Contrarianism is the Willy Week’s métier, but The Oregonian has jumped into the fray with their Non-foodies Food Guide.
When they canned Roger Porter this past summer we learned that the Oregonian’s A & E editor, DeAnn Welker, envisioned something different for the paper’s coverage of local restaurants. Porter explains in an August conversation with Eater PDX:
“We are radically changing the way we cover dining and restaurants.” That changing direction means, as Welker told me in person, that The Oregonian intends its restaurant coverage to be aimed at ordinary people. It will henceforth meet the needs of readers who go to the places where most of the people go […] we had had some disagreement over the paper’s forthcoming increased attention to restaurants in the suburbs and to chains.
Despite the nod to ordinary people, I suspect the motivation for the the shift in coverage is actually that small restaurants and food carts don’t have large advertising budgets, so they won’t be buying Oregonian ads anytime soon. Where most of the people go includes larger restaurant chains, which have advertising budgets. So basically the O is going the tea party route, i.e. faux populism.
And if my supposition is correct, that explains why the businesses represented in the Non-foodies Food Guide are, with the exception of Sayler’s Old Country Kitchen, large corporate (though putatively local) chains: Dutch Bros. Coffee, Old Spaghetti Factory, Shari’s, and Taco Time. (And evidence is gathering that my suspicion is correct, because as I type this I see a leader board ad for The Old Spaghetti Factory atop the OregonLive.com webpage, and a Shari’s 99 cent Breakfast special coupon on the PDX BEST DEALS sidebar.)
The Non-Foodie Food Guide articles (I’ve found three on OregonLive.com) penned by Lee Williams drip with sarcasm and condescension. I understand the cynical decision (i.e. $$$) to editorialize on behalf of advertisers, but to insult readers? Not so much. But I suppose since there’s not much of a story there (we all know about these chains – we see them every day alongside the road and in advertising, and virtually all of us have patronized them before), snark is their last refuge.