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New York Times Food Section


rich
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The New York Times Food Section has been in decline for some five years, but today it hit rock bottom. It has reached the point of embarrassment and has followed the rest of the paper into the solid, but unheralded state of mediocrity.

Today's section is composed of meaningless features, meaningless recipe ideas, non newsworthy stories and a completely worthless wine column. (The latter is highly unusual because Asimov is normally at the top of his game - I guess everyone's entitled to an off day.)

The section puts a restaurant review on the front page - a place normally reserved for its four-star reviews, yet Le Cirque is awarded two stars. (That's the level the reviewer lavishes on every restaurant in which he doesn't have a clue - there have a been a number of two stars lately.)

Even the lowly Staten Island Advance has a far better food section than the NY Times at this point. And please, I don't want to hear it's summer and slow - if that's the reason, then don't print the section during July and August. That would be infinitely better than printing what they have. And what would be the excuse for the other ten months? It's too sunny, rainy, cold, icy, etc.??? Maybe it's just plain homecooked apathy.

The NY Times yesterday announced the paper would be cut by an inch starting next year to save money - and this by a paper whose moto is "All the News That's Fit to Print." Here's my suggestion - keep the inch and get rid of the rest of the paper.

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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Think the Times sucks? Try the Washington Post, with articles today about bottled salad dressings, spatulas, a completely uninformative blurb on the Fancy Food Show, some recipe for grilled chicken breasts, a recommendation to ask restaurants for some of their herbs when you run out, and a feature called, 'Is there Anything left we can Eat'. Makes the Times writers look like Tolstoy. I also agree that the Times readers would be better served if the whole thing was only one-inch wide.

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Okay, okay, can we cut the NYT Food & Dining section a little slack? It is July and temperatures are soaring outside ... there is an article on green markets and one on our local Atlantan Anne Quattrano's peaches ... and it is usually somewhat more engaging, I'll admit ... and, from time to time there is a Julia Moskin piece ... Asimov has something nice on sweeter wines... and Fabricant has some nectarine ideas ... maybe they perk up come fall ... :rolleyes:

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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When they first started producing the separate food section on Wednesdays, it was just juicy with delicious information and I began to collect them.

But as of late I have frequently noticed tired issues. I've stopped collecting them so rabidly. Where did the excitement go? Even Bittman seems bored.

What gives NYT?

That said, I still need to make my regular jaunt to the newstand and purchase a copy every Wednesday. It's a habit that always provides me with a bit of necessary culinary escapism - and escape from the confines of my computer - over a great cup of coffee or lunch at one of my favourite stops.

Now we have the Sunday issue delivered to our doorstep where I can read the magazine or any other pertinent info on NY food culture. I thought last week's article on ice cream was very entertaining.

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Okay, okay, can we cut the NYT Food & Dining section a little slack? It is July and temperatures are soaring outside

Soaring temperatures have nothing to do with the Times food section. The editors work in very comfortable conditions. NYC has been cutting the Times "slack" for the last five years. No more! They want to be the paper of record, it's about time they started bahaving as such.

No one cuts me slack in the summer if I'm doing a bad job. Sure everyone is entitled to a off day (as I said about Asimov's wine article), but the Times as a whole is in the middle of having 1826 consecutive bad days (5 years plus an extra leap year day). How much more slack should we "cut" them?

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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The New York Times Food Section has been in decline for some five years, but today it hit rock bottom. It has reached the point of embarrassment and has followed the rest of the paper into the solid, but unheralded state of mediocrity.

Today's section is composed of meaningless features, meaningless recipe ideas, non newsworthy stories and a completely worthless wine column. (The latter is highly unusual because Asimov is normally at the top of his game - I guess everyone's entitled to an off day.)

The section puts a restaurant review on the front page - a place normally reserved for its four-star reviews, yet Le Cirque is awarded two stars. (That's the level the reviewer lavishes on every restaurant in which he doesn't have a clue - there have a been a number of two stars lately.)

Even the lowly Staten Island Advance has a far better food section than the NY Times at this point. And please, I don't want to hear it's summer and slow - if that's the reason, then don't print the section during July and August. That would be infinitely better than printing what they have. And what would be the excuse for the other ten months? It's too sunny, rainy, cold, icy, etc.??? Maybe it's just plain homecooked apathy.

