Sacramento Bee restaurant critic: ‘Sometimes being critical is seen as being mean’

Rick Kushman, who left the Sacramento Bee in 2010 to “try something new,” is now a substitute host on Capital Public Radio’s “Insight” show. On Monday, one of his guests was former colleague Tim Swanson, the Bee’s features editor. Swanson was asked if restaurant critic Blair Anthony Robertson’s reviews are “mean.”

The exchange:

KUSHMAN: Your restaurant critic is pretty controversial, and some of the argument is simply that he takes opportunities when he doesn’t like a place to be mean. There is an argument in the business community that that’s just really — what’s the point? Why not just tell you what the place was like and not be mean?

SWANSON: Well, I don’t know if I would categorize Blair – Blair Anthony Robertson’s reviews as “mean.” I think he tries to be objective. I think he is a truth teller. I think that there aren’t — there are few other critics, at least restaurant critics in our city, who do that sort of thing. …some people have confused journalism with cheerleading, and we are first and foremost journalists.

I asked Robertson this afternoon: Are you mean? His response: “[Kushman] is certainly entitled to interpret my work however he pleases. Sometimes being critical is seen as being mean, but that is never my intention. I welcome all kinds of feedback and, as a writer, I’m always looking at my work to see how it can be better. But I know I will never be able to make everyone happy.”

* Bee features editor defends “mean” restaurant critic (
* Robertson in 2010: “I don’t like writing negative reviews at all. It stresses me out” (
* Earlier: Restaurant critics recall threats from mean people (