Today The New York Times announced, in a post titled "A Note to Readers," that it would be shutting down its dining blog Diner's Journal. This comes a little more than six months after The Washington Post did the same, shutting down its blog All We Can Eat.
The New York Times was far less forthcoming in its post about why Diner's Journal won't be published anymore than The Washington Post's Tim Carman was back in January. The NYT said only that it would be consolidating all of its food content on its regular Dining section page. By contrast, Carman said what we in the food writing and blogging world all know, which is that a food blog takes a whole lot of effort and resources. "But like any good partner, All We Can Eat has also been demanding. It's the dog that's always hungry and won't stop howling until you feed it a new scrap of meat," Carman said.
And he's right. Blogs take a huge amount of time, energy and resources, and don't always seem worth all that time and effort. But they also keep you smack in the middle of the daily conversation. And that's why it's such a shame that two of the country's most important newspapers have decided to bow out of that conversation.
Diner's Journal started in 2006, as the farewell post says, "as a place for Frank Bruni, then the Times' restaurant critic, to post news, notes and other observations about food that went beyond the borders of his weekly review." It had a huge impact on shaping newspaper food blogs that came after it. Between Bruni and Michael Bauer's Inside Scoop blog for the San Francisco Chronicle, a standard was set for what food blogs -- and the voice of critics on them -- could be. When Bruni stepped down and Sam Sifton took over as critic for The New York Times, the tone of the blog changed but remained vital.
After Sifton left the food section, former food editor Pete Wells took the critic's chair. Wells has never been as much of a blogger as Bruni or Sifton, and in recent months he's dropped off the blog almost entirely. Since February, Wells has blogged only once. Without the voice of a critic, the blog has changed completely from what, in Bruni and Sifton's days, seemed like an ongoing conversation with the country's most prominent restaurant critic, to more of a place for random news, recipes and links to other worthy stories. It definitely lost something in the process.
A blog post is a funny thing. It's obviously less formal and rigid than a traditional article, and as such it has allowed us to get to know the critics at The New York Times far better that their reviews alone allow. It's for this reason and many others that it's so sad to see it go.