Young and Hungry

A ‘Fan’ Letter to National Eater.com

header-logo-kissDear Editors at National Eater.com,

Allow me to begin this letter with an apology: I'm sorry for not writing earlier. Over the weeks, I've become a huge fan of your renegade editorial approach of poaching other people's content and reposting it on your Web site for fun and profit. You are leading food writing bravely into the 21st century, proving that a business model in which you actively sabotage and exploit the working media can lead journalism out of its Dark Ages.

I'm specifically writing to applaud your recent attempt at investigative reporting, under the headline, "Anonymous Restaurant Critics: A Field Guide." It was a masterstroke of public service journalism. I can't think of a better way to help diners in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, and Washington D.C. than to arm restaurateurs with photos and inside information on critics so that owners can game the system and ensure that customers continue to pay hundreds of dollars for meals and service that only Sam Sifton and Jonathan Gold can receive.

Even better, your unmasking of the public's trusted sources of independent food criticism was an expansion of your earlier, fumbling attempts to give the hospitality industry an upper hand in this terrible economy. What started as a sloppy kiss to Dallas restaurateurs has turned into an orgy where you play the submissive bottom for the entire country's well-heeled restaurant owners. Could a Beard Award be far behind?

Politically, Eater.com is on the cutting-edge of modern thinking, standing arm-and-arm with the country's best minds, like Sarah Palin and members of the Tea Bag Party, who believe the media cannot be trusted and their power must be neutralized by any means necessary. Your steadfast beliefs even filter down to the humble food blog community, those misguided souls who write about cooking and restaurants for the sheer love of it. Bravo to you for taking your jackboot and stamping out this democratic surge of public commentary. This is a great purge worthy of Stalin.

I can only hope that we will see more of this anti-populist work in the future. Might I suggest a take-down of lowly independent food truck operators who litter our streets with their pathetic attempts to feed us affordable snacks? Or expose a working critic while trying to do his job? Or maybe pushing moribund independent restaurants over the edge by publicly cataloging their struggles?

I know I'm not alone in saying this: But I hope that we'll one day live in a world in which Web aggregators with a desperate need for cash dominate public discourse.  It will no doubt raise our collective journalistic standards to Eater.com levels, and that's good for everyone — unless you're a food critic, restaurant diner, or blogger. And who cares about them?

Yours,

Tim Carman

Young & Hungry

  • Mike from H Street

    I was with you right up to the gratuitous slam of Tea Party activists. How does your disagreement with their philosophy relate to your spot-on criticism of Eater?

    If anything, it detracts from your main argument - that Eater is anti-populist. Your criticism of their efforts to stamp out "this democratic surge of public commentary" sounds a bit hypocritical after using a sexual entendre to demean grassroots anti-tax demonstrators.

    Public commentary is valuable regardless of whether or not you agree with it. That's what makes Eater's approach so distasteful in the first place, isn't it?

  • Native JD in DC

    The Tea Party philosophy is like McDonalds...an antiquated and hypocritical philosophy followed by fat aging antiquarians who want nothing more then another uniform cheeseburger while Medicare pays for their insulin.

    Bravo on hitting Eater TC.

  • J

    Hey Tim- is Eater moving to the DC area? I hope not, we have enough food critics here!

  • Clever Hans

    Same here. Decent slam until it swerved across eight lanes of traffic to hit Sarah Palin, use a homophobic slur, and invoke Godwin's Other Law by mentioning Stalin. Also I couldn't figure out what it thought about bloggers, but I guess I can guess that if it's coming from a journalist, it's slamming the blogger menace.

    In short, I guess it needed an editor....

  • CTR

    this is freakin' hilarious and well-deserved. made me SOL (that's "snort out loud.")

    (i have searched for the homophobic slur and am still baffled. perhaps clever hans isn't clever enough to know that the concept of tops and bottoms isn't limited to gay sex? and even if it WERE, simply alluding to the practice/concept isn't homophobic.)

  • ALH

    Excellently put.

  • brian

    Tim, your argument against "poaching other people’s content and reposting it on your Web site for fun and profit" would have come across better if your next Young & Hungry item wasn't just a Colbert Report clip.

