Attack Of The Hacks: Food Fluffing With Bickford And Ramsey

In the latest Verb, food writer Jessica Bickford writes about the Green Spot Cafe. Apparently it’s just the perfectest place to eat EVAR, because  Bickford’s Verb column contains zero criticism. As, um, always.

(I’d link to it but I can’t find it online so you’ll have to, ugh, pick up a copy of Verb to read it.)

Meanwhile over at the Leader-Post, another food writer, David Ramsey, visits the Chimney. Does he have any criticism of anything? Of course not. He does, however, interview the owner. Hey, don’t take my word for it: read it yourself.

Now, I’m not saying The Green Spot and The Chimney are good, bad or mediocre restaurants. I don’t eat at either regularly so I dunno. But I seriously doubt either are perfect despite Bickford and Ramsey’s 100 per cent criticism-free columns.

Every single bite either writers takes are always delicious. And that makes their columns pointless.

Except that actually, they’re not pointless. Oh, they’re pointless for readers, all right. But for Verb’s/the Leader-Post’s employer’s bottom line? That’s another matter.

In fact, it’s pretty damn obvious that both writers’ jobs, whether it’s explicitly spelled out or not,  is to suck up to restaurant owners in the hopes this praise acts like advertiser catnip to drum up more business for Verb and the Leader-Post. Bickford and Ramsey write what one could call stealth advertorials: fraudulent columns that pose as honest writing but really exist just to promote a business in the hope that this will attract that businesses’ owners to advertise.

The problem — aside from the fact that this doesn’t serve readers — is that they’re not marked as advertorials in any way, which means they’re essentially misrepresenting themselves to readers.

Sadly, this is how things often work in Regina. A news outlet prints/broadcasts fluffy praise not to inform the public but to ingratiate itself to a business owner. That business owner then buys ads to reward the media outlets and their trained shills.

Anyone who actually understood marketing would laugh, it’s so stupid. You don’t buy ads because someone blew smoke up your shorts. You buy ads because you want to connect with a media outlet’s audience. If you know what you’re doing, that is.

It’s just too bad that the result of this blowjob carnival is a shortage of reliable information for Regina diners — which should be the main point of food writing.

I’ve got nothing against advertising or advertorials but let’s not confuse them with articles, please. Jessica Bickford and David Ramsey need to either write it for real, or stamp “advertorial” on their bogus columns. The stuff they’re doing now is dishonest. Regina deserves better.

Author: Stephen Whitworth

Prairie Dog editor Stephen Whitworth will never, ever pass up a chance to make a Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo pun.

13 thoughts on “Attack Of The Hacks: Food Fluffing With Bickford And Ramsey”

  1. My mom reads the L-P and infers criticism from what they’ve left out of the review. (She knows the prairie dog reviews are better, don’t worry.) However I wouldn’t expect everyone in the fair city of Regina to have the same critical eye my mom does.

  2. Tell you what’s wrong with the Green Spot: Their morning coffee choices are on little plastic stands and they are faces AWAY from the line-up, against the grain, mind you. You don’t know what’s on brew till you get to the front of the line. Today the medium brew was Sumatra, and I hate the Indonesian blends. Second, their sugar, milk, and cream station at the specialty coffee pick up counter is on the left end of the counter, right where you start the line-up, so it’s like, you get your beverage, then have to shove your way back to the condiments, or worse, have ppl awkwardly move out of your way like you’re a goon who will stomp them if they don’t.

    As for these friendly “reviews”, I feel they do the same with the Arts scene–never a “review” so much as a synopsis and who’s who. Again, totally pointless in terms of criticism.

  3. Is this a post against advertorials, or a swipe at the “Verb”? I agree with what you write Stephen.
    That overall lack of criticism of our politicians, this city ,( Regina ), in general for the last 30 + years has got to come to an end.Cost of living,NO affordable housing, Shitty roads/ lack of maintenance,consistant public worker raises/expectations,Roughrider mgmt/stadium,etc,blahblah,etc.

    At least on tv, some companies state that ” this is a paid promotion”, and you can change the channel or…

    #4 You need to invite a few of us over to your place and we can try yer cookin… lol.

  4. @Ron: It’s a swipe against Verb for running stealth advertorials

    @Talbot: There’s a long, interesting and fun conversation in the point you make about arts coverage. We review movies and CDs but everything else is description.

  5. @Ron: restaurant reviews will be back in the March 8 issue. We don’t run them all the time because Aidan can’t eat that fast.

  6. Went to the Chimney with my husband, who is sensitive to onions. The detailed (?) description of the steak with scallops meal indicated no onions. He ordered it.

    Much to his surprise, it came with a “sauce” that seemed to be nothing more than a very stinky onion, raw and pureed, poured all over his steak. He tried scraping it off and taking a bite or two but it had rendered the entire meal inedible. It gave him severe gastro-intestinal upset for two days.

    To this day we call the Chimney the poo-sauce restaurant. And there is your criticism.

    By the way, my meal was pedestrian at best. At least it did not drown any seafood in sewage.

  7. I dunno, from the few I’ve read, I think Ramsay’s columns is much more feature-y than dining critic-y. The odd first person lines “we had no complaints” are tonal missteps but I don’t think they’re as sinister as they’re accused of being. At their best, Ramsay’s cols are “people in your neighbourhood” features, the kind of which are a staple of community journalism and I quite enjoy them as such–in fact, I wish they went further in telling the stories of Regina’s restaurateurs. It’s not great food writing, but it is often very good storytelling and everyone would be better served by a refocus on that aspect of it.

    Disclosure: David Ramsay was on the City Desk when I worked in the newsroom at the L-P, and I always found him to be a decent, smart & funny guy.

    Verb, I’ve never read, no opinion.

  8. The Chimney is the BEST RESTAURANT IN REGINA, period, end of sentence. Anyone who says otherwise is talking out their ass. The Leader Post should be sucking up to Spiro, his ads will enliven an otherwise staggeringly dull paper. It will make a change from the usual farm accidents and North Central antics. Perhaps, just perhaps, the Chimney really is that good. It was for the 30 odd years I and my family went there. I’d still go there but i live in Toronto and, as good as the Chimney is, I simply can’t justify the airfare. Lay off the Chimney, go after the unspeakable chain restaurants out East or hives of scum and villainy like the Empire Hotel bar. Or maybe beef about how you’ve only got one Starbucks. Or how the local coffee places make a compelling argument for swearing off coffee forever. Or how the local bars make a good case for sobriety.
    Don’t piss all over one of the few good things in Regina just because they want to make-CRIMINY JOSEPH!-money by advertising.

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