits per week. Most newspaper critics are dining out 1-2 times per week total for their jobs. Most newspapers budget for either 52 or 104 meals out per year for the restaurant critic. That's not a high bar for an amateur to clear.

Also, I think your opinion is based solely on the New York scene, where people dine out A LOT. In a city like mine, I know of no one who regularly dines out five times a week.


That's a misconception about New York. If we take the Zagat data as a rough guideline, New York is exactly average in terms of dining-out frequency of 3.3 times a week (that's also the US national average). Texas puts New York to shame: Houston is 4.2 times per week, and Dallas/Fort Worth and Austin/Hill Country are both 4.0 times per week. That's for people who participate in the Zagat survey, not the whole population, of course. I don't know the numbers for Montreal.

If the New York bloggers are strong, great. But I can't say I've read any blog covering my city's fine dining beat that I consider essential reading. Interesting, yes, but essential or influential, no.

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New York has a very high degree of food-media saturation and a lot of the most widely read bloggers are professional-amateur hybrids. If you take someone like Andrea Strong, she's filing one full-length review every week, week-in-week-out, like a newspaper critic, and she's also visiting all the new places -- I imagine she's out most nights. She has also written for plenty of newspapers and magazines so she's not a pure amateur.

Marc Shepherd, who posts here as oakapple, is a real amateur, and on his blog he posts with great frequency as can be seen from the dates on his entries. He dines out quite a lot, as do many eGullet Society members who don't even have blogs -- Nathan, for example. And to touch on an earlier point, these people most certainly are visiting the new and the old.

This is not, however -- at least not to me -- an empirical examination of the quality of blogs (or the much more embarrassing question of the quality of professional restaurant reviews in most cities). The issue, for me, is whether a critic appointed by a newspaper is inherently more qualified than a self-appointed critic. I think the answer is simply no. The empirical data -- that there are bloggers out there who are more knowledgeable than many professional critics -- helps prove the point. But the point stands on its own, regardless.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#51 Lesley C

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 07:31 AM

I know one critic, a woman who was considered the Grande Dame of Montreal restaurant reviewing -- very influential and very feared -- who told me she was given the restaurant reviewing assignment back in the sixites for two reasons: she was a woman and she was from France.

#52 Fat Guy

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 07:39 AM

That reminds me of an old New Yorker profile of Donald Lau of Wonton Food Inc., the most influential writer of fortunes for fortune cookies. In the 1980s, when Wonton Food Inc. bought the factory that is now the global epicenter of fortune cookie production, Lau -- the accounts payable manager -- was drafted to write the fortunes. He told the New Yorker magazine: “I was chosen because my English was the best of the group."

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#53 MaxH

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 11:53 AM

Some very thoughtful comments here the last couple of days.

So far, I've not seen mentioned an issue that's implicit in many such discussions. Jon Carroll (now columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle) remarked a quarter-century ago, after tenure as a magazine editor, his professional estimation (after innumerable unsolicited applications) that everyone alive considers themselves qualified as a restaurant critic (Carroll's Law). Yet presumably, readers have other criteria. That's a built-in difference of values, much as voters prefer candidates for reasons other than how much they want the job. (The contrast isn't limited to restaurant criticism of course; many potential popular, even scholarly, authors dwell on publication's benefit to themselves, not their readers.)

Yet readers outnumber writers (I hope).* It'd be interesting to see more views on this subject from people reading, and not writing, restaurant commentary.

--
*There are known exceptions among academically-oriented scholarly journals.

#54 FabulousFoodBabe

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 11:58 AM

Have there been any cases of a blog or internet writer not attached to a print publication being sued for slander or libel?
"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office

#55 Fat Guy

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 01:09 PM

Yes. There have been many defamation lawsuits against bloggers in the US (a USA Today article quotes one source as saying 50 of them in 2005-2006), as well as elsewhere, and last year for the first time a blogger actually lost one. I don't recall one involving a food blog, but I don't know the details of every action. Certainly, people threaten to sue us all the time, which is why we carry liability insurance.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#56 kpurvis

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 02:11 PM

In at least one critical aspect, online reviewers are usually more accountable than newspaper critics. Online, there is typically the ability to respond.

Newspapers tightly control their letters to the editor sections, and generally decide unilaterally who will be able to disagree on equal footing with the critic. Meanwhile, if someone posts comments about a restaurant in a discussion forum, like this one, other people can respond. As long as the response is on topic and doesn't go off the deep end, it stands with equal prominence to the original. Most responsible bloggers allow comments to appear immediately after their blog entries. So online writers are not only accountable to their readers, but also their readers have the opportunity to respond. Newspapers just don't do that. They rally around their writers in a closed-off system and only bring their accountability mechanisms into play in the most extreme instances.

