Wednesday, September 28, 2005

No Check, Please! N.Y. Post Bids Farewell To Restaurant Reviews

It might be a good idea, although it might just be a good way to trim the editorial budget
N.Y. Post restaurant critic Steve Cuozzo is out of a job, sort of. He says what he does makes no sense nowadays, given the blink-and-you'll-miss-it changes that occur in the kitchen. Chefs often have one foot out the door as soon as they arrive, while menus become the kind of ersatz experiments that you'd steer clear of in chemistry class.
So, Cuozzo says rather than try to keep track of it all, he'll keep track of none of it.
"Back when restaurants were smaller and more stable, a review might hold water for years, he writes in today's paper. "Today, once critics have moved on, the house mutates without any press attention."
Cuozzo is a tad vague about what he'll write instead, but maybe because that's still a work in progress, much like many of the restaurants he reviewed. But he promises that "we'll tell you what's happening at more than one place, in the kitchen or on the floor. We'll aim to give you more useful - and interesting - information than you'll glean from reviews that read like cooking courses and turn stale overnight."
Was that a shot across the bow at Frank Bruni? Not that the Post needs any encouragement to hurl brickbats at the Times, which you can rest assured will keep churning out reviews of places, many of which you won't be able to get a reservation or afford, or both.
Which is not to say that what Bruni and others like him do isn't useful. Often he's entertaining, well-informed and not afraid to slam star chefs for their excesses and shortcomings.
Still, Cuozzo may be onto something. Restaurants are often victim of their own hype, raising expectations that are part and parcel of the high prices many eateries vainly attempt to justify. As Cuozzo notes, in restaurants with large kitchen staffs, you don't know who's manning the flame the night you're there. It could be a transcendant experience, or it could leave you with the same kind of feeling after you watched your Enron stock tank.
However, I suspect restaurant reviews still serve a purpose, and not just as grand theatre when a critic is gleefully vicious. They capture a moment in time, one that may not be recaptured, but one we as diners aspire to latch onto nonetheless if it is particularly memorable.
Reviews can put restaurants on notice about where they're clicking on all cylinders and where they've stalled. You'd think that'd be painfully apparent to many restaurant owners, but many a disappointing dinner proves otherwise. They need to be called to account and if Steve Cuozzo won't do it, then we need others who will.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Being The New York Times Means Never Really Having To Say You're Sorry

Being A Noodge About Nudges
It's easy, often too easy, to take a slam at Geraldo Rivera. He practically begs you to roll your eyes when he straddles his high horse, be it drawing all-too-revealing maps in the desert sands of Iraq, or the toxic muck of New Orleans.
So there should be no reason to exaggerate when relating the latest episode of As Geraldo Turns, as Alessandra Stanley did in the Sept. 5 N.Y. Times when she wrote Rivera "nudged an Air Force rescue worker out of the way so his camera crew could tape him as he helped lift an older woman in a wheelchair to safety."
Rivera threatened to sue if he didn't get a correction, which finally arrived today in the form of an editors' note, which conceded "no nudge was visible in the broadcast."
But that admission, presumably from Executive Editor Bill Keller, came only after the note first proclaimed: "The editors understood the "nudge" comment as the television critic's figurative reference to Mr. Rivera's flamboyant intervention."
Exactly how is a nudge figurative? Either Rivera laid his hands on the rescue worker or he didn't. The once-Gray Lady seeks to create a gray area where none needed to exist. It was too tempting to pummel Rivera, so the nudge was a nudge, whether it was figurative or literal.
Keller's sort-of apology comes two days after Public Editor Barney Calame ripped him a new one for refusing to admit the paper was wrong in face of overwhelming evidence, namely the videotape in question.
Based on the videotape and outtakes I saw, Ms. Stanley certainly would have been entitled to opine that Mr. Rivera's actions were showboating or pushy. But a "nudge" is a fact, not an opinion. And even critics need to keep facts distinct from opinions.
Calame could barely contain his outrage over Keller's e-mail to him, which said as a critic, Stanley had "license" to label Rivera's showboating a "nudge."
I find it disturbing that any Times editor would come so close to implying - almost in a tit-for-tat sense - that Mr. Rivera's bad behavior essentially entitles the paper to rely on assumptions and refuse to correct an unsupported fact.

