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Newspaper food coverage


fresco
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In the past 10 years, we've seen the rise of Food Network TV, plus a bunch of food or cooking related programs on other channels.

My sense is that there has never been more intense interest in food, dining, food safety and nutrition, but I don't see much evidence that, aside from a few scattered examples of mostly large dailies, newspapers have kept up.

What kind of a job does your local paper do of covering food?

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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Houston has only one major newspaper, The Houston Chronicle. (Locally known as The Barnacle.) It does a pretty poor job with a couple of exceptions. I cruise it regularly for posting on the Texas forum.

The Wednesday edition has the Food section. It is pretty mundane on most days. Oh... There might be some useful recipes but usually nothing of great interest.

On Friday, the dining guide comes out. It is a "tabloid format" insert. The one bright spot is that they now have Alison Cook as a restaurant reviewer. She is a delightful writer. So that means that she gets barbs in the Whine & Dine column. That is where our locals wax eloquent on dining experiences. "The portions are huge. We love this place." :laugh:

Incongruously, The Houston Press, the "alternative" weekly, has the incomparable Robb Walsh on board.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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My local newspaper runs a few AP articles and the syndicated Cheap Thrills Cuisine on two or three pages of their Style section. Often, but not every week, one of their journalists will do a feature on a local restaurant or cook. I would like to see them add regular columns so I had something to look forward to on a regular basis.

Tammy Olson aka "TPO"

The Practical Pantry

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Crap. Pure crap. I was used to the Fort Worth Star Telegram, which has a good Wednesday Food, and believe you me, the Billings Gazette is nada importada. There's not even a food section, and when the holidays come around, they just pull syndicated stuff like how to cook a turkey. So I get a good food section from a NDAK paper.

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I feel pretty fortunate to have the Washington Post. Their weekly food section is normally pretty good - covering cooking, food issues wine and restaurants. And with a pretty good mix of simple to complex stuff.

Bill Russell

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I have the Star Ledger here in Central NJ, and I think they do a very good food section (ok, so they're in NYT's shadow, so that seems to just jack up residents' expectations...)

There is a serious Italian-American bent to the food section, reflecting the local population, and the tastes quite a bit more sophisticated and diverse than other small-time papers. But they also cater to the low-brow (but great) chow that's out there...

My favorite: a great feature every summer, the MunchMobile, which is a refurbished WeinerMobile that travels the state filled with volunteers, looking for the best food in NJ. Every week from Memorial Day to Labor Day, they look for the best of a specific type of food - from pies (southern NJ's farmstands has a near-monopoly on that), milkshakes, Vietnamese cuisine, Sunday brunches, you name it. Loosen your belts...

Edited by laurenmilan (log)

"Give me 8 hours, 3 people, wine, conversation and natural ingredients and I'll give you one of the best nights in your life. Outside of this forum - there would be no takers."- Wine_Dad, egullet.org

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Philadelphia:

Let's start with the paper of record or whatever you want to call the main one,

Inquirer---respectable to very good

sports and urban development focused, tabloid paper:

Daily News---okay, less in depth, but covers all the bases

alternative newsweeklies

Philadelphia Weekly and City Paper---respectable,

one does it with less of an enthusiast's point of view and more like Ms. everygirl or a girl representing the main target demographic 18-35 year old Philly urban hipster female

the other does it with a more educated analysis with big "SAT" words, and basically covers all the bases, but with more depth than Daily News

anyone disagree about Philly papers? I'd be interested in viewpoints.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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I have the Star Ledger here in Central NJ, and I think they do a very good food section (ok, so they're in NYT's shadow, so that seems to just jack up residents' expectations...)

There is a serious Italian-American bent to the food section, reflecting the local population, and the tastes quite a bit more sophisticated and diverse than other small-time papers. But they also cater to the low-brow (but great) chow that's out there...

My favorite: a great feature every summer, the MunchMobile, which is a refurbished WeinerMobile that travels the state filled with volunteers, looking for the best food in NJ. Every week from Memorial Day to Labor Day, they look for the best of a specific type of food - from pies (southern NJ's farmstands has  a near-monopoly on that), milkshakes, Vietnamese cuisine, Sunday brunches, you name it.  Loosen your belts...

While I concur with your evaluation of The Star Ledger's food coverage, it is hardly a "small-time" newspaper as you describe.

It ranks 16th in U.S. weekday circulation -- ahead of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Detroit Free Press, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cleveland Plain Dealer and other papers. The 15 papers with larger circulations include the nation's two behemoths, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal.

What the Ledger lacked (and, to some extent, still does) is a reputation. Other than its sports pages (I'm biased about this, but the sports section has long been a home to some great writing and much better coverage than its NYC counterparts), the Ledger had little to commend it. The Newhouse family, however, took advantage of the retirement of long-time editor Mort Pye (who did a yeoman's job with the limited resources he had) to improve the paper's reputation by bringing in top-flight outsiders to revamp the paper and its editorial page. I miss some of the character and characters of the old Ledger, but no doubt about it, the Ledger is a better paper today than it was (other than the sports section, which was always top notch).