The NY Times yesterday announced the paper would be cut by an inch starting next year to save money - and this by a paper whose moto is "All the News That's Fit to Print." Here's my suggestion - keep the inch and get rid of the rest of the paper.

I disagree on the "Cirque" review--this is worthy of a page one in the food section given its place in history.

Newspapers are all wrestling with the fact that times are changing. newspapers are simply not as important as resources anymore.

IMOP the Times is gradually morphing into USA Today for intellectuals.

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I thought last week's article on ice cream was very entertaining.

Yeah, but "I hate lobster" followed by "I hate ice cream"-- what's next, "I hate hot dogs and cotton candy?" They don't call it the silly season for nothing, I guess.

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I disagree on the "Cirque" review--this is worthy of a page one in the food section given its place in history.

Newspapers are all wrestling with the fact that times are changing. newspapers are simply not as important as resources anymore.

IMOP the Times is gradually morphing into USA Today for intellectuals.

Normally I would agree with you about Le Cirque. But remember, there were couple of Le Cirque features a few months back and one was a front pager (I think). So based on that, I don't think the review belonged on the front page unless it was four stars.

Whatever happended to publishing a food section that was meaningful?

Personally I agree about newspapers being "not as important resources anymore." But I believe it is a result of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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There's an awful lot of nay-saying going on in this thread. I'm curious about what advice gulleters would have for the Dining section. What are articles that you'd like to read and who ought to write them? Let's offer some criticism they can use. What articles or kinds of articles have revved your engine. My bet is that the walls have ears.

I'll start. I've loved everything Matt and Ted Lee have written. I'd like to see their byline far more often.

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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For me, the Times just lost so much credibility with the hiring of Hesser.. I thought she completely ruined the rating system.. I have no criticism because I no longer read it..

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There's an awful lot of nay-saying going on in this thread.  I'm curious about what advice gulleters would have for the Dining section.  What are articles that you'd like to read and who ought to write them?  Let's offer some criticism they can use.  What articles or kinds of articles have revved your engine.  My bet is that the walls have ears.

I'll start.  I've loved everything Matt and Ted Lee have written.  I'd like to see their byline far more often.

Ned:

I believe this is a problem that runs far deeper and is far more complex than "what/who would we like to see/read in the food section."

I would say this is more about the "raison d'etre" of not only the food section but the paper as a whole.

It is rooted in leadership (or lack thereof) guiding the paper into a new era. Media consumption habits are rapidly changing. What does the Times want to be and how can it deliver in the face of these changing time. Maybe it is a problem with the "times changing and the changing of the Times."

The writers are ok--there are some very fine writers on board. I would say there are fewer problems with the old guard--Apple, sheraton et al.

The newer writers are ok as well though they tend to stumble more often. It is IMOP how all these writers are used or not used and what their roles are that is a possible problem.

The Times food section needs to appeal to people in the tri state area but also the rest of the nation--a difficult balancing act.

It needs be relevant.

So--with the internet and Zagats and Gourmet and Food and Wine and the Food Network, and NY Magazine, many newsletters and thousands of web sites and food and wine blogs and.......

What do they do?

What would they do best? --if anything? Where is their niche?

Years ago--people around the country could look to New York to see trends coming etc so what happened in NYC was important and interesting. This is no longer as true.

The Times sees itself as a national publication but I wonder are they doing the best job they could and is this the mission? Or is this mission--one of excellence being undermined by other agendas?

IMOP-the leadership under Pinch is a real problem. The priorities under him were skewed--they still are. Howell Raines was a disaster. A simple and compelling sports story (the Masters golf situation) becomes a mess, good writers look silly, the paper loses credibility.

Same as l'affaire Hesser--she is a fine writer, yet she falls all over the place when assigned to review restaurants--she looks bad and --the paper loses credibility.

There are some interesting and credible voices writing for the food section. But somewhere in the bowels of the paper there has to be a clearly defined mission and an atmosphere that makes the most of these writers talents and perspectives. it is IMOP important that a paper like a record company or a ball team --recognizes and obtains good talent and creates and manages an environment where that talent thrives.

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There's an awful lot of nay-saying going on in this thread.  I'm curious about what advice gulleters would have for the Dining section.  What are articles that you'd like to read and who ought to write them?  Let's offer some criticism they can use.  What articles or kinds of articles have revved your engine.  My bet is that the walls have ears.