Exactly. Which demonstrates the level of conviction Keller wrote the editors' note. By dragging this out over three weeks, Keller, Stanley, et al., made this more than just a star reporter having a hissy fit. They even managed the impossible, having people who are not fans of Geraldo feeling sorry for him. And they didn't have to be nudged to feel that way.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Appropriately Named Ryan Church Shows Evidence Of Being Hit With Too Many Pitches

Nationals' Player Says He's Sorry For Unwittingly Being a Bigot

Today's baseball players are coddled beings, flown in luxurious charters to games, staying in fancy hotels and being paid an average salary north of $2.5 million a year while having anything and everything done for them during the season. That apparently includes thinking.

How else are we to view the ignorance and bigotry that came flowing out of the mouth of Washington Nationals outfielder Ryan Church, who's apparently infected by a bad case of evangelical zeal? In Sunday's Washington Post, he mentioned going to a volunteer team chaplain when asking for advice about his Jewish ex-girlfriend.

"I said, like, Jewish people, they don't believe in Jesus. Does that mean they're doomed? Jon nodded, like, that's what it meant. My ex-girlfriend! I was like, man, if they only knew. Other religions don't know any better. It's up to us to spread the word," Church said.

Cue the backpedaling.

"Those who know me on a personal level understand that I am not the type of person who would call into question the religious beliefs of others."

Even though that's what he did.

Church also apologized. The chaplain, whose day job is as an FBI agent, was suspended. Which calls into question the Nationals' judgment for not giving him the boot entirely.

To his credit, Church didn't take the weasel way out and whine like many athletes about being quoted out of context when they get diarrhea of the mouth and wind up in Chateau Bow-Wow. But you have to wonder if he's truly contrite, or lost in the reverie of imagining his ex burning in the fires of hell.

Maybe Church should get some religion and break bread with the Jew who, for now, is the ultimate overseer of the Nationals franchise -- baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Cutting Your News Hole To Spite Your Profit Margins

Tuesday Bloody Tuesday In Philadelphia Newsrooms
The latest newsroom reductions at the Philly Inquirer and Daily News are not of the nip/tuck variety. Rather, they're more from the slash/burn school.
Yeah, public companies are entitled to a profit, but the larger question of how much is too much in a down advertising market looms large.
Knight Ridder says the Inky and DN garner a profit margin in the low double-digits. Good, but not good enough for Wall Street. And yet the only solution is to eviscerate 16 percent of the already-shrunken newsrooms.
Cue the smoke and mirrors.
Sure, the Inky is far removed from its Gene Roberts glory days when long, enterprise reporting from far and wide was the norm, as the paper garnered prestige and prizes while becoming the 400-pound gorilla that followed its readers to the suburbs.
But fewer of those readers have appreciated those efforts over the years, giving the Knight Ridder brain trust fodder to get rid of reporters and editors with abandon.
It'll be interesting to see if readers will notice or care that there's less local news, more wire copy and fewer reasons to make either paper a must read.
But at least the papers will be more profitable, right?