My guess is, at least on a profitability per circulation unit basis, the Star Ledger is the most profitable daily newspaper in the country, but Donald and Si Newhouse aren't telling me their financial secrets.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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The Los Angeles Times does a terrific job of covering just about everything on the food scene. In addition to Editor Russ Parsons' interesting and informative articles on food preparation, the section boasts writers David Shaw, Irene Virbila, and Linda Burum reporting on ethnic restaurants. The section also covers restaurant openings and closings, as well as chef movements. The food section is the first thing I turn to in the paper on Wednesdays.

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Re: Philadelphia Inquirer

I think the individual writers (Nichols, Klein, LaBan, Marter -- did I miss anyone?) do a better-than-average job. What's disappointing is the lack of space. Most weeks (this time of year is the exception), the Thursday food section is all of four pages, including the ads, with photos taking up one-third of the news hole. And there's too much wire/syndicated copy.

Bob Libkind aka "rlibkind"

Robert's Market Report

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The Los Angeles Times does a terrific job of covering just about everything on the food scene. In addition to Editor Russ Parsons' interesting and informative articles on food preparation, the section boasts writers David Shaw, Irene Virbila, and Linda Burum reporting on ethnic restaurants. The section also covers restaurant openings and closings, as well as chef movements. The food section is the first thing I turn to in the paper on Wednesdays.

Week-in, week-out, I think the LA Times publishes the best food section in the country. But Michalene Busico, not Russ Parsons, is the section's editor.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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Horrible. The Omaha World Herald prints a restaurant review every Friday and piggybacks a movie review on top of it. The reviewer, John Keenan, writes bland, nicey-nice reviews so as not to offend anyone, but he doesn't describe the food at all. "My wife had a pasta with cream sauce." Hmmm...on second thought, the restaurants here are vastly lame, so maybe bland and nicey-nice is going to be the best he can do.

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Our local paper in the South Bay area of Los Angeles County does a pretty good weds 1.5 page food section. It is usually a mix of stuff from the wire and from food section editor/wroter Cerise Valenzuala. Lots of stuff with recipies and ethnic food plus some nice photos. Its the Daily Breeze.

Edited by Chris Cognac (log)

Moo, Cluck, Oink.....they all taste good!

The Hungry Detective

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The Vancouver Sun does a pretty crappy job, with occasional Martha Stewart-like collections of recipes. On Thursdays it includes a weekly insert called "the Queue" that's mostly Entertainment related, but includes some decent restaurant reviews.

Better than the big paper is a free alternative paper called the "Georgia Straight" with some interesting stuff, and more restaurant reviews, once you get past the escort and hydroponic supply ads.

I know a man who gave up smoking, drinking, sex, and rich food. He was healthy right up to the day he killed himself. - Johnny Carson
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The Dallas Morning News publishes a really respectable and educational food section once a week. The restaurant reviews come out on Friday and they too are informative and most often dead-on with their critiques, etc. When a place is bad...they say so!

The alternative weekly, The Observer, has a restaurant section that is a good compliment to the Morning News. They tend to write about the Dallas "scene" , not necessarily the 4 star joints the News would cover.

I am very happy with the Dallas food journalists!

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The Montreal Gazette does a pretty good food section, especially with restaurant reviews.  They have now even included a few special food articles on Saturdays which is nice.

Larry, ARE YOU SERIOUS!! I'll ask you again, ARE YOU SERIOUS!!! In all my years, of checking out the Montreal Gazette food section, I've never been impressed at all. Nowadays, the Wednesday food section is even shorter & shorter(less space devoted to food content), as it's part of the revamped Art & Life section. I can't remember how long, Julian Armstrong has been their Food Editor(must be around 20 years). I see locals in their respective areas complaining about the Toronto Star & NY Times's food section on eGullet. The Montreal Gazette's food section is a hundred times worse!!

As for as the Saturday restaurant reviews(not really part of the food section). It's better, but still could be improved. I like Lesley Chesterman's selection of the fine dining restaurants that she reviews(she has reviewed quite a few restaurants, throughout the Montreal area(& sometimes beyond that), that I have never heard of). Although quite a few of the fine dining restaurants reviewed, are not really true fine dining restaurants(can't blame her as there's not enough of these restaurants, for her to review a new restaurant weekly). I would like Sarah Musgrave's casual-dining reviews to be a little longer(it's way too short). And it's always been my feeling that the reviews in the big city daily papers, should always be based on at least two visits(Lesley occasionally makes more than one visit, before her reviews). A pet peeve of mine, is that many of the Montreal restaurant critics, rush to review the high-profile new restaurants(as soon as 4-5 weeks after opening).

