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The Big NY Dining "blogs"


Fat Guy
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We now have three major "blogs" (the scare quotes are because I'm not sure the classic criteria of blogs apply) chronicling the New York City dining scene: Eater (headed by Ben Leventhal and part of the Curbed network), Grub Street (part of New York Magazine online), and the new Feedbag (from former Grub Street editor Josh Ozersky, who is now at Citysearch). Each of these blogs, every weekday, provides up-to-the-minute information about restaurants, chefs, et al., in New York City. There are a number of other New York dining blogs out there, but these three seem to be a category.

We don't really have a topic to discuss the blogs in this category, and their occasional mention seems out of place on the New York reviewing topic, so I thought I'd start one here and now to track the goings on with Eater, Grub Street and The Feedbag.

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)

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Look at the Serious Eats home page and tell us how much New York City dining content you see.

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)

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I had no idea that was going on over there at Serious Eats. So I guess that makes four in the category. That's too many for me to read.

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)

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I was thinking of the phenomenon of blogs that are updated many, many times throughout the day with the absolute latest in NYC dining info. There several NYC dining blogs that are updated daily or less than daily, but the Eaters and Grub Streets are updated pretty much hourly and have a uniquely newsy/gossipy function that seems to me to distinguish them from all others. Which reminds me, I really have to look into this Serious Eats NY blog to see what's going on there.

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)

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Strong Buzz used to be a weekly newsletter and then more recently switched to blog format -- I believe the newsletter is now just postings from the blog, but in digest form. However, as a blog, I don't think it's nearly as influential as the ones that have already been mentioned, nor as influential.

Of course, we need to also mention Frank Bruni's Diner's Journal weblog for completeness.

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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But again I don't think the Diner's Journal blog is part of the set that includes Eater and Grub Street. The Diner's Journal blog, despite contributions from others, is to me really just the personal blog of Frank Bruni -- an extension of what he does in the paper. It's also not updated with anywhere near the frequency of Eater, Grub Street, et al. I think the Eater/Grub Street axis represents something actually new in the world of food-news coverage. Diner's Journal is a standard-issue newspaper companion-blog.

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)

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But again I don't think the Diner's Journal blog is part of the set that includes Eater and Grub Street. The Diner's Journal blog, despite contributions from others, is to me really just the personal blog of Frank Bruni -- an extension of what he does in the paper. It's also not updated with anywhere near the frequency of Eater, Grub Street, et al. I think the Eater/Grub Street axis represents something actually new in the world of food-news coverage. Diner's Journal is a standard-issue newspaper companion-blog.

Out of 11 Diner's Journal posts last week, only 4 were by Bruni. And that was an unusually high total for him. The previous week, there were 2 by Bruni and 9 by other people.

I consider Bruni an absolute failure as a blogger. This has nothing to do with his critical acumen, or the lack thereof. He simply hasn't used the medium the way it was intended. And he seldom uses it to say anything substantive about restaurants. Only one post in the last two weeks was about an actual restaurant meal (Parlor Steakhouse).

NY Magazine's Grub Street is a useful comparison to Diner's Journal, because they are both operated by outfits that have traditional print affiliations. But whereas Grub Street has really embraced the power of what a blog can be, Diner's Journal has not.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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Out of 11 Diner's Journal posts last week, only 4 were by Bruni. And that was an unusually high total for him. The previous week, there were 2 by Bruni and 9 by other people.

My thesis is exactly that the blog is by Bruni and "other people." In other words it's Bruni's blog with guest pieces by other writers. Certainly, although when you add up all the posts by everyone else it's a greater number than Bruni's tally, his is the most prominent voice by far. Even the Times characterizes it as "Diner's Journal: A blog by Frank Bruni and other Dining section writers on restaurants and food."

NY Magazine's Grub Street is a useful comparison to Diner's Journal, because they are both operated by outfits that have traditional print affiliations. But whereas Grub Street has really embraced the power of what a blog can be, Diner's Journal has not.

I agree, though it remains to be seen how Grub Street will shape up now that Josh Ozersky has migrated over to The Feedbag.

