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Feb 18, 2008 05:10 AM

Asheville: XPress writer Hannah Rachel Raskin [Moved from South board]

I got beef with Hannah Rachel Raskin.

Now, Raskin might be a perfectly lovely person, but it is her writing that I have an issue with. I usually cannot get past the first couple of sentences in one of her columns, so I usually skip over her columns.

Her writing has all the trademarks of a first-year staff writer in a mediocre college newspaper. It is frequently self-referential, off-topic, filled with bad puns. It just generally comes off as irritating, cutesy, grating, immature. She tries to come off as hip.

She needs a good editor. The editor should strip her column to a mandatory three paragraphs. The editor should say, "Hannah, just write about the food, in a simple and direct way, and you'll be fine." Because, as anyone who would bother post on Chow can understand, I like to read about food. Any number of my fellow posters on Chow could do a much better job than Raskin.

I want our weekly alternative paper to have a decent food writer. We have this city with great things happening in food.

A good food writer stimulates appetite. The way she writes about food makes me queasy.

How did she get this position? Can't the Xpress do better? Anyone else feel this way, or is it just me?

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  1. Its a free weekly publication.I am sure they dont have a very large budget for a food critic.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Spreadhead

      In the few cities I have lived in the writers of the alternative weeklies have generally been decent. Raskin is the worst I have seen so far, in any department. If you even compare her to the other writers on the Xpress, she comes off as a hack.

      My point was that, as a foodie, I just know they can do better. Even just editing her would be fine. How has she escaped the watchful eye of the editor?

      In a city teeming with starving artists and writers, they could find any number of people to do a better job than Raskin, for the same pay or less.

      How did she get onboard? Anyone else see it?

      Feel like ranting this morning.

      1. re: Budget Palate

        did you ever read any of her predecessors reviews??

        1. re: Spreadhead

          I've been reading Xpress for the past several years. I don't remember the previous food writer much. What was the predecessors name? Was he/she better or worse in your opinion?

          1. re: Budget Palate

            While the predecessor didn't hit you over the head with painful attempts at creative writing, IMHO she was of the "likes everything" school. I read her columns for information on Asheville restaurant openings, etc. , but didn't feel that I could trust her opinion. HRR has actually given some bad or middling reviews, so I pay a little more attention.

            1. re: danna

              Hit you over the head with painful attempts at creative writing.... hahaha, yes, I think that's what it is.

              I guess you're right, if you can stomach it, you can pull some valid and useful information out of her columns, maybe, but it's painful. I want to like her, I really do.

              But maybe I should come clean with what I REALLY want to say here.... My original post should have read: "Asheville: Any insider advice on how to take Raskin's job?"

              Anyone know anyone at the Xpress? It's hostile takeover time. hee hee

    2. unfortunately, the xpress' editors/management have bowed to "lobbying" by air (asheville independent restaurant assoc.) and are no longer running anything other than positive reviews. this might contribute to the free-ranging aspect you touch upon, since the column length remains the same, but what is fair game for filler has been much restricted. if you go back and look at raskin's earlier reviews, they tended to focus much more on the food, and less so on the asides. when the editors stopped allowing critical pieces is when the filler showed up.

      whatever beef you might have with the current writer, we won't have a good food column until the powers that be at the xpress stop kowtowing to air and put their reader's first. they should at least post a prominent caveat with the review acknowledging their editorial complicity.

      3 Replies
      1. re: mark

        Are ya sure about a positive-review-only policy? The only reason that I question it is that I would swear I've read recent reviews that are critical at times. But maybe that's ok as long the overall impression of the place is positive?

        Anyway, to go off the topic of food for just a minute, what you're saying reminds of the general decline of alt weeklies. They all go through this cycle where they get more corporate or whatever. Then a fresh new paper comes up to compete. Prediction: look for a new alt weekly to come along in Asheville and compete with the Xpress within the next couple of years.

        Back to food. My original point was that any one of us posting here could do it better. But I guess what you're saying is that she is writing within these restrictions. Still, she's so smarmy about it. I propose that we all bombard the paper with letters to the editor! Then I'll make my move..... haha

        1. re: Budget Palate

          yeah, there's still a little criticism, but it can only exist in the shadow of a largely positive review (in other words, if a place is bad, or even just mediocre, the review won't be published unless it's foisted off on a writer who has no palate). and pay attention to the kid gloves when an air member is reviewed.

          carolinadawg, is that info lacking in the print version? i know it doesn't (or didn't use to) show up online, but there's generally an info box appended to the print version that carries that data.

          to all, the ac-t is downright awful. the entire living section appears to be product placement, and, correspondingly, the staff benefitting from it. their "reviews" serve only to tell you what places to avoid until the post-review stampede abates.

          1. re: mark

            I probably should have specified that I only read the Xpress online; if the print edition includes additional data, I wish they'd incorporate that into the online edition.

      2. My biggest annoyance with the reviews in Mountain Xpress is the fact that they never include basic information such as the address of the restaurant, hours of operation, prices, website link, etc.

        1. I can't say I enjoy all the puns/references, but she gives some solid information about the food and restaurant in an interesting way. I get the feeling that she is really giving it her best effort, and I appreciate that. I agree with Mark, the column is a product of the overall editors' attitude, which I'm assuming is someone who knows nothing about food but wants to please the AIR.

          I do know for a fact that Hannah reads these boards. No, I've never met her, but the owner of the French Broad taqueria in Marshall told me that the photographer told her that the reason Hannah come out to review was becasue of the thread on chow about it. I wonder if she'll read this one? I know I sure as hell wouldn't, but if she does, I think she'll pay attention.

          You want to read some really bad, useless food writing- consult the citizen times, where many a recent review and column are written by none other that the feature editor's husband. Everyone in this town could use a lesson in good old fashion journalism ethics- don't pander to you advertisers, don't keep it in the family, and on and on............

          2 Replies
          1. re: charlottecooks

            Be advised: if you ever want to know whether or not the restaurant in question offers good sweet tea, be sure to read the restaurant reviews in the Greenville News...because that tends to be the foremost consideration.

            1. re: danna

              What rating system do they use? Insulin syringes?

          2. By the way, there's a popular Chow thread, still going, entitled "Cringe-worthy words in restaurant reviews." It's in "Food Media." Good for a laugh. Over a hundred people responded already. They are having visceral reactions to bad food writing, including their local food critics/reviewers. Guess I'm not the only one.