I'll start.  I've loved everything Matt and Ted Lee have written.  I'd like to see their byline far more often.

Let me say right at the start, that I agree wholeheartedly with John's last post.

As far as advice Ned, there is no one problem the Times can address to solve this problem. It is a cancer that has spread throughout the paper. A large number of the food writers are fine - they lack focus and direction and that comes from the editors who get it from the publishers.

The death of a newspaper is one of the saddest events we as an educated community can witness. The New York Times has died a painful death. I know it's still publishing and will continue to do so long after everyone on this board has turned to ash, but the spirit of the paper is no more (with apologies to Mr. Poe).

The lifeblood of a newspaper isn't the pulp, it isn't the words, it isn't even the opinion columns, it's the "nebulous feel" of the staff that they're turning out something special day after day. The current editors and publishers have taken that "feel" away and I fear it will never be returned.

Edited by rich (log)

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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There's an awful lot of nay-saying going on in this thread.  I'm curious about what advice gulleters would have for the Dining section.  What are articles that you'd like to read and who ought to write them?  Let's offer some criticism they can use.  What articles or kinds of articles have revved your engine.  My bet is that the walls have ears.

I'll start.  I've loved everything Matt and Ted Lee have written.  I'd like to see their byline far more often.

I too love the continuing adventures of Matt and Ted. The other feature they had for a while which was great, were Mark Bittman's articles cooking with a chef, not just in New York but around the U.S. - gotta get him up here to do the same. They were most informative. And not just with celebrity chefs but with home cooks as well.

I'd just like to see more of what they do - more explorations of an obscure recipe, a seasonal specialty, that sort of thing. That's what interests me. I also like the New York neighbourhood profiles.

Another thought is - and it doesn't have that much to do with the Wednesday Times - but I think what we are lacking is a new food celebrity. A fresh voice. Some fresh blood.

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I enjoyed the Times food writing more before they made it into a separate section (although I agree the first few were well done). I think perhaps they started spreading themselves a bit thin, and then got in the habit of less dense/interesting articles.

In my opinion, and what I am looking for is primarily recipes and thoughts on food trends since I don't live in New York, the recipes they have published in the last 4 years are generally of two categories - so simple I don't think that you need a recipe, or so complex that I am very unlikely to make them, perhaps partially because the accompanying articles are not particularly inspiring. The articles on food trends also seem a bit behind the times, rather than cutting edge.

I do like the adventures of Matt and Ted (although sometimes a bit long). But those are the only recurring features that I find have a fresh perspective.

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For me, the Times just lost so much credibility with the hiring of Hesser.. I thought she completely ruined the rating system.. I have no criticism because I no longer read it..

It wasn't the "hiring" of Hesser.

IMOP--it is the role she fills.

She is not a good "critic." She is, however, much better as a

general lifestyles writer covering food.

With more "seasoning" she may develop a good critical sensibility.

Her tone is often a bit too much--snippy, know it all, and I find her

a tad obnoxious--but then when she attenuates that attitude a bit

her writing is quite entertaining and good.

An example is her piece on Emeril. It wasn't so much what she said--it was how

she said it! She often lacks a sense of humor and graciousness.

I know Mimi posts here--I would love to see her more often and given more

free reign. Apple is near perfect. Matt and Ted are often quite good Bittman is

also very fine. even Bruni is improving.

Clearly the paper has lost its way--there is good talent there.

There are also a lot of people who are given opportunities or elevated into positions they are just not ready for to further other agendas/ends.

The paper is looking for "voices" often at the expense of good writing/reporting.

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After some hours of reflection, another twist I'd like from the Dining section is more peer to peer communication between amateurs. Jonathan Reynolds has provided some of this, most recently with an article about a dinner at Kurt Anderson's apartment. There's room for more poetics and less synergy (ie PR) in such pieces (though the Anderson piece may have had some of the latter).

For many of the reasons JohnL listed, the news business is in transition. Thanks in large part to the internet and less so to cable news, it has lost its center. Eventually the dust will settle. I appreciate that political partisanship has no place on this website. A discussion of the bit of the paper that wraps the Dining section risks trespassing there.

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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Disclaimer: I don't read the Food Section every week and don't have any basis for judging reviews of NYC restaurants.

That said, I am sort of mystified by the attack inspired by this week's issue. I was especially interested in the article on the Greensmarkets in different sections of the city and the larger social issues the writer acknowledged.

