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Weird stuff in Gourmet magazine


fresco
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Just picked up the latest issue of Gourmet, the magazine, as they call themselves. "of good living."

Most of it is the standard fare--annual produce issue, the Sterns on burgers, etc. etc.,

But then there's an odd (good, but odd) piece about a renegade coffee grower in Jamaica whose son was murdered under extremely murky circumstances, and another piece that does some muckraking about US hypocrisy on free trade, citing protectionist steps taken when Florida tomato growers were threatened by Mexican imports. Again, a good piece, but an odd fit for Gourmet.

To cap it off, this headline and deck:

Whip it Good!

These four mayonnaise recipes are part of our smear campaign

Is it just me, or is Gourmet trying to give some its readers whiplash?

"

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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As you get further into some of the stories, it gets even more dissonant. Two more examples (after a five-minute skim):

Headline on a quite upbeat story about Los Cabos: "Baja, Humbug." Huh?

And the Sterns' burger piece (they go to Oregon in search of hazelnuts, but being the Sterns, find hamburger) contains all of these distracting and unnecessary references to winter. In the July issue?

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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I don't know how others may feel, but I like the changes at Gourmet since Ruth Reichl took the helm. The magazine had become stodgy in my view, targeting an older, more conservative market. It seemed more focused on travelogues and dinners at high end restaurants. Their recipe writing style was more about showing off than actually crafting a recipe someone could use and reproduce.

Now Gourmet seems younger, fresher with a more modern viewpoint. I'm glad they write about unfair trade policies with developing countries. Tomatoes, chocolate, coffee, GMOs--it's important to get the word out about how the big food corporations control what and how food is grown, processed and shipped. These issues are far too rarely addressed within the editorial food world.

Yeah, we love our good food, but shouldn't we take some resposibility for the people who grow it and bring it to our tables?

To Ruth R--You go girl, use the bully pulpet while you've got it.

Edited by Pyewacket (log)
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Pyewacket:

I agree that Gourmet was badly in need of an overhaul. It would be nice to see some evidence that someone was actually doing some editing--and supervising.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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I really liked this month's issue of Gourmet. I thought the article title "Whip It Good" was quite funny. What's the big deal? "Baja, Humbug" was a rather juvenile play on words...but again what's the big deal? The magazine was old-fashioned and predictable. I am thrilled that under Reichl's leadership the magazine is developing a cutting edge.

Edited by IrishCream (log)

Lobster.

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And the Sterns' burger piece (they go to Oregon in search of hazelnuts, but being the Sterns, find hamburger) contains all of these distracting and unnecessary references to winter. In the July issue?

Maybe they are starting to admit that these food rags ( :wink: ) all need a six month lead time?

Still, those two stories you mentioned in your first post make me actually want to read "Gourmet" for the first time ever.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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As I said at the beginning, the coffee and the protectionism pieces are actually pretty good, but an odd fit for Gourmet. Those, and the fact that the're really reaching with some of their headlines, seem to indicate something is going on at the magazine--and I'd love to know what's driving it.

Does their research indicate that they are still heavily weighted in very old readers? Have they just done a bunch of focus groups and gone away thinking that Gourmet is still not edgy enough?

It all seems very unresolved.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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As I said at the beginning, the coffee and the protectionism pieces are actually pretty good, but an odd fit for Gourmet. Those, and the fact that the're really reaching with some of their headlines, seem to indicate something is going on at the magazine--and I'd love to know what's driving it.

Does their research indicate that they are still heavily weighted in very old readers? Have they just done a bunch of focus groups and gone away thinking that Gourmet is still not edgy enough?

It all seems very unresolved.

Perhaps they are trying to juice up the mag the way Tina Brown did at The New Yorker.

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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Does their research indicate that they are still heavily weighted in very old readers? Have they just done a bunch of focus groups and gone away thinking that Gourmet is still not edgy enough?

I don't remember the stats exactly, but on a CNN special on Ruth Reichl they mentioned this. Basically they said that before she had taken over their subcriber base was declining. After she took over, the subcribers have been increasing and a large portion of the new subscribers were under 30.

I've also heard much discussion on this younger demographic in relation to the Zagat. They also say that people of younger ages are voting and going out to eat more ....

But basically - a big part of it (i think) - is that companies know that younger people spend more money -- so they love catering to that kind of audience.

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It certainly seems as if the magazine is changing. I thought it started to change when Ruth Riechl took over, but it still didn't seem to catch my attention. It will be interesting to see if it can get closer to the edge and still keep all that advertising. I find all that advertising affects how I see the magazine. It makes it harder to focus on the articles.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I happen to agree with you Bux..

Gourmet used to be a fav of mine. Lately, there isn't much substance to it.

