Sky Full of Bacon

But enough about Barack Obama

Let’s return to something genuinely interesting: my comments about the demise of Eater Chicago, in the post “Death Eater” below.

Several reactions to the piece worth noting:

1) Helen Rosner of Menu Pages gently pointed out that the especially dull procedural item I cited as an example of Eater New York’s attempts to make newsy news out of trade news and minutiae… was in fact a quoted-in-its-entirety example of Grub Street (another NY food blog thing, which is corporately related to Menu Pages BTW) attempting to make newsy news out of trade news and minutiae.

So yeah, I kinda bungled that, but I think the point still holds, since Eater New York evidently found it thrilling enough to warrant reprinting.

2) Grub Street has its own comment on my post:

Sky Full of Bacon is ignoring the power of more “hype-ridden” blogs to drive readers to food-focused endeavors such as his own. Come on, man — all boats rise with the tide, or all bacon bits rise with the fondue or whatever. SFB points to the hype over Fergus Henderson’s appearance as an example of Eater’s superficiality — but if it gets someone to try crispy pig’s ear for the first time, or to pick up Henderson’s book in order to learn more about nose-to-tail eating than can be shared on a restaurant blog, well then what’s the harm?

Well, yes and no.  On the one hand this is the all-purpose defense of any form of media that willfully undershoots the intelligence level of its audience— to apply it to the world of film, it’s basically “Yeah, Entertainment Weekly may be bubbleheaded and running its 53rd cover story on The Dark Knight, but at least people will also hear about Kristof Kieslowski and they’ll check him out!”  You may be surprised to hear, from the snark with which that sentence was composed, that I don’t dismiss this out of hand.  Such media have greatly contributed to our hype-ridden world in which people care more about weekend grosses than the actual content of movies, seemingly creating an environment in which nothing could be more irrelevant than a European art film that makes bupkis.  But on the other hand, your local Blockbuster actually does have a couple of Kieslowski films which rent fairly steadily, which, I can assure you, is NOT what life was like when I was a 12-year-old film buff in Wichita reading about Antonioni and Godard films that seemed as impossibly remote to my life as a cocktail party thrown by Cole Porter at the top of the Ritz.

So media like this can make us a little dumber and a little smarter at the same time, depending on how we use them.  I accept that, though it also means they have to accept that I just don’t find all that industry news all that valuable to me, either, and a distraction from the things that are interesting to me.  This is really what it comes down, to the distinction between news and commentary.  Commentary interests me because there’s a person with a sensibility behind it.  News doesn’t interest me, because there just aren’t that many things happening in the restaurant biz that quite rise to the level of real news, in my book.

The other thing I am forced to accept, in honesty, is— I’m a total hypocrite and if Eater Chicago does ever launch here, please post about Sky Full of Bacon!

3) I got an email from the president of Eater inviting me to i) look more deeply at Eater NY and see some of the more feature-length, substantive stuff they’ve published, and ii) view the backstage double secret test site that Ari Bendersky has been posting to in anticipation of Eater Chicago’s launch.  I appreciate him taking the time to contact me and offer me that access, though I might still quibble about the whole idea of secret practice blogging— to me, one of the main virtues of blogging is the chance to discover what you’re about in public through feedback and just seeing how things play in the real world.  Will you do some stupid things and make mistakes along the way?  Welcome to the club.  I think corporate bloggers are foolish not to bite the bullet and accept that and be part of the world, secret practice blogging is sort of like secret practice at losing your virginity, there’s only one real thing and it requires more than one person.  Nevertheless, I appreciate his offer and will, when not eyeball deep in Obama’s transition the next Sky Full of Bacon, take him up on it.

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3 Responses to “But enough about Barack Obama”

  1. Ben Leventhal Says:

    A good blog takes a full year to develop — and it happens in full view. If you think four weeks of blogging behind the scenes (‘secret practice blogging’, as you call it) makes a blog, you’ve never launched one. We spend the time we do in private to ensure a product on launch day that is exciting, engaging and coherent. In other words, we don’t want to waste your time — and ask you to read, while we sell ads and make money off your viewing of our pages — until we take the training wheels off.

  2. Michael Gebert Says:

    Fair point, and if I were doing this as a business I might look at that way too, but it also seems to me precisely the difference between the corporate blog and the personal one, which just dives in foolishly unafraid to the great swirling wave pool that is the Internet.

  3. art Says:

    I have read Eater NY and Eater SF for quite some time so I was looking forward to the idea of an Eater Chicago. I liked the idea of it but was honestly uncertain about how it could generate the level of content that the NY and SF sites did on a daily basis. Chefs like Mario Batali for instance have so many restaurants and are involved in so many projects that he alone could inspire at least one or two posts per day.

    Also, being in the industry myself, I can say that anything interesting in Eater would probably only be interesting to those in the industry. Fergus Henderson is interesting to cooks and probably not many other people.

    So called “Plywood Reports” could be interesting again, to cooks, servers, bartenders and competitors because the opportunity for new exciting jobs may be looming on the horizon.

    I’d imagine there were several reasons why Eater Chicago did not launch. Since it is driven by advertisement it was probably just a tough sell for Chicago. We talk about tough sells in the food business too–Fergus Henderson’s roasted pig head is a tough sell but it is probably an easier sell in NY than it is in Chicago for a number of reasons. Especially when Anthony Bourdain christens St. John the best restaurant in the world, especially when Anthony Bourdain lives in NY, especially since Bourdain is a celebrity who is friends with Mario Batali who loves pork and owns the Spotted Pig which is frequented by David Chang who owns Momofoku… who bloggers like to write about. Content, content, content. NY has got a lot of it, people read it and it sells stuff. Some of it’s good, some of it’s not and some it’s just there.