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Newspaper layoffs affecting food coverage


TAPrice
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Like many newspapers, the L.A. Times just announced a new round of layoffs. This one seems to hit the culture coverage hard. I don't regularly read the L.A. Times, but it looks like the main food voices were spared. The blog LA Observed does report that Susan LaTempa, acting editor of Food, got a pink slip.

Have you seen cut backs in food coverage where you live?

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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In New York we recently lost the New York Sun -- the whole newspaper stopped publishing -- which I thought had the best restaurant reviews in town as well as other interesting food coverage. I get the sense that the New York Daily News has cut its food coverage, or at least cut the budget supporting it. The New York Times seems thus far to be unaffected, and the New York Post seems to have more and better food coverage now than in the past. Go figure.

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

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The New York Times seems thus far to be unaffected, and the New York Post seems to have more and better food coverage now than in the past. Go figure.

I suppose some papers are laying off indiscriminately while others are preserving the most popular features. I'd have to guess that food still looks like a money maker in many markets (classical music, theater...not so much).

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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I'm seeing way more wire service dreck, often pushed by a food industry association or another. It's too bad, as the food editor our local paper, the Providence Journal's Gail Ciampa, has been doing a pretty great series called "Taste of the Neighborhoods." Here's one of two parts focused on Broad Street (1/2 block from my house). Not sure how much longer labor-intensive series like that will last.

Chris Amirault

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Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Our local paper, the Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA), went through another round of layoffs about three weeks ago. Along with this latest round of layoffs was an announcement that the page size will be reduced to save printing costs, and some of the neighborhood sections will be either reduced in size or eliminated.

They cut out the local restaurant reviews that appeared in the weekly entertainment section that ran on Fridays. In fact, last Friday they had cut out any of the past restaurant reviews and recommendations that have been a consistent feature of the entertainment section for many years.

Mind you, we aren't what I'd call a restaurant city in terms of fine dining, but with a metro area nearing 300,000 and any number of good, medium-priced, family-owned restaurants, it's a sad day to think that the major paper in town doesn't apparently have any intention of reviewing, and in turn promoting, the local restaurants. We're left with a couple of free, community-arts based newspapers to report on our restaurants.

Both the Editor and Assistant Editor of the Spokesman-Review resigned after the layoffs were announced rather than continue to work in a newsroom that they felt wasn't going to be supported by the publisher. The publisher says that the cuts were necessary to keep the paper viable (their words, not mine), and to be able to compete with the electronic forms of media today.

A sad day indeed.

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Here in Seattle, the food sections have long been sliding downhill. There seems to be one food writer on each paper (Times and Post-Intelligencer), and they use a lot of wire service stories.

The odd thing (to my mind) is that the two writers write "blogs" nearly every day, then just compile them into columns for Wednesday. If you read the paper every day, there's just no point in the Wednesday food section.

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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  • 2 weeks later...

The Frederick, MD News-Post, for which I freelance, has experienced substantial cuts recently in and out of the newsroom. So far they're not cutting food coverage to my knowledge. I freelance a biweekly column and one of the editors writes on alternating weeks. I was asked to cut back some when reviewing a (rather expensive) restaurant recently. I've been doing more of my own photography because they just axed 2 of their 5 photographers.

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When the LA Times opened up its archive, I noted a drop off in the quality of their food articles being written today compared to what they were writing only a few years ago. For example, in a review of Bourdain's cookbook, the writer took Bourdain to task for his flawed recipes where she actually tested the recipes in Bourdain's cookbook to see if they worked. Nowadays, when the LA Times covers a cookbook, its more along the lines of 'oh, that recipe sounded interesting' without the same thoroughness of actually testing those recipes.

The odd thing (to my mind) is that the two writers write "blogs" nearly every day, then just compile them into columns for Wednesday. If you read the paper every day, there's just no point in the Wednesday food section.

I've noticed that trend too where even as the newspapers cut back their food coverage, you're also seeing more blogs and posts from their food writers. I hope those writers are being compensated for the extra work!

But, seriously, it probably makes more sense for the newspapers to shift their food coverage to their online section instead of the print section. That way, you could include a lot more photos of the food in the restaurant reviews when that would be prohibitive, cost-wise, to do that in print.

Let's face it, a large portion of the readers of the food section are really looking at the pictures. Look at all the poorly written food blogs that have thrived because they include all those shots of the food. The sad part is that one of the local sources for food review in my area rewarded those bloggers by giving them that platform to write restaurant reviews. But, with less pictures in their print review, it's becoming more obvious, to me, at least, how poorly written those reviews were in the first place.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The New Yorker isn't a newspaper, but I was still shocked to hear that they laid off Gael Greene because they felt it cost too much to employ her. I'm not her biggest fanboi, but she had been there so long that she had became an institution, no matter how anachronistic she may have been.

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The New Yorker isn't a newspaper, but I was still shocked to hear that they laid off Gael Greene because they felt it cost too much to employ her. I'm not her biggest fanboi, but she had been there so long that she had became an institution, no matter how anachronistic she may have been.

I wonder if that was really the reason. It is hard these days to know who "speaks" for New York on food. That will probably be clearer now. Could have been an editorial decision.

(Just wanted to note that she was at New York magazine, not the New Yorker.)

Todd A. Price aka "TAPrice"

Homepage and writings; A Frolic of My Own (personal blog)

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Our daily, The Newark Star-Ledger, 's food section has been crap for years--it's mostly wire service, and the cover food article's recipes are all grabbed off the internet--that POs me so much.

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  • 3 months later...

The Tulsa World has been trying to maintain its lifestyle sections inspite of a few layoffs and changes to the paper such as cutbacks in local reporting and less newswire fed stories in the national sections. Sports is also slimmer than before and in OU/OSU country that is serious.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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I heard a segment on NPR about 2 months ago about the newspaper industry and job cuts. I think the numbers were 3000 in 2007, and 13000 in 2008. Not a good trend. The whole discussion that ensued was about how newspapers have had 15 years to adapt their business models to the changes brought about by the explosion of online content, yet they haven't.

I subscribed to the Portland Press Herald for 10 1/2 years of the 11 that I've lived in Maine. About 6 months ago, when I picked up a Monday morning paper thrown in my driveway, I could have sworn a pamphlet had been delivered instead of my normal paper. It went quickly downhill from there -- less and less content, more and more miserable national and local economic news, and except for the cryptoquip, less and less joy in reading this paper, so I cancelled my subscription.

The interesting thing is, I believe it is exactly sections like Food & Wine that readers gravitate to and look forward to each week, so cutting those is making a bad situation even worse. I read recently that Food Network has seen rising ratings lately (no thanks to me) because it is a station that one can tune into and be assured that no program will feature any bad news (unless of course, one has the misfortune to tune into a rerun of Semi Ho making her classic Kwanza cake: http://www.foodnetwork.com/videos/kwanzaa-cake/1455.html)

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