August 10th, 2010 | Published in News
Fans of top-shelf dining criticism were left with a bad taste in their mouths when Roger Porter, The Oregonian’s longtime restaurant critic, was suddenly let go last week. And the alleged reason for his dismissal? According to Porter, it’s because of a shift in the paper’s food coverage that involves “forthcoming increased attention to restaurants in the suburbs and to chains.”
Now that’s a bitter pill for any foodie to swallow.
“The Oregonian intends its restaurant coverage to be aimed at ordinary people,” Porter told Eater PDX. Apparently that means writing less about Portland’s “extraordinary” restaurants and more about, oh, say, Applebee’s. It’s an attempt, Porter says, to move away from the “excessively elitist point of view regarding restaurant reviewing” and focus more on meeting “the needs of readers who go to the places where most of the people go.”
Sounds something like the Big Cities vs. “Real America” feud heard during the 2008 election. If Porter’s accusations are true, The Oregonian has decided to play to the same demographic as Sarah Palin.
Calls to DeAnn Welker, The Oregonian’s arts and entertainment editor, were not immediately returned. However, she did reply by email to Eater PDX.
“There has long been a feeling, inside the paper and among readers, that our coverage has been slightly more high-end and Portland-centric than the way the average newspaper reader eats,” she wrote to Eater PDX. She continued: “Most readers won’t notice much change in our coverage. We’ll still cover openings, we’ll still review the new high-end places, Portland establishments, and the restaurant trends that put Portland on the national map. We will also focus more on the suburbs than we have in the past.”
“We are not going to shift our coverage so much that our focus is on suburban chains,” Welker insisted.
In his statement, Porter goes on to say the change in coverage is related to the departure of the paper’s former dining editor (and current Portland Monthly food editor) Karen Brooks in February. He says the paper will still cover new restaurants, but adds there will be an uptick in articles about such topics as “how to assemble a tasty picnic.”
“This shift cannot be good for the morale or the business of the extraordinary restaurateurs of the city, and signals a remarkable indifference to the great food city Portland has become,” Porter said.
His final review for The Oregonian is slated to run Friday.