Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Steve Coomes: In modern restaurant journalism, the details are 'softened.'

For my money, and on a daily basis, Steve Coomes is the finest local writer on food, dining and drink. I'm not sure his thoughts in this essay are directly applicable to writing about beer.

Then again, I'm not sure they aren't.


As a journalist, I’ve covered dozens of sporting events, yet at none of these was I asked to pay for my seat on press row. Far as I know, no other reporter has either. It’s assumed that if you work for a credible media outlet, you can “get credentialed” with a free pass that gives you some of the best seats in the house and walk-around access to places fans only dream of going.

No matter what happens at those events, reporters are expected to write it as they see it, even when things turn ugly. It even seems that part of a sports reporter’s job is to find fault so as to appear objective.

My career as a restaurant reporter is lived in a markedly different fashion. People in my trade used to follow the old saying, “Never accept more than a cup of coffee” so you’d never get too friendly with your subjects. If they were restaurant critics with any integrity, they couldn’t even accept that, and the publications they wrote for reimbursed all expenses.

But a paradigm shift is underway in restaurant reporting. Due to the continued paring back of staffs at all publications, more and more freelancers are employed to cover this industry. Those freelancers are not only paid low sums for their work, they’re rarely reimbursed for meals, drinks, tips or the miles rolled up driving to dinner and home.

And yet as reporters, they’re expected to be non-biased chroniclers of what they eat and what they learn about the people who serve those meals. They’re expected to become experts in their understanding and recollection of the subject matter, which requires a significant investment in time if they’re going to be good at that work.

In 2016, here’s where things get a little tricky ...


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