Yesterday, the Gazette unveiled its new food review strategy: If he doesn’t like the restaurant, the G's anonymous reviewer — “Nathaniel Glen” — writes 100 words, then plugs other restaurants with only a tenuous connection to the originally reviewed spot.
“Below you’ll find a different approach that we hope you’ll prefer,” says an editor’s note that begins the review. “An extremely shortened review of Marzio’s Pizzeria & More, which our critic didn’t love, with suggestions of other good Italian places in the area.”
I imagine the daily does hope its readers prefer this, mainly because it saves the arts and entertainment staff time otherwise spent editing, researching, calling and, let’s not forget, writing.
1. It’s lazy, and not just the typical lazy writing this section of the Gazette sees weekly. It’s actually physically lazy to whitewash the good and bad points.
2. It treats the reader — you — like an idiot, assuming you have zero attention span, as well as no ability to comprehend the many topics a comprehensive review can cover.
3. It makes you wonder: What does the daily do next time it has a negative pizza review — plug the same three restaurant alternatives again? What happens when it re-reviews an established restaurant the paper's previously recommended, and found it wanting — print a retraction?
4. It’s a disservice to the restaurant. Reviews are not written into a void, and they’re certainly not a play area for an established journalist to write unaccountable statements under a pseudonym (ahem). Beyond serving readers, a review should offer the restaurant an assessment of improvable shortcomings and, also, any deserved praise. Some establishments appreciate this service more than others, but it remains a fundamental function of a review. Handing out two out of five stars with the criticism reduced to a couple of lines deprives restaurateurs and readers of the reasons why.
Asked this morning about the new strategy, A&E editor Warren Epstein explained: "We've been doing some audience development work, and some of the suggestions I heard was, 'In one issue, giving us one example of a place not to go might not be as helpful as a different approach.' You know, we're trying it, and if people hate it we'll get going trying something different."
Please, try something different. Do what you should have always done: Have the reviewer write under his real name, cut out the hokey crap (we're talking to you, Mr. Barbecue), and give the review, and the reader, the time they deserve.