7.11.2016

How Lucky I Am

This morning, I received a call from my editor at the Watertown Daily Times that a writer never wants to receive. It's no secret that print media is shrinking (or maybe sinking is a more apt description). People just don't subscribe to newspapers anymore, and most small, regional papers have not figured out how to make online advertising work without the augmentation of subscriptions. And so, I was notified that Big Hungry Shelby, and the Times' Sunday food critique column altogether, has been cancelled, effective immediately.

That means the review I spent three hours on yesterday morning will not even be published next week. It means the legacies of former critics Floyd Misek and Walter Siebel have ended with me, without enough notice to give them the proper tribute. It also means that small, mom and pop restaurants in Northern New York, whose businesses were very often bolstered by the column, and that would struggle to afford direct advertising, will suffer from a lack of exposure. I'm grieving for it all, if I may indulge my more dramatic side for a bit. 

I knew I probably couldn't carry this gig forever. Living in the Southern Tier and traveling more than two hours north at least once a month to eat nonstop for a weekend, so that I would have enough restaurants to write about week in and week out, was a punishing practice. But I never imagined that my tenure would end with such short notice, nor that the Times was in such circumstances as to have to cut what I was told was one of its top features, from a readership standpoint, with no forewarning. But reviewing restaurants is not a frugal endeavor. Retaining a weekly food critic costs the paper not only a writer's fee, but also reimbursement of the meals and the mileage, and I'm sure that line item loomed large in an organization needing to prioritize news over fluffy food coverage.

I'll miss writing my column. I'll miss the comraderie I've started to form with chefs in the region, though I hope to continue those, in some fashion, with the blog. I hope my readers from the paper join me here, where the geographic aperture is wider, but the criticism and zeal for great food remains. But most of all, I'll miss the Times' Sunday food column, be it written by me or anyone else. It's something I've read religiously since I was a little girl, and I think our community will be worse off in its absence. Now that we've lost this weekly peek into the best (and worst) cuisine Northern New York has to offer, I hope the readers don't decamp to chain restaurants. I hope they keep giving locally owned eateries a try. Otherwise, we may have another industry altogether start to sink.

54 comments:

  1. I'm sad! That's a huge cut and a big blow to the smaller places you introduced many to.

    I hope you keep it going here, albeit at a slower pace that is a little kinder to your schedule!

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  2. OMG ! Your article is the first thing I open my Sunday paper to ! Like you, I have read the previous critics with much enthusiasm. I was even reviewed by Floyd while leasing the restaurant at Ives Hill Country club between 1987 and 1989 ! I have his rview of me framed and will have to dig it out to remember whether it was forks or stars....but it was a good one !

    I will miss your fair and comical stories about local restaurants and their owners and wish you well !

    Wouldn't it have been nice if the Times had respected your position enough to give you and the readers a little notice ?

    Now the only thing he Sunday edition is good for is the coupons !

    Sadly, Mary Fraser

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  3. Your article is the first thing I read Sunday morning! As a subscriber to the newspaper, I am mad as hell. We keep getting less and less for our money. I will be following your blog as I enjoy your take on the local eateries!

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    1. Do you seriously think she will eat at all the local dives unless someone pays her?

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    2. I've written this blog for more than five years without making a dime from it, actually.

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    3. Sure you have, but some of us know the real truth.

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    4. So feel free to offer some proof rather than innuendo. Being a troll isn't very flattering.

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  4. How sad! We will continue to eat at local restaurants, even when traveling. And follow your blog.
    Sue Seiffert

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  5. Shelb, I'm so sorry! For you and your readers. You can absolutely keep this going, and you will!

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  6. Keep it going...yours was the column I looked forward to every weekend (online since I
    live in Atlanta...maybe I should have bought a mail sub-
    scription)

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  7. I am certain someone would love the opportunity to print your reviews! I know you're probably disappointed, but it is not because you aren't a good writer, you are! I would pitch your article to other publications, even the NYS Tourism bureau, etc. You're really good at what you do - don't take that personally.