Monday, September 19, 2005

Unfulfilling Filler: The N.Y. Times Provides A Journalistic Pork Barrel

What's For Dinner? Answer better suited for "Lost" survivors than the rest of us
Nobody expects penetrating journalism to emerge from Men's Fashion supplements. But it wouldn't hurt if the copy that's strung between the ads would have at least some substance or relevance to some readers.
The N.Y. Times fails to understand this. Yesterday's male fashion book -- and it had enough ads to qualify as such -- was replete with pitches for clothing that even many Times readers either couldn't afford or wouldn't be caught dead in, assuming they weren't like the androgynous, underfed models who donned the duds in question.
But the supplement also featured ostensible lifestyle pieces, including a food piece that focused on eating wild boar, as if that was something available at the local Gristede's to whip up for the gang.
Even if you were going to schlep to a gourmet butcher for some boar, the recipe itself warns that it's not easy, will take hours to execute, and requires equipment most kitchens don't have.
So what's the point? Exactly.
How about putting in a recipe for something that even the above-average guy has a chance at pulling off? But that would be too easy. That's not in keeping with a fashion spread replete with $3,000 suits, $200 t-shirts and $500 ripped jeans.
Which can only mean the Times never had any intention for anyone to follow through actually making this gamey abomination, let alone expect anyone to read this unmasterful missive penned by someone named Oliver Schwaner-Albright except for his name-dropping a few celebs who enjoy a good hunt for their dinner.
And you can be sure they're not wearing any of the clothes featured in the supplement when they're blasting that boar to bits. Somehow, Ted Nugent and Versace in the same sentence just doesn't sound right.

Totally Unironic Headline Of The Day: I Saved My Dog With The Kiss Of Life

Another hurricane success story, but this one from Irene. Good to see they have a lot of slow news days in Bermuda:

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Demons Take Over Sid Rosenberg Once Again

As expected, it appears Sid Rosenberg's departure from WFAN was of his own making, after not showing up Sunday for his stint on the New York Giants pregame show. While he "resigned," that was strictly a courtesy that station management extended, and likely did so grudgingly given Rosenberg's history.
While no one's commenting officially, indications are Rosenberg was in the wrong place at the wrong time, namely Atlantic City, given that he's a recovering drug and gambling addict, as well as an alcoholic.
Given his scatalogical shtick, the temptation would be to say good riddance. But it's hard to kick a man when he's down, especially when he's fallen so far that he's all but impossible to reach.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Sid Rosenberg "Resigns"; Foul-Mouthed Sports Talker Gives Himself Silent Treatment

The "Sidiot" pushes himself off the air before he is pushed
It took longer than we thought, but Sid Rosenberg is gone from WFAN. First, he was finally pushed off Imus's show as the wacky sports guy in May because of a crack he made about Kylie Minogue's breast cancer.
It was one of several "jokes" that had either gotten him in hot water or booted off the air for a while. Imus always took him back because he had a soft spot for the big lug and besides, he was edgy and spontaneously outrageous, something Imus's show had stopped being about 20 years ago.
But Imus flagship WFAN didn't get rid of Sid. It allowed him to keep his regular midday sports-talk gig. And so it went until today, when Sid's co-host Joe Benigno announced his partner had resigned for "personal reasons."
No word on what those might be, or is that code for "quit or be canned."
As odious as his on-air persona is, let's hope he's not back to his addicted ways, for him and his family's sake. Rosenberg's been treated for various addictions since 1997, so he could have relapsed in any number of ways. Or maybe enough was enough.
Sick or not, a change in venue was long overdue. WFAN failed to realize that just because you can say something doesn't mean you should. That goes for breast-cancer jokes. And apologizing doesn't cut it either. Sid could have been a jackass off-mike, but once he made that his shtick, he lost his usefulness as a broadcaster.
Don't bet on Sid (he's also a recovering gambling addict). Just wish him good luck. He'll need it.

Friday, September 09, 2005

"He Felt I Had Become Too Emotional." But New Orleans Radio Reporter May Have Been First of Many

When Trying To Keep Calm Just Isn't An Option
Dan Barry's piece in the N.Y. Times today on how New Orleans radio powerhouse WWL has served as the lifeline for its beleaguered region showed how quickly events overtook its reporters and perhaps forever changed how they do their jobs. Others are bound to follow suit.

Back at the downtown studio, many employees managed to flee by car or, eventually, by helicopter. Others, including the morning news anchor, David Blake, and his family, got stuck for several days, so he reported what he saw from the broken-window studio - namely, the infamous chaos at the Superdome, where crushes of people waited and withered.

His early reports had to be redone before they could be broadcast, he recalled.
"My news director said I sounded angry and frustrated," he said. "He felt I had become too emotional."

Of course, Blake's approach became the rule rather than the exception, but his experience highlights just how hard it was for journos to grab onto the extent of Katrina's devastation.

