Jun 282011
 

Earlier this year, former Gourmet Editor-in-Chief Ruth Reichl began her consulting gig (rumored to be worth $250,000 annually) at Gilt Taste, a high end web food store that’s paying her to advise on food writing on its website.

Gilt Taste is a new kind of media for Reichl, one that blurs the line between advertising and editorial. That’s a sea change from her days at Gourmet, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. To my surprise, she welcomed the switch.

“The notion of the wall between advertising and editorial,” she begins in an interview with Eater, “If you’re dependent on sales and you only have things you are really proud of, there’s no need for that wall and there’s no reason to be embarrassed by saying a product is great and this is why it’s great.”

Really? My eyes widened. So she’s assigning advertorial now, where a company pays to get an enthusiastic article that looks and smells like regular journalism? And her big name freelancers are going for this? The former magazine editor in me got ready to protest.

No, no, and no. It’s so much tamer than that. Some of the stories have links to products Gilt Taste sells. That’s it. Links.

(Here are two examples. For a recipe by New York Times regular freelancer Melissa Clark on steak and potatoes, the words “boneless ribeye steaks” are hot, and they link to a catalog item for $127.95 for four Continue reading »

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Apr 042011
 

I asked former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl this very question last week, after a talk she gave at Stanford University.

Turns out that the James Beard awards, the so-called “Oscars of food writing,” launched a new humor category and nominated an anonymous tweeter called Ruth Bourdain.

This fictional character’s rain of raunchy tweets mash up Ruth Reichl and bad boy Anthony Bourdain (That’s Bourdain’s face and Reichl’s hair in the photo), often satirizing Reichl’s lyrical tweets in Bourdain’s sardonic tone. She mimics his humor, shock value and swearing.

There’s been lots of hand-wringing in the press about this nomination, because RuBo is anonymous. Also because the category is for a journalism award. I mean, are tweets journalism?

Reichl said she “loved the idea” of a humorous food writing category, and that Ruth Bourdain “wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago,” because of Twitter. Both Reichl and Bourdain are rooting for her to win. Reichl said she suspects RuthBourdain is a man. She’s dying to see whether this Continue reading »

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Dec 202009
 

ruthreichl-798678I had the privilege of interviewing Ruth Reichl  recently. She’s been a restaurant reviewer, memoirist, a cookbook writer, recipe developer and former editor of Gourmet. One thing she has never been, she says, is a food writer.

When I asked her to define food writing, I got this response:

“I find food writer a pejorative term. I’m a writer. I don’t only write about food. It’s like saying woman artist. You’re either an artist or you’re not. I would  hope that anybody who writes about food is a good writer, and Continue reading »

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Aug 162009
 

Two leaders in print food writing have acknowledged the power of online restaurant reviews. They’re not about to say they value the opinions, but it’s a start.

imagesSam Sifton, the new restaurant critic for the New York Times, says the net can add value where newspapers cannot. Answering questions about his new post on Diner’s Journal, he said,  “The biggest change in restaurant criticism since my days at NYPress is — hands down — the Internet. I don’t know that I trust the opinion of that guy who loved the sandwiches at Xie Xie and wrote about it on his blog, or Yelp, or Eater, or Midtown Lunch. (Why prevaricate? I don’t trust his opinion.) But boy oh boy do I like the photographs he’s posted, the menu he’s scanned, the information he’s provided for all to share. For myself, I look forward to joining that discussion.”

(By the way, he failed to provide links to Yelp, Eater or Midtown Lunch.)

The announcement about the nation’s most powerful restaurant reviewer prompted some to ask if that title is still relevant, now that anyone can write a restaurant review online, whether a rabid  citizen reviewer or a well-known blogger.

I’m biased enough to think the answer is yes, with a background as a print journalist. I can’t think of a single online reviewer with his influence, when it comes to the fancy restaurants. Can you?

images-1Back in 2006, Gourmet Editor Ruth Reichl said that restaurant reviews in her magazine no longer make sense, because online reviews appear immediately. National magazines often work six months in advance, so scooping the net would be a “ridiculous” proposition. Now the magazine focuses on trend stories, adding depth and insights that online posts do not, and posts reviews only on its website.

She made these comments about print versus online food writing during a New York radio show about “Amateur Gastronomes,” otherwise known as food bloggers. Bloggers Josh Friedland of TheFoodSection.com (who just did what used to be unforgivable: posted a mugshot of Sifton August 10), Jennifer Leuzzi of snack.blogs.com, and Regina Schrambling of gastropoda.com were also on the show. It’s worth a listen.

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