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As I always point out, I'm not a restaurant reviewer, I'm a food journalist. As such, I'm reluctant to wade into debates such as these. But Steven, I have to disagree with you here.
First, to say that "online, there is typically the ability to respond" isn't completely accurate. On some sites, such as Egullet, response might be tolerated. But on others, it isn't.
We recently had an experience with a competing site in which The Observer's restaurant reviewer came under criticism. She acknowledged the criticism gracefully and replied with feedback of her own, including inviting people to contact her to share thoughts on our paper's restaurant coverage. Her post was removed as if it never existed. When we protested, our protest was denied on the basis that mentioning the newspaper amounted to marketing. (I no longer participate on that site, and have declared so publicly. But beyond that, there wasn't much I could do.)
I realize the site in question isn't Egullet, and I appreciate your work in allowing an open forum. But to say that the freedom to respond is widespread throughout the blogosphere isn't completely accurate.
By the same token, printed newspapers have corrections policies. If someone brings a correction to my attention, I have to respond to it and notify my editors of it. That policy is printed every day in the same space in our newspaper. On a blog or a web board, if a mistake is made, it usually isn't corrected. (And yes, sorry to say, I once brought a mistake to the attention of an administrator on this site. It wasn't acknowledged and the mistake wasn't corrected. As far as I know, it's still floating around there, ready to pop up again with the ease of a Google search.)
And finally, Steven, your description of how newspapers respond to challengers doesn't match my experience. I have spent more than 30 years in five newsrooms. From that experience, I can promise you that challenges to my reliability are taken very, very seriously, both by me and by my editors. Letters to the editor are edited, but mainly for length, to keep them focused on the main point. (Editing and writing to fit the space also isn't something most bloggers have experienced. Pity.)
Now, I realize that you will take apart my reply and parse it sentence by sentence, eventually taking more time than I can match. And that also is the power of the blogger: By making the discussion contentious, anyone who disagrees ends up avoiding involvement, because of the time it takes to respond.
Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

#57 Daniel Rogov

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 02:26 PM

It strikes me as odd that it is the bloggers who seem most defensive about their abilities and have Fat Guy rather firmly on their side.

I have been an in-print wine and restaurant critic for more years than I will admit in public. My internet presence is only about 10 years old and that largely in the form of articles and a forum. And I have a terrible secret to share - I am not the least bit in fear of bloggers stealing my readers or my job. Oh sure, one day I will go the way of all flesh and all I can do is hope that my replacement will be one I enjoy reading and can learn from. But worried - hell no. I, and a good many senior journalists I know and respect devote a fair amount of time to actively encouraging the young to enter the field, in encouraging them further once they have entered and then serving at some level as shall we say fair godmothers or god fathers to them. What do they call that in the police - their "rabbis".

I cannot help but think that Stephen would have the major factor involved in accreditation as how many times people dine out. I know lots of people who dine out seven times a week in places ranging in quality from Wendy's to Alice Waters, from Hooters to Guy Savoy. And the sad part, to the true lover of dining is that they many of them can far better describe the fare at Hooters than they can t Guy Savoy's.

two final notes: (a) Professionalism is not a dirty word. (b) Striivng for an intellectual, philosophical point of view in anything, including restaurant criticism is not a sin.

Edited by Daniel Rogov, 01 November 2007 - 02:30 PM.


#58 Fat Guy

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 02:44 PM

Kathi, there are a few websites that are notoriously exclusionary about the content they'll allow, however there are also print journals that don't even publish letters to the editor (most famously, the New Yorker was like that for most of its history). The reality is, however, that the blogs and discussion forums that would have limited a reply such as yours number approximately one. The other 20,000 or so food blogs and food sites out there would surely have allowed it as entirely routine and matter of course.

Corrections policies are mostly a print media thing, because the format of a threaded discussion like this allows for corrections to be appended on topic. If you noticed something inaccurate on an eG Forums topic, you could have (and still can) just add a post clarifying. I'm not familiar with the specifics of the instance you're citing, but that's the easiest way to do it. I should add, I send corrections to the New York Times on occasion and they're usually ignored. The claim that print newspapers correct every error of fact is simply not right. Editors are pretty clever about explaining -- wrongly -- why a given error is not an error, and there's no appeals process (no, the public editor won't usually bother with such minutiae) so those decisions are final even when wrong.

Finally, of all the rhetorical dirty tricks, I'm shocked, amazed and disappointed that you'd attempt to preempt meaningful argument by claiming:

Now, I realize that you will take apart my reply and parse it sentence by sentence, eventually taking more time than I can match. And that also is the power of the blogger: By making the discussion contentious, anyone who disagrees ends up avoiding involvement, because of the time it takes to respond.


Nonsense.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)


#59 FabulousFoodBabe

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 02:54 PM

Finally, of all the rhetorical dirty tricks, I'm shocked, amazed and disappointed that you'd attempt to preempt meaningful argument by claiming:

Now, I realize that you will take apart my reply and parse it sentence by sentence, eventually taking more time than I can match. And that also is the power of the blogger: By making the discussion contentious, anyone who disagrees ends up avoiding involvement, because of the time it takes to respond.


Nonsense.

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Dirty trick? She's right. It's kept me from contributing more often than not.
"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office

#60 Fat Guy

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Posted 01 November 2007 - 03:02 PM

You're wrong, but since I perceive my own time to be so much more valuable than yours I won't be offering you the courtesy of a reply. It might take me too much time to answer your follow-up arguments, which would also be wrong, but I can't possibly be bothered to dignify them with a response. I'm just too busy. So I'll just say you're wrong, and you'll just have to live with that. Sorry.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)