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)

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My thesis is exactly that the blog is by Bruni and "other people." In other words it's Bruni's blog with guest pieces by other writers. Certainly, although when you add up all the posts by everyone else it's a greater number than Bruni's tally, his is the most prominent voice by far. Even the Times characterizes it as "Diner's Journal: A blog by Frank Bruni and other Dining section writers on restaurants and food."
As of today, Diner's Journal is captioned, "The New York Times Blog on Dining Out," so they've taken Bruni's name out of the masthead. Over time, Bruni's contribution has shrunk, and other people's have grown. This seems to be another step in that direction.
...it remains to be seen how Grub Street will shape up now that Josh Ozersky has migrated over to The Feedbag.

I don't know the economics of running that type of blog. The Times clearly views Diner's Journal as secondary to the newspaper; all of its contributors are print writers first, bloggers second. Ozersky, as far as I know, never had a piece in the magazine; blogging was all he did. If they think that can pay off, they'll find another Ozersky. Edited by oakapple (log)
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whenever i've had my fill on eater, SE, grub st. and diner's journal, i go to eating in translation. if you haven't been, dave picks up where other blogs leave off, covering various holes-in-the-wall in every borough. by no means does his blog belong in the same ranks in content or numbers as the big hitters, but i like the unpretentious coverage of places that most would find incongruent to their dining preferences. sure there are some misses, but it's also a handy blog if you're bored with the ubiquitous pedestrian menus and are craving new foreign flavors. dave seems to be like a bourdain 6-pack when it comes to asian cuisine and street vendors.

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My thesis is exactly that the blog is by Bruni and "other people." In other words it's Bruni's blog with guest pieces by other writers. Certainly, although when you add up all the posts by everyone else it's a greater number than Bruni's tally, his is the most prominent voice by far. Even the Times characterizes it as "Diner's Journal: A blog by Frank Bruni and other Dining section writers on restaurants and food."
As of today, Diner's Journal is captioned, "The New York Times Blog on Dining Out," so they've taken Bruni's name out of the masthead. Over time, Bruni's contribution has shrunk, and other people's have grown. This seems to be another step in that direction.

If you go to the Dining main page and look at the link to Diner's Journal, it uses the language I quoted above.

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)

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  • 1 month later...

So after we started this discussion and I belatedly became aware of the Serious Eats New York-specific blog ( http://newyork.seriouseats.com/ ) I started reading it along with the other three (Eater, Grub Street and The Feedbag). One thing I've noticed is that, while there is a tremendous amount of information overlap among Eater, Grub Street and The Feedbag, the Serious Eats New York blog marches to the beat of its own drummer. If I start out reading Eater, then go to The Feedbag, then go to Grub Street, I find that by the time I get to Grub Street I've already learned most of what there was to learn. But if I then go to Serious Eats most of the information is new. I like that.

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)

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These blogs occupy a fascinating, but occasionally awkward never-never-land between journalism, commentary, and entertainment.

Eater, Grub Street and the Feedbag all want to be perceived as serious news sources. It's true, as FG noted, that any significant story on one of them is eventually noted by the others. But on any given day, any one of the three could be the first to 'break' a particular story. If any one the three has consistently better sources, I haven't been able to detect it.

But are their writers journalists? Last week, Eater.com "reported" that the TriBeCa restaurant Devin Tavern, which it had formerly "deathwatched," was "officially dunzo." Their source seems to have been a no-longer-extant blog post by a bartender who had worked there. It took Eater five days to notice a comment on the original post, that Devin Tavern was not, in fact, closed. They then walked back the "story".

Now, regular newspapers make mistakes too. But Florence Fabricant would never report a restaurant as "officially" closed unless she had spoken to someone who was actually an "official". It's not that hard to call the restaurant to verify the story. I also suspect it wouldn't take the Times five days to correct such an error.

Grub Street is affiliated with a mainstream magazine. When Josh Ozersky was asked his reason for leaving, he mentioned the bureaucracy he had to navigate before he could post anything. That apparently means that at Feedbag he can post what he wants, when he wants.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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Strong Buzz?  Or is that not considered a blog?