-Steve

Edited by SteveW (log)
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As a Noo Yawka, I feel like I miss out on "local" food coverage because the NY Times tries to be all things to all people in all geographic areas, and misses most of what's local if it's not high-end or connected to a greater food trend. But for what it is, I do like the NYT food section.

I read a handful of food sections (online) from other areas, plus of course the eG news digests:

Boston Globe

Chicago Tribune

LA Times

Washington Post

The Detroit News -- no, I'm not from Detroit. But they have an excellent feature well for their food section.

IMO, most local food sections are too heavy on the dining reviews (which are intrinsically, intensely local) and family-driven "things to eat/make with kids" to be of interest to readers outside of the immediate region.

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The Montreal Gazette does a pretty good food section, especially with restaurant reviews.  They have now even included a few special food articles on Saturdays which is nice.

Larry, ARE YOU SERIOUS!! I'll ask you again, ARE YOU SERIOUS!!! In all my years, of checking out the Montreal Gazette food section, I've never been impressed at all. Nowadays, the Wednesday food section is even shorter & shorter(less space devoted to food content), as it's part of the revamped Art & Life section. I can't remember how long, Julian Armstrong has been their Food Editor(must be around 20 years). I see locals in their respective areas complaining about the Toronto Star & NY Times's food section on eGullet. The Montreal Gazette's food section is a hundred times worse!!

As for as the Saturday restaurant reviews(not really part of the food section). It's better, but still could be improved. I like Lesley Chesterman's selection of the fine dining restaurants that she reviews(she has reviewed quite a few restaurants, throughout the Montreal area(& sometimes beyond that), that I have never heard of). Although quite a few of the fine dining restaurants reviewed, are not really true fine dining restaurants(can't blame her as there's not enough of these restaurants, for her to review a new restaurant weekly). I would like Sarah Musgrave's casual-dining reviews to be a little longer(it's way too short). And it's always been my feeling that the reviews in the big city daily papers, should always be based on at least two visits(Lesley occasionally makes more than one visit, before her reviews). A pet peeve of mine, is that many of the Montreal restaurant critics, rush to review the high-profile new restaurants(as soon as 4-5 weeks after opening).

-Steve

I did mean with the restaurant reviews. However, when you mention it, I do agree that they rush to review new restaurants way too fast!!! Sarah Musgrave also just seems to enjoy every restaurant that she reviews.

I just think that for the general Montreal reader they do a good job. If it became too in depth many would not even read it. It could include some new fresh writing though. People who are into food know where to turn for good writing and info, and I think that the Gazette just tries to give their readers what they want.

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Regarding the Los Angeles Times, I think it's gone down-hill a bit since Parsons stopped being the Food section editor. Home cooks, farmers' markets, and food history have had to make way for restaurant reviews and gossip. It's not that I think that restaurant reviews have no place in food sections, but I also don't think that dropping all mention of what's fresh at the farmers' markets--David Karp was fabulous with this--wasn't warrented. Recipes are fewer as are special essays on food history and cooking techniques. And there even used to be articles about GM foods and what it means to be certified as organic. Now we have multiple articles about "hot" new Westside restaurants and trendy wine buys (though I do enjoy David Shaw's essays).

Emily
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IN Portland, we have the good, the bad and the ugly... okay so maybe jsut the bad and the ugly:

The Oregonian, the only daily i know of, feautures a wednesday food section that, apart from the occasional section actually written by a food PROFESSIONAL (e.g. the wine suggestions) it is pedantic and poorly written. For a while over the summer they were featuring short interviews with 'accomplished' home cooks. In a town full of talented and eccentric chefs, this seems the dumbest idea ever.

The Tabloid style restaurant reviews are ht and miss but the ones i've read seem well done: meaning thorough, fair and they don't show up on opening night... i don't get a chance to read it much.

THe Williamette Week and the Mercury, our 'alt' papers; apart from the occasional Jim Dixon piece (i like him) i am not a big fan. I've seen Roger Porter actually try to pass the famous Bourdain 'vegan' comment as his own (not in print, but spoken). I am just glad Caryn Brooks is gone. she wrote like a high school drop out from gresham.

"The Internet is just a world passing around notes in a classroom."

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A search has revealed some discussion already about Michael Bauer's power and influence as not only food section editor and chief restaurant critic at the San Francisco Chronicle, but also now in charge of the weekend magazine, so I will spare everyone my usual rant and just say that I don't always see eye to eye with him. Personally, I miss Patricia Untermann.

That said, one of the highlights of the Chron's food section is eGullet's own Marlena Speiler, who contributes a column. I also like the newish weekly wine section.

I think Paul Reidinger has done some good writing for the Gaurdian (free weekly tabloid), too.

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