Here's a letter that we'll run, at least in part, in GO! on Friday.
It's from the owner of New South Wales, who wasn't happy about Nathaniel Glen's mixed review last week:
I have been the owner and operator of the New South Wales Restaurant for the past 16 years. I have worked in the restaurant industry for the past 30 years, in every aspect of the business.
On April 11, The Gazette published a critique of my restaurant. While I believe that all businesspeople appreciate constructive and objective criticism, I have always felt that The Gazette falls far short of this goal.
In the last 30 years, I have been perplexed by its choice of critics. The word “critic” implies a working knowledge of the subject being criticized. But The Gazette continues to hire people with limited or no knowledge of the restaurant industry. Why is this? I struggle to see the relevance of a communication major in the matter of a restaurant critique.
Surely, the people at The Gazette have a great knowledge of their industry. Why then does their circulation continue to drop despite the popularity of El Paso County growth incline. I could hypothesize on this subject: Maybe their business has dropped due to the 24-hour national news networks, including CNN and Fox. Are you threatened by the Internet?
Surely, this could be the reason! Or possibly their circulation has dropped due to the type of pens and paper. But I have no working knowledge of the newspaper industry and can't really say. Perhaps the lights in The Gazette building ... could this be the problem? I'm sure the only illumination that takes pace at The Gazette if from their fluorescent lights.
But again, I have no knowledge of this subject and I can't really say.
Possibly it would be more fair for The Gazette to post a disclaimer before the article:
"I, Mr. "Iknowlessthan," have no working knowledge of the restaurant industry. I have never worked the front of the house or the kitchen. I have no knowledge of serving, cooking, prepping, food cost, beverage cost, operating cost or any other cost associated with the restaurant industry. I have only aware of how to eat. Please take this into account when perusing my article (critique). Thank you, Mr. "Iknowlessthan."
The businesses being critiqued have little or no recourse to these articles being published by The Gazette. I have always hoped there would be some type of moral aptitude by the editor to do what is right, but I have been disappointed for 30 years.
REBUTTAL FROM GAZETTE A&E EDITOR WARREN EPSTEIN (Nathaniel's on vacation)
Let me address Mr. Flewellen's key point.
The Gazette has never hired anybody with knowledge of food or the restaurant industry.
NOT TRUE. Anne Christensen had worked in several restaurants, and I think she worked both in the front and back of the house. I don't know if Ralph Millis worked in restaurants, but he certainly had an excellent knowledge of food from his extensive world travels and time lived abroad. Tom Karpel wasn't as deeply studied, but he was a quick learner and had a great way with food writing. Before we hired Nathaniel Glen, we gave him and the other two top critic candidates a tough quiz about food and cooking knowledge. All three scored well.
But I think at the core of this argument lies the idea that only people who work in restaurants can fairly write about the restaurant business. Critics have heard this one for years, and it's nonsense. Legendary New Yorker critic Pauline Kael encountered the same argument about film critics. Being a smart and honest observer is more important to film criticism than having worked in the industry, she argued. The same is true of sports writers. Having played the sport you're covering is incidental.
Curiously, none of the criticisms addressed any of the specific issues of the review, suggesting that Nathaniel's observations are sound, but he lacks the qualifications to make them.
What do you folks think?