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  8. Just another reason for me to cancel my subscription.

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  9. The reason they cut you is probably based on the biased and lopsided reviews you gave.

    The previous writers were fair and even handed, yours on the other hand were not

    Sorry uou lost your job, but thats life.

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    1. Hi Dave. One benefit of no longer having a formal position with the paper is that I can tell you you're an asshole! I was never biased in my reviews and worked exceedingly hard to be fair and always note every positive thing I could about even the absolute worst meals. You don't know me, and to come on my personal blog and take a shot at me right now is pretty low. Do you feel better now that you've crapped all over someone online? Feel like an important dude? Good for you, buddy. Go to Hell.

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    2. You tell him BHS! Loved your articles, I think you always tried to find something good in places less than stellar. Good luck in the future, your loss WDT!

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    3. Hahahaha Go Shelby!!!! You are awesome!

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    4. badass reply shelby! fuck that guy

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    5. Don't mind that troll Sis. Advertise your column bhs. On forsalecallowner.com of you have a gif send it to me. I'm post you an ad for free. Love your columns.

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    6. Don't mind that troll Sis. Advertise your column bhs. On forsalecallowner.com of you have a gif send it to me. I'm post you an ad for free. Love your columns.

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    7. So you are going to sit there and tell us no restaurant you reviewed ever comped you? Never treated you special or different fro other guests? Thin hard before you reply

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  10. Too Bad I was hoping you would be making a trip to Coffee Fever in Star Lake this summer. They are new, locally owned and run, good and exactly the type of place that benefited from a visit by you.

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  11. Dave Martin, STFU. You are an idiot. I enjoyed Shelby's column. She was down to earth with her review, not some stuck up food critic, whose palate sucked and gave horrible reviews too. I loved Shelby's slant on the restaurants and dives that she gave. Dave Martin, the only lopsided and biased is you! Good Luck Shelby! We shall miss you.

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    1. You can think all you want, it doesn't bother me at all

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  12. Well that's really disappointing, your column was one of my first reads every Sunday, really going to miss it.

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  13. Thank you Shelby for giving such honest great reviews! You've given such a boost to the restaurants a few of my friends have started! It's nice to know a "stranger" found their food as awesome as I did! I'll miss reading this...

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  14. It was one of the few interesting aspects of the paper. I'm sorry and hope this opens doors for you that you wouldn't have known existed otherwise.

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  15. First article I read each week.We will miss you,good luck.

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  16. Your prose over the years was something I looked forward to every weekend. Thank you for all your work over the years. Stop by anytime and see me.

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  17. Thank you Shelby! You articles were well done and you will be missed. Please keep your blog going!

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  18. So they fired you because the paper needs to save money? Man, who knew eating could be such a profitable gig. You really think what they paid you is gonna keep them afloat forever? Seems like sour grapes, maybe you just weren't any good.

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    1. No sour grapes from me, Jay. My editor told me that the decision was absolutely not due to anything I did wrong and that she enjoyed working with me. But when cost-cutting measures are in effect, all extras have to be fair game. I just wish I had had time to end it all properly and write some parting thoughts about my predesessors and food, overall, in NNY.

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  19. This is so disappointing. Thank you for your reviews and support to local businesses. Good luck in next endeavor.

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  20. Very sorry to hear, my mother is an avid reader and always gives me updates (I live out of state now). We will keep up with your blog. Best of luck on your future endeavor.

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  21. Sorry to hear this! I really liked your column!

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  22. Sorry to hear you column was canceled, although I think I do understand why. Print media is becoming irrelevant. Perhaps you could see if Fourth Coast might be willing to pick you up.

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  23. Sorry to hear you were let go in a cut throat manor. I enjoyed your style and I like the way you eat and enjoy it. Best of luck.

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  24. I have read the food critics articles for years. I have enjoyed BHS reviews because she called it like she tasted it. The WDT has had less subscribers over the years and continue to lose more weekly.

