Knowing your audience
Posted 23 May 2002 - 10:07 AM
Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May
Posted 03 June 2002 - 11:58 AM
And it’s hard sometimes as I choose stories and ideas not, to feel that all of these readers are looking over my shoulder. The absolutely LAST THING I want a reader to do is pick up the section, look at it and think: Fat Chance, No Way, Who Are You Kidding.
We have a weekly feature on page 3 called Dinner in XX Minutes, where the XX is always 50 minutes or less, often more like 30. This is a very popular feature, tested and organized by Renee Schettler, the assistant editor. We try to choose a weeknight meal that consists of fresh, in-season, reasonably priced ingredients for this feature and we hope that it will always always always help those readers who are struggling to put decent food on the table every week night. We don’t use canned or boxed products here, unless it’s canned tomatoes or a box of pasta or rice.
When I’m really at sea about how to please the constituency, I repeat the same thing over and over: Good Stories. It’s my hope that if we report and write good, solid interesting stories, our readers—all of them, regardless of their particular food needs and tastes--will read them.
And of course most of these stories have recipes associated with them. So the next part of that mantra is Good Recipes. We test all of them, we dump A LOT down the garbage disposal. I think those recipes are just as important a part of our journalism as is our reporting and writing. We want readers to trust us. Trust us that if you buy this $20 piece of salmon, it will make a great entrée for your dinner party. Trust us that the hour you spend chopping the herbs and mangos and onions and chili peppers for this salsa will be worth your time.
I think some members of the restaurant community in Washington think that we don’t write enough about them. The food section of The Post doesn’t have restaurant reviews, unlike many other food sections. The reviews of Food Critic Tom Sietsema appear The Washington Magazine every Sunday, and the reviews of Eve Zibart appear in Friday’s Weekend section. I feel that the Wednesday Food section is really the only place to which the home cook can turn for help.
We do write pieces about restaurants and about chefs and personalities, but I would say it’s about 30 percent of our focus. We have a regular column “The Weekly Dish” from Tom about restaurant news. And our FORAGING column also regularly focuses on a dish or ingredient at a restaurant in town: the Frisee Salad at Bistro Bis, the Crab Cakes with Avocado at the Ritz Carlton. So we hope that if our lead story is addressed to the home cook, the restaurant goers and the restaurant folks will at least find some news of interest to them.