I have been reading about food for over 30 years and cooking what I have learned.

Their adverts with recipes remain the same along with some others thrown in without recipes.

Boring!!!

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Gourmet was a favorite of ours in the sixties. It's slid considerably since then. I think it's better under Ruth Reichl, just not better enough yet.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I should add that I also think it could be better. My main criticism, not enough recipes. And - I am in the younger demographic they are going after.

Also, I wish they had a cookbook review every month. And, for some reason I am mostly unsatisfied with their restaurant reviews.

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  • 1 month later...

Picked up the August issue and it is completely free of dissonant headlines and stories. In fact, the whole issue could be from the Eighties or most of the Nineties, pre-Ruth Reichl. Dissonant in a different way.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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I just let Rail Paul read Gourmet for me.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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I read the review of WD-50 in the latest issue, and I didn't think it was particularly scathing or too harsh. At least not when one compares it to the review of Atlas. I would have to say that I wasn't particularly impressed with the overall writing, but, hey, what can you do?

IML

b/r

"Get yourself in trouble."

--Chuck Close

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Ruth Reichl brought a needed update to Gourmet. Although like similar publications it is more a ‘lifestyle’ (whatever that means) than food magazine.

I wonder how long they can maintain their subscription & newsstand base when so much content is available online. Even the current (August) issue has a considerable number of recipes & articles incl. pictures accessible.

Recent catchy titles & more offbeat topics may be an attempt to capture the younger audience Gourmet has attracted. There is little incentive to subscribe just for recipes so long as the recipe database remains free.

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Food's entered popular culture in a big way. It's porn for the new millennium. They're trying to appeal to the yuppie-left boomer and post-boomer demographic, the people who 20 years ago would have driven Volvos but now drive Subaru wagons and mini-SUvs. Think NY Times magazine. People affluent enough to buy quality food and take exotic vacations, but have a "social conscious" too. Best of both worlds.

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I read the review of WD-50 in the latest issue, and I didn't think it was particularly scathing or too harsh.  At least not when one compares it to the review of Atlas.  I would have to say that I wasn't particularly impressed with the overall writing, but, hey, what can you do?

It is so rarely that the Gourmet critic really criticizes a restaurant that I thought this a pretty scathing review. I was skeptical about WD50 but enjoyed my dinner there a couple of weeks ago. There were four of us and we took several dishes and shared them all. I have to admit that we did not order any of the dishes that the Gourmet reviewer did not like. This was pure serendipity as the review came out a few days later. Still it does seem he was unnecessarily hard on them. Does anyone know anything about this reviewer?

Ruth Friedman

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I think Ruth is heavily influenced by Outside--hence the coffee grower story. Outside has a heavy influence within the mag., biz. I like most of the pieces, but I loathe the Sterns whose only interest seems to be big portions.

But I was disgusted that in the "Salute to Italy" issue, the best home cook in Rome was some skinny American who paints precious little water colors.

I'd say they have little to no newstand revenue. But their ad pages are decent, and that's what pays the bills.

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"I'd say they have little to no newstand revenue. "

Gourmet's single copy (newsstand) sales are around 100,000 an issue, on a total circulation of about 900,000.

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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Gourmet's single copy (newsstand)  sales are around 100,000 an issue, on a total circulation of about 900,000.

That sounds a tad high.... (the newsstand, that is, not the circ).

My feeling about what's going on at Gourmet is something that I think you (Fresco) said a while back: no one really seems to be paying much attention. Trying to figure out the editorial vision of the current iteration of Gourmet is almost impossible. One month it's investigative journalism, another the old 1980s style Gourmet. They are very sloppy in their headline and caption writing (although I think attention to detail is getting better), and they don't seem to think about the editorial mix much in each issue (referring to winter in a summer issue is just downright sloppiness and totally unforgiveable. Where are the copy editors????). They do a lot of "special issues" that are very poorly signposted. If you didn't read the spine copy, you'd never know the issue was supposed to be a travel issue, or "islands" issue, or whatever.

I don't think the bottom line is doing well at all, so I wonder how long S.I. Newhouse will let Reichl continue at the top. She seems more commited to being a writer than an editor...

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Hmmm. Finally, someone who agrees with me about Gourmet. Suspect you may be right about Reichl being more inclined to writing--it's not an easy or natural transition to make. The newsstand is about half of some of their competitors.

Really too bad, because I thought Reichl was making a difference for the better in the early goings. But the masthead below her hasn't budged much, which may indicate that she is losing interest and the regulars are just back on autopilot.

Here's a link to a story that discusses circ and newsstand:

http://archives.medialifemagazine.com/news.../news30223.html

Edited by fresco (log)
Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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