Journalism's Dirty Little Secret: Who's Paying for the Content?
Bravo Pete Wells and the New York Times for the outstandingly poor review of Guy Fieri's Times Square restaurant.
You can read the whole thing here.
Or just opt for some highlights, um, lowlights that start like this: "GUY FIERI, have you eaten at your new restaurant in Times Square?"
Followed by: "Were you struck by how very far from awesome the Awesome Pretzel Chicken Tenders are? If you hadn’t come up with the recipe yourself, would you ever guess that the shiny tissue of breading that exudes grease onto the plate contains either pretzels or smoked almonds? Did you discern any buttermilk or brine in the white meat, or did you think it tasted like chewy air?"
And: "How, for example, did Rhode Island’s supremely unhealthy and awesomely good fried calamari — dressed with garlic butter and pickled hot peppers — end up in your restaurant as a plate of pale, unsalted squid rings next to a dish of sweet mayonnaise with a distant rumor of spice?"
Nope. I don't have anything out for Guy, who actually married a Rhode Islander, and I highly doubt Mr. Wells does either. The reason I love this piece is not only for its brutal honesty, but the simple fact that it got printed. Period.
Seeing this in black and white means the newspaper found the message more important than potentially offending an advertiser, like say the entire Food Network. And that's a beautiful thing. Standard practice, right? Not so much. The nasty little secret within too much of the journalism world is: Cash trumps truth.
Those impartial reviews? Depending on the publication, not always impartial at all. Back in the day, I gave a poor review to a Providence restaurant for some things that a responsible owner should have had tabs on: a dusty interior and a freezer burnt dessert. Yum. I thought, and continue to think, that my job as a writer is to provide an objective view, including the good and the bad.
Not so much.
That was the beginning of the end of my review career at that publication. Why? Because there, as in too many establishments, it's not the editorial department that's in charge of content. It's the advertisers. And if they don't like what you've written about them, they'll retaliate by pulling their ad dollars, causing the publisher to take a walk into the newsroom and have a little chat with the editor about getting their writers in check.
And trust, this is something that I didn't learn about in journalism classes.
The truth is Guy Fieri and his New York restaurant will continue to do just fine, bad review or not. I've made the mistake of eating in the heart of Times Square, where success seems to be marked by churning out a high volume of non-offensive food as quickly as possible so the tourists can get back to their day. Seems like Guy's not only got that covered, but I'd hazard a guess he's known exactly what he's doing all along.
It's just that someone, who clearly appreciates the art of food, decided to call him on it. And for that Pete Wells and The New York Times, I give you a standing O.