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  25. Shelby, you and your column was the only reason I read the paper. I am so, so sorry!!! I will miss you and your fair critiques, as a foodie I will miss your perspective on great food in the North Country. Thank goodness for your blog. I personally feel the Times is making a huge mistake. Hugs!!!

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  26. As a native of Watertown (now living in Minnesota), your column was the one thing that I enjoyed reading consistently. After seeing my family, the one thing I looked forward to was checking out your recommendations. I don't give the WDT too much credit - as a newspaper they have always been little better than a gossip sheet. They have taken away the one thing I consistently enjoyed!

    Best of luck to you, Shelby - some smarter outlet should snatch you up!

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  27. Sorry about the loss of your free food and gas money to come up here and get it. I know my parents just got a subscription from my sister for 6 months and I could not help but notice how lean in content the paper is....it's not long before they close their doors I am sure of it.....no one young reads papers and the old tightwads go to Mcdonalds to get it for free every day.

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  28. haven't bought a paper in years, but I always read your reviws on-line. Too bad, I'll miss it.

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  29. I'm sorry to hear that. I have enjoyed your reviews of local eating establishments. You're right, small papers are in trouble and the WDT can't change for some reason. I write the editor occasionally, and he snarls at me for taking the time and interest to make them aware of mistakes. Not too sure how much longer I'm gonna give them two hundred dollars a year for a weak product. Good luck !

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  30. I'm sorry to hear that. I have enjoyed your reviews of local eating establishments. You're right, small papers are in trouble and the WDT can't change for some reason. I write the editor occasionally, and he snarls at me for taking the time and interest to make them aware of mistakes. Not too sure how much longer I'm gonna give them two hundred dollars a year for a weak product. Good luck !

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  31. Oh Shelby! You have a gift and that is for sure. I absolutely loved reading your reviews and have completely changed my opinion dining out as a result. Thank you for reminding restaurants that the atmosphere impacts the meal as much as the ingredients used to make it. Thank you for reminding us of restaurants we may have forgotten about, and introducing us all to those we haven't yet visited. Thank you for being the taste tester for dishes that we never sampled until we read your commentary.
    One piece of advice: don't respond individually to the negative comments here...you are much too crafty for that. I'd prefer an entire blog post dedicated to it! Might as well give it your all! Keep it up!

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the column! Follow along here and on the Big Hungry Shelby Facebook page - there will be plenty more helpings of BHS!

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  32. Sorry Shelby!
    I always saved your article and section for last.
    It was always a great read and second cup of coffee material.
    The paper is going in the wrong direction and they just hurt themselves again.
    For me to keep getting the paper they need to add content not make the thing any thinner.
    The car section was crap the last year, one article and then classified?
    Maybe the post standard needs to add a north country section and put them out of business

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  33. I loved your writing style and reviews. Your column will be missed.

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  34. I loved your writing style and reviews. Your column will be missed.

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  35. I have to say that I do read your column because I am a owner of a small diner in the area that has never been visited... I have a hard time be leaving that anyone has the right to judge.. All people have different taste and for one person to be able to say what they think your food should taste like I be leave is wrong..

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  37. Sorry to see you go, especially now that the Times is doing sponsored ads disguised as reviews. I didn't always agree with your ratings (too many 6 and 7s when the experience didn't always merit it, IMHO), your commentary was always spot on with what a good dining experience should consist of - good service, food executed well, decent ambiance, and a price point representative of all of the above.

    Looking forward to reading your blog from now on. Hopefully another publication will pick you up. Keep on doing what you do.

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  38. Personally a bit less politics in the Times and a bit more food related stories would of pleased us just fine. But I suppose that is unreasonable. The restaurant reviews were always our first go to article on Sunday morning. And we almost always agreed with the impartial analysis you gave to each restaurant's food. You should of seen the beaming smile Paul Virkler had when we talked to him about your review of Steak n Brew! We do miss you.

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