The news director Blake refers to is Dave Cohen, an extremely capable newsman, whose passion for his city has long been reflected in the freelance reports he files for CBS News. Cohen's voice betrayed a mix of exhaustion and resignation, as if he felt betrayed by Mother Nature for laying waste to his town. But outright emotion was not evident. There would be time for that later.

Cohen had no choice but to focus on the story at hand albeit one that would have been impossible to comprehend just days before and was all but impossible to fully grasp even days after the levees breached. This wasn't supposed to happen, right?

Peering out at the Superdome from what was left of WWL's downtown studios, Blake was in much the same position. If he slipped a bit from the detached observer mode that was his usual M.O., that made him no different from the rest of New Orleans.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Syndicate Gets Anal Over Dilbert Strip

So Exactly Who Was Going To Be Offended By a Porpoise Going Medieval On a Lawyer?
Scott Adams didn't get Dilbert into 2,000-plus newspapers by being offensive. Funny has long been more than good enough.
But there's an alternate version of today's panel because his depiction of a vengeful porpoise venturing up a lawyer's behind might be too graphic for some newspapers, in the view of Dilbert syndicator United Media.
Adams worked up another version without a fuss.
It was totally benign, of course, although it continues a tradition of newspapers and syndicates being Nervous Nellies about certain strips they feel might veer too far over the line, whatever the hell that is (Doonesbury, Boondocks and the late, lamented Bloom County come quickly to mind).
But give Adams props for working up an alternative version so as not to offend those who want to see porpoises used for more erstwhile endeavors, although it would've been fun to watch PETA attempt to mount a protest over a comic strip, and then have Adams respond in kind.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Memo To Kanye West

Dude: Your passion is admirable, and you may even be right. But you're a musician, big guy. In your business it's all about the timing. And dog, your timing sucks.
But telling the world "George Bush doesn't care about black people" during a telethon for hurricane victims only narrowly eclipses Mike Myers' deer-in-the-headlights look as you departed from the cue cards and Chris Tucker's bug-eyed as they cut to him almost as quickly as they dumped out of you.
If your publicists just slit their wrists, it won't be too hard to figure out why. They decided to commit hari-kari before your career did.

Charitably yours,


Thursday, September 01, 2005

Katrina's Not Necessarily A Big Deal Once You Leave The U.S.

Asian Media, In Particular, Don't Feel Inclined to Share Gulf Coast Pain
Rare is the U.S. media outlet that gives more than a few paragraphs to typhoons in places like Bangladesh and India, even when hundreds perish. It happens often enough, and to people who don't look like us or speak our language, that the media rarely pays them much mind.
The tsunami was a different story, of course, but even then it happened a world away and it was hard to truly get a grip on the devastation. We no longer have that luxury, of course. But do the media in other countries care? It depends on where you're reading.
Not a problem in the U.K., where The Guardian has been going heavy with coverage from the start. This morning's online edition has nine links to the main story and sidebars, including angles American media still covering the breaking story have not turned to, including how erosion caused by human activity left the Mississippi Delta vulnerable.,16441,1560764,00.html
The Daily Telegraph included a selection of increasingly desperate and angry blog entries from all over.
The Times of London has a couple of correspondents in the hurricane zone, including Chris Ayres in Biloxi, who got this saucy quote from a survivor:
“Well baby, here in the South we’ve been through this kind of thing before,” she said. “We just clean up and get on with it. I know that God will take care of me.”,,11069-1759669,00.html
But the media is much more blase in Asia three days after Katrina. The home page of Hong Kong's South China Morning Post instead had a snap of Typhoon Talim battering Taiwan, and only mentioned Katrina in reference to out-of-control oil prices. Katrina's also disappeared from the World Headlines of Asahi Shimbun.
Bangkok's The Nation is focused on its nation, not ours. The New Straits Times in Kuala Lampur used copy from AFP, but it was the last item in its World Section roundup. Instead, the lead story on the home page was about a film festival in Deauville, France. It's as if the Asian media had done its due diligence reporting on when the hurricane hit and is now moving on to other pursuits.
Turnabout is apparentlyfair play.