[UPDATED] Seattle Weekly eliminates restaurant critic position

That’s a tweet from Seattle Weekly’s restaurant critic, whose position is being eliminated.

Hanna Raskin tells Weekly readers that the recently sold paper will hire a food and drink editor less focused on writing “and more focused on developing and managing all of the paper’s food and drink coverage.” She was offered that job — with a pay cut — but turned it down.
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“It’s inevitable that when a critic leaves his or her post, a cry of ‘good riddance’ goes up,” she writes. “Many readers will be glad to see me go. But I hope there are many more readers who’ve found reason to enjoy [her column]. …I like to think I’ve helped introduce readers to the food producers, purveyors and consumers who make Seattle such a wonderful eating city.”

UPDATE: I asked Raskin if she saw this coming, what her plans are, and if she cared to share her thoughts on restaurant criticism and alt-weeklies. She responded:

I didn’t precisely forecast that [Seattle Weekly owner] Sound would do away with the critic position and replace it with a job that appears to meld editing and marketing (if I had, I would have done better with my Derby bets), but the shake-up didn’t come as a complete surprise.walmart The ownership transition has been extraordinarily difficult: In the past few months, our archives have disappeared; our blogging capabilities have been severely reduced and our newsroom budget has been slashed. I assumed the food section wouldn’t survive unscathed.

I’d hesitate to draw any conclusions about the state of alt-weekly criticism from my experience. Sound is new to the alt-weekly game, and I don’t think its decisions necessarily reflect the industry’s priorities. I’ve been fortunate to work for a succession of alt-weeklies which valued and defended independent, thoughtful criticism, and imagine they still do.

As for me, I’ve lined up a gig to sell used cameras at Walmart this weekend for 16 bucks an hour, but am sincerely hoping that’s not the pinnacle of my post-Weekly career. I’m looking forward to putting out a great food section for two more weeks, and then exploring options which will allow me to keep writing.

Raskin was one of the restaurant critics who told Romenesko readers last November about reviews that got readers and chefs angry. Here’s what she wrote:

I’ve heard plenty from restaurant owners, even when my reviews were relatively innocuous: Restaurateurs with hurt feelings have e-mailed death threats and tried to sell my editors on elaborate conspiracy theories. But my favorite follow-up came from the owner of a seafood restaurant I’d taken to task for ignoring the basic principles of responsible sourcing: He offered to fly me to rural Alaska “in a very small plane” to check out his fishing operations. I declined.

* Hanna Raskin: My position has been eliminated (seattleweekly.com)
* Raskin out as Seattle Weekly restaurant critic (eater.com)
* Restaurant critics recall death threats and screaming chefs (jimromenesko.com)

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