Frank Bruni, the New York Times’ restaurant critic has announced that he’ll be stepping down from his powerful position as Top Dining Dog. So far, no successor has been named, but obvious forklifters include the San Francisco Chronicle’s Michael Bauer — who’d probably be wise to jump ship at this point — along with Jonathan Gold of LA Weekly and Alan Richman of GQ Magazine.
It will be interesting to see what happens over the coming weeks as Bruni wraps up his tenure (he’s been in the position since 2004) and heads off to tout his new memoir.
As I’ve said countless times, the role of a restaurant critic is much diminished in the era of blogging, Twittering and Yelping. Waiting three months to review a restaurant is almost unheard of — because word is out on the street within minutes of the doors opening. Struggling newspapers can ill-afford the high cost of sending critics out to pricey restaurants even once, to say nothing of three or more times and are demanding not only reviews, but personality-driven blogs, videos and other content often considered “beneath” the exalted Restaurant Critic.
Ironically, both newspapers and the food community vocally lament the foibles of sites like Yelp (accused of pay-for-good-review tactics), bloggers-turned-restaurant-reviewers taking free meals in return for meals (nope, I’m not allowed to), and the lines that get crossed when food writers aren’t anonymous (I frankly think the whole thing is dumb because EVERYONE knows what food critics look like anyway).
It’s a brave new world of food journalism, if it can even be called that anymore. Will the Times adhere to its time-honored (yet somewhat out of touch) traditions, or find a new style of reviewer for its Dining pages?
Time will tell. What’s your take?