Do we need "professional" food critics?
So, do we really need the Anton Egos of the world or should we be our own unbiased judges?
I prefer to read restaurant reviews written by professionals just like I prefer to read news stories written by professional reporters employed by actual news operations rather than from blogs written by "citizen journalists".
I don't need professional food critics like I "need" oxygen.
But I would certainly miss them if they were no longer around.
Like Ipsedixit said, 'need' may be pushing it. However, if this is a question about the relative uses or value of a professional in the age of Yelp and Chowhound, that's another thing. And the answer is 'yes'.
Bless the people here for finding places and bringing them to a collective attention, but in the main, it is not pleasurable reading. The style and grammar of many here has made my eyes bleed, or rather, made me wish that my eyes were bleeding so as to detract from the headache I got trying to decipher the post's meaning. That may be extreme, but honestly, it seems people turn up their noses at these issues as if they were arbitrary and unfair rules rather than the means through which words become communication. That said, there are some 'professionals' out there who are just as wretched when it comes to written communication.
Also, a person able to visit many restaurants in a short period may have a better sense of the landscape. And they can taste many dishes in order to give a broad overview in a single visit.
But of course, these other sites and chat rooms becomes ways of testing whether places have improved, gone downhill, or maintained their quality. Similarly, they become necessary interventions for when a critic is rumbled and thus given preferential treatment. Or when a critic may not be aware of a food style.
Finally, while I'm sure critics can harbour ill will towards certain restaurateurs, the standards of professional publications give credibility to both glowing and damning reviews. Once in the interwebs, extremes at either end become cause to find backup and corroboration.
So, I guess basic issues of quality are still in play, even if these sites provide more information through which we filter.
A Chowhound post or a blog is not the same thing as a really good food critic. If you are looking only for thumbs up or thumbs down, then I suppose any opinion you agree with will do. But good professional writing can offer so much more and is still something to cherish.