Even if it is to be considered a blog, it's roughly 10% about food and restaurants, and 90% about the travails and inner workings of her (mostly unsuccessful) dating life :)

Actually, she's married now, and thankfully she spares us the details of what goes on in the bedroom. Practically every restaurant is still called "sexy," though.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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And to be fair to Ms. Strong, since she reached goal, it's hard to call her dating life "mostly unsuccessful".

Excellent point. I was unaware of the marriage development, as I stopped reading the blog quite a while ago after being frustrated at the lack of detailed food information at the expense of social randomness. Maybe marriage is a good thing after all...

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  • 2 months later...

I think the videos on Feedbag -- and indeed almost everything on Feedbag -- are pure hype. Josh is simply in those people's pockets. If it mattered at all (which it doesn't), it would be kind of disgusting: hype masquerading as journalism (except that it isn't masquerading as journalism: it's hype masquerading as hype). (So why do we bother to read it?)

(I don't mean to suggest that Josh/Feedbag is the only culprit among the "professional" foodblogs. Only that he's the most naked.)

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I think the videos on Feedbag -- and indeed almost everything on Feedbag -- are pure hype.  Josh is simply in those people's pockets.  If it mattered at all (which it doesn't), it would be kind of disgusting:  hype masquerading as journalism (except that it isn't masquerading as journalism:  it's hype masquerading as hype).  (So why do we bother to read it?)

(I don't mean to suggest that Josh/Feedbag is the only culprit among the "professional" foodblogs.  Only that he's the most naked.)

Yeah, after seeing that whole burger video he did and his (IMO) shill for Pat Lafreida really turned me off to his site.

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I think the videos on Feedbag -- and indeed almost everything on Feedbag -- are pure hype.  Josh is simply in those people's pockets.  If it mattered at all (which it doesn't), it would be kind of disgusting:  hype masquerading as journalism (except that it isn't masquerading as journalism:  it's hype masquerading as hype).  (So why do we bother to read it?)

(I don't mean to suggest that Josh/Feedbag is the only culprit among the "professional" foodblogs.  Only that he's the most naked.)

Yeah, after seeing that whole burger video he did and his (IMO) shill for Pat Lafreida really turned me off to his site.

Listen guys, here's the deal: The Feedbag is in the appreciation business. I'm not a critic. I don't write or shoot video about things I don't like. "hype masquerading as hype" means that there is no masquerade. I've been "hyping" things I like since I wrote Meat Me In Manhattan. I'm an evangelist for good food. How freaking hard is that to understand? Example: I liked the fried chicken at Perry Street. You saw it; you tried it; maybe you didn't like it as much. Whatever. It doesn't make me a shill. The same with LaFrieda meat, Mike White's spaghetti, or any of the other things I enthuse about on the Feedbag. The blog is a platform for liking things. That's what I do. Capisce?

yours

Josh Ozersky

Senior Restaurant Editor, Citysearch

Edited by Mister_Cutlets (log)
Mr-Cutlets.com: your source for advice, excerpts, Cutlets news, and links to buy Meat Me in Manhattan: A Carnivore's Guide to New York!
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When I post reviews -- which I primarily do on a board other than this one -- I make it a practice to put "comp disclosures" at the end, to let the reader know when I've received free things from the place in case that affected my judgment. Many have claimed such comps had a big effect on my love for Ssam Bar, for example -- but it was transparent, for all to see. (I think I started that after my earlier Ssam Bar write-ups, when I realized the treatment I was getting might have been affecting my judgment.)

Also, it isn't necessarily clear to the reader that the "professional" blog sites (I'm not singling out any one of them) aren't meant to be "critical". They all, including Josh's, often post things that read like criticism -- including negative comments about restaurants. If Josh wants to take the position he takes, he will have to forego posting any negative commentary about places from now one.

Also, I wonder about how much the choice of whom to tout gets affected simply by who chooses to provide access. I'm not saying the "professional" blogs are doing anything sinister in that regard, only that certain restaurants "buy" coverage by putting on a show for the blogs in their kitchen. Readers should be aware of that. It's not simply a focus on "the best", necessarily; rather, the most accessible.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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