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Redundant Phx Reviews [moved from Southwest board]

I am not sure if this post belongs here (hopefully, since it's Phoenix-specific) or in the Media section, but has anyone else noticed the redudancy of the reviews in Phoenix Magazine, The Arizona Republic, New Times, AZ Central, etc?

Specifcially, now that Nikki is no longer at Phoenix Magazine word on the street is that they are using freelance writers for the restaurant section and the editor dictates what restaurants are reviewed, not the food writers. This means that many of the hidden "gems" that the foodies know about will never get exposure, because the editor is dictating the content.

In the same week, both the New Times and Arizona Republic reviewed Roka Akor. Within a week, Phoenix Magazine and the Arizona Republic reviewed Cafepino....BOTH written by the same writer (Carey Sweet) but for a different publication! How much more redundant can we get and, rhetorically, how much does this limit the ability of smaller places to have their story heard?

This practice at Phoenix Magazine also brings into question the independence of the editorial content versus advertising revenue. Nikki was heavily criticized for her "Luc's Sucks" review and in the first issue where Nikki wasn't there, Luc's had a huge "advertorial" in the magazine. Coincidence? Probably not. How can the food writers not have a say in what places they write about?

Maybe there is a limited number of "qualified" food writers in this town, but it seems to me that as a major metropolis our media could do a better job of sharing the wealth and ensuring that we don't see the same places reviewed, at the same time, by the same writers...within a week of eachother!

Must be nice for the writers who get paid by-the-story...they can re-use their content for a variety of publications!

Has anyone else noticed this?

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  1. Yes, I had deja vu this morning when I read the Calendar section....
    I felt as if I was reading last weeks paper!

    it seems that Pizza a Metro has been reviewed in both the New Times and the Republic in the past 2 weeks as well!

    1. Did I see that Nikki is now working at the Republic? I think I remember seeing her byline in an article in last week's food section.

      1. On the other hand, Nikki Buchanan just wrote a nice review of Sabor Cubano for the Republic. If that's not a hidden gem, I don't know what is.

        As for the convergence of reviewers on certain places -- I think it's fed by discussion forums like this one. The Internet allows new places to generate buzz much more quickly, creating awareness among multiple reviewers at the same time. Instead of seeing it as redundancy, I see it as a bell curve, something Seth Chadwick has mentioned before. Take the totality of reviews by professionals working for the media, discussion on sites like this one, reviews on amateur food blogs, and everything adds up to a pretty realistic picture of a restaurant not distorted by any one reviewer's biases.

        1. I thought I read Buchanan's reviews for Republic are gonna be "every day" places, that shouldn't duplicate places Seftel reviews. I suspect she will concentrate on smaller places that are worthy.

          1 Reply
          1. re: razordogg

            True. My comments were more directed at the fact that Carey Sweet, who writes for Phx Mag and Republic, is reviewing the same places for different publications!

          2. As someone who's worked as a food/restaurant writer n the Phoenix market, I agree; the food editorial in this town is becoming far too incestuous and in-bred. There are only a small handful of "critics" left, chasing the same handful of restaurants, too many of which are new, high end, or the ventures of celebrity chefs and proprietors. And while the food press pays lip service to the need for showcasing smaller yet no-less-worthy operators, editors and publishers demand the more obvious loyalty to advertisers that's demonstrated through the lack of diversity we see.

            1. Nikki called Luc's like she saw it, but there's less and less room for objectivity butting up against profitability in publishing these days. Print publishing (newspapers, magazines) is the last dinosaur of the new information age. Publishers limping along with this mortally wounded medium can ill afford to offend advertisers in the face of dwindling accounts and subscriberships.
              On the bright side, Nikki has landed at the Arizona Republic and is penning the "Everyday Dining" coverage for the paper. She's told me she's happy to be eating outside the box again (in smaller, proprietary and ethnic places), and is entertaining the possibility of a web site where she might continue to call the culinary scene as she sees it.
              As for Phoenix Magazine, a little full disclosure here: I went looking for some writing work when I learned of Nikki's departure, but to no avail. Honestly, though, and while I've crossed swords with her in the past, Ms. Sweet's a real pro, and knows her stuff. Provided her new bosses let her do her thing, she's a voice Phoenix foodies can continue to reliably lend their ears to. As to the rest of the freelance stable the magazine is going forward with, let's see what they have to say. Given the subjectivity of taste inherent to food writing and restaurant criticism, a diversity of opinions and perspectives might eventually prove that three or more talking heads are better than one. If, on the other hand, PM's new prandial posse manages no better than the same old round-up of advertorially air-brushed places and faces, that will be horse shit, plain and simple.

              2 Replies
              1. re: cabbageking

                I used to like Buchanan's reviews in Phoenix mag but it seems like its been 90% advertising for some time now so I don't read it as much any more. In their defense, does anyone know for sure what really happened with Nikki? I know Seftel wrote that she said it was in regards to Lucs review but in my experience I've found people who were fired sometimes aren't the best source of the real story. Has magazine ever given their side?

                If she's really protecting her integrity, I support her. But does any one know those to be the facts for sure?

                1. re: cabbageking

                  Have you noticed that Howard recycles all the stuff he writes? Cliche, cut and paste, over and over? Anyone remember this gem from the New Times? http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2001-1...
                  Lazy, burned out, which is what happened with Nikki, too.
                  There's nobody worth mentioning for restaurant reviews anymore, in what's the nation's 5th largest city. Carey Sweet has moved on to the San Francisco Chronicle, I hear, still covering Scottsdale, but from what I've heard they won't give her enough budget to do more than the basics in AZ. So we can look forward to more Yelp-style crap from freelancers. What do the restaurateurs feel about being covered by amateurs?

                2. Nikki is an excellent food and restaurant critic. I really admire her for sticking to her guns and not letting the powers that be at Phoenix Mag compromise her integrity. I have found her to be the most reliable food critic in Phoenix.

                  There seems to be a new crop of reviewers recently including several at the Republic. Too early to tell about most of them.

                  Even though Carey Sweet is freelance I have found her to be pretty consistent and usually on target.

                  The one I miss is Steven Lemons at the New Times. He was off-the-wall and obstreporous at times and rather harsh when things were not right but he really knew food.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jock

                    Are you trying to flame bait me? I don't miss Lemons in the slightest. His reviews read like he just figured out what a thesaurus is for, and his penchant for purple prose was something that could win the annual Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

                    His reviews went one of three ways. If it was a small ethnic place, he automatically loved it. If they served unusually large portions of basic grub, he loved it. If it had more than one location, he hated it.

                  2. Did anyone notice how the Republic ran a short dining article about restaurants offering vegetarian items, and then ran a photo of a Humble Pie pizza that had meat on it for the image? I saw this in the Scottsdale Rep. That aside, the article seems to be very much along the same lines as the "Stealth Vegetarian" feature currently here on Chowhound. The pizza photos even look the same. Perhaps this is just a coincidence? Hmm...