  • http://twitter.com/ashtx ashlee

    LOL. Tim- haters gonna hate. Dunno why everyone gets so wound up about perfectly legitimate stylistic writing... you're not a news reporter. Just wanted to say I enjoy your writing because of the personal flair you add in your commentary. I could pick out your reviews from a dozen different authors, and I think that's the sign of a better writer.

  • Bill Wilson

    Oh Tim, get off your self righteous bandwagon. Are you trying to tell all of us that critics aren't the biggest lot of self promoters out there? To start they make their living selling a magazine or newspaper. Most tend to overexagerate the greatness or crapiness of a restaurant in order to intrigue people into reading their articles. Back to the critic as teh self promoter...don't they all have blogs(or chogs) these days and constantly reference ohhhh...and look what I wrote here, and look what I wrote on this. Give me a break, if you want to learn the communities local blogs are where its at, so what is the worry about restaurants possibly learning something about critics.

  • Kevin

    Tim--first of all, seek help. You're obviously an angry individual in need of some combination of therapy and medication. Second, comparing ANYTHING Eater.com does to a "great purge worthy of Stalin" is disgusting and shameful. MILLIONS OF PEOPLE died because of Joseph Stalin. I await any information concerning the body count left by this food website. I'm sorry--do they send ninja assassins out to break the necks of those who criticize their website? I must have missed that bit of news...and I agree with an earlier comment questioning how you made the leap to insulting Sarah Palin and the "Tea Bag Party". Again, anger issues abound here. Take a deep breath, punch a pillow, and wash down some prescription drugs with alcohol. We'll be better for it.

  • john
  • NovaGirl

    Well said Mr. Carman.

    Wow, lots of love for Failin' Palin in CP readership!

  • Tim Carman

    Hi J,

    To answer your question, Eater.com has tried to launch a site for D.C. I know they hired at least one part-time writer for the local project. But nothing has come from it yet. I don't know where it stands. But if the D.C. site doesn't come to pass, it won't be the first time Eater.com has tried (and failed) to launch in another city. See Chicago:

    http://www3.timeoutny.com/chicago/blog/out-and-about/2008/11/eater-chicago-not-happening/

    -Tim

  • Keith B

    Kevin--first of all, seek help. You're obviously an idiot. U mad?

    HOW DARE TIM USE HYPERBOLE

    WHERE ARE THE EDITORS

  • CTR

    Tim, seek help!! Maybe from the same therapist who treated Swift, Twain, Parker, and Colbert -- other folks who used exaggeration for the purposes of satire and were castigated by the colossally obtuse.

    Kevin, you are obviously a bitter, sick, and twisted individual, to suggest treating anger problems by washing down psychotropic drugs with liquor!!! Don't you know that is incredibly dangerous??? Alcohol and drugs can interact badly in the system! Are you trying to tell Tim to kill himself?? How horrible! SHAAAAAAME on you!!

    (Oh, wait. Were you exaggerating to make a point?)

  • Pete

    "What is the worry about restaurants possibly learning about their critics?"

    Skipping over the current debate about the value/possibility of anonymity, Eater.com is a site that purports to be about eating. i.e., serving people who eat and want to eat well. There are still plenty of people out there (I'm one of them) who actually listen to food critics and have come to value their (ideally) neutral, educated opinions. How does it serve those people for Eater.com to OUT professionals for whom anonymity helps ensure that their experience at a restaurant will be typical of any diner's?

    It's true a restaurant can only do so much to improve its food when the staff spot a critic. But they can vastly improve the service, plating, timing, etc. -- making it impossible for a critic to judge how she/he would be treated as an average Joe -- which is what critics are ideally doing.

    Outing a critic to restaurants does "eaters" no favors. All it does is allow the restaurant to skew publicity in its own favor by helping it identify and suck up to a powerful voice.

  • natchikin

    Tim,
    the indignation rings a bit hollow. Clearly you chose the opportunity to be on TV with Tony Bourdain over the value of being able to review a restaurant anonymously years ago. So what's your excuse?

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