As for the world outside Manhattan, people here in D.C. are patting a local on the back for being consulted due to his expertise in Austrian wine. Perhaps Washington, D.C. as a daily destination or point of departure for many whose jobs send them back and forth between the homes of the Post and The NYT does not represent a sufficiently broad focus for a national newspaper, but there is also a brief report of Agraria, a restaurant started here to bring the political interests of North Dakota farmers to the attention of our lobbyists. (I would have spent more time investigating the implications of this restaurant were I assigned the piece.)

What I appreciate in food sections are lots of recipes acknowledging seasons, newly available items, trends... Not something for busy New Yorkers? Or for both genders when this isn't the Women's Pages?

* * *

I still don't understand how the fate of the contemporary newspaper in light of online media is related to your critique. I don't see ways the perils of lost revenue can be addressed by changes in the Food Section---or the power of the online version of the Times might be exploited.

Actually, I take that back since I just thought of one thing, but am keeping it to myself since I'd rather hear what critics say. I do know that now that The NYT seeks profit from online subscribers, the food & travel sections seem to be accessible for free for longer periods of time than other features. Does this suggest the paper's sense of priorities?

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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After some hours of reflection, another twist I'd like from the Dining section is more peer to peer communication between amateurs.  Jonathan Reynolds has provided some of this, most recently with an article about a dinner at Kurt Anderson's apartment.  There's room for more poetics and less synergy (ie PR) in such pieces (though the Anderson piece may have had some of the latter). 

For many of the reasons JohnL listed, the news business is in transition.  Thanks in large part to the internet and less so to cable news, it has lost its center.  Eventually the dust will settle.  I appreciate that political partisanship has no place on this website.  A discussion of the bit of the paper that wraps the Dining section risks trespassing there.

Political partisanship has nothing to do with this.

Good writing and reporting is the only issue.

Good writing and reporting come from all political angles.

It is when any agenda (political, financial etc) gets in the way of good writing and reporting

that there are problems.

I fear that the Times put other things ahead of great Journalism and delivering a quality product.

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Yeh, I think the whole paper is worthless.  I stopped reading there news along time ago and havent paid attention to the food section since Hesser..

Yeah, Hesser was good for a laugh

:laugh:

-Hater

does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

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JohnL,

I went back and read the thread again. I agree with you. I was respondng to rich way upthread and should have been clearer about it.

Whatever happended to publishing a food section that was meaningful?

Can you name some of the things you think the Times has put ahead of "great Journalism"?

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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Sticking to food/dining writing, I think the NYT is head-and-shoulders above anyone else I've read-in the past coupla months, the Wash Post(see above), Miami Herald, Chicago Trib. Addressing the food section by saying newspapers in general, and the NYT in particular, are dinosaurs, or slipping, doesn't really address the issue. Perhaps the problem is not the writers, but the subject. There are natural limitations to any genre writing that only a very talented few can surmount over a period of time. Remember when articles about farmer's markets were new and exciting? When anyone gave a shit about Le Cirque? When knowing where to buy a freakin Jamaican Patty in Flushing started you drooling? Me neither. But I'm pretty sure it was before every nitwit in every hamlet decided to go on the road to find the best barbecue in the land! (see next week's Times). Face it, even Bourdain, whose writing is among the best, has been repeating himself ad nauseum to the point of shtick.

I hate to sound a positive note, but objectively, the NYT Dining Section is damned good.

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Perhaps the problem is not the writers, but the subject.  There are natural limitations to any genre writing that only a very talented few can surmount over a period of time.  Remember when articles about farmer's markets were new and exciting?  ... Face it, even Bourdain, whose writing is among the best, has beimeen repeating himself ad nauseum to the point of shtick.

I hate to sound a positive note, but objectively, the NYT Dining Section is damned good.

Danny:

I'm with you here, completely. Food writing is genre writing, fresh topics don't grow on trees. (As a food writer and the Editorial Director of Daily Gullet I understand both these challenges.)

It's a downer when the Times food section doesn't glitter and engage, but sheesh, you could live in Chicago. It's a restaurant town second to few. It has two baseball teams and two daily newspapers, as any good city should. But the food sections in the Tribune or the Sun-Times? . Objectively, they aren't even close to the Times.

For my money, the Los Angeles Times's food section is the only one to give it a run for its money.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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