Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Too Much (False) Information
posted by January 25 at 18:21 PMon
Kidding aside, Seattle Weekly’s “reporting” about Thomas Street Bistro is riddled with false and misleading information. I’m sure most of our readers don’t care, but for those who do—and for all those journalism-ethics sites out there linking to Seattle Weekly’s blog—here are the facts.
Seattle Weekly reports that Thomas Street Bistro “started running” ads two weeks after Chris McCann wrote a negative review of Thomas Street Bistro for the January 3 issue of The Stranger. That’s not true. Thomas Street Bistro started running ads in The Stranger in the December 6 issue. Then Thomas Street Bistro ran a second ad ran in the December 13 issue. Then The Stranger published a negative review of Thomas Street Bistro.
Before that review came out the owner of Thomas Street Bistro had decided to stop advertising because, as he told an ad rep (we’ve got the email), he was unhappy with the print quality of his ads. Sure enough, some of the text in those ads was unreadable. (If you have a copy of the December 7 or the December 13 issue sitting around—and I bet you do, Aimee—check out those Thomas Street Bistro ads and see if you can read Thomas Street Bistro’s web address. You can’t.)
So The Stranger extended Thomas Street Bistro’s Adam Freeman an offer that’s not uncommon—two “make good” ads at a larger size to make up for the two ads that were unreadable. In addition to the “make good” bump-ups for these ads, Freeman paid extra—in fact, double what he’d paid for December 6 and December 13 ads—to up the size of the make-up ads. That’s how Thomas Street Bistro ended up with quarter-page ads in the January 17 and January 23 issues of The Stranger after a negative review had appeared in our pages. Seattle Weekly reports that “the restaurant was given free advertising.” That’s not true. We have four cleared checks for the four ads Thomas Street Bistro has published in The Stranger, Aimee, if you would like to see them.
Why did we take down the review? Because the Thomas Street Bistro piece sparked a debate in the editorial department about when is too soon to review a brand-new restaurant. Nowhere in his review did McCann mention that the restaurant was only a few weeks old. Once upon a time The Stranger’s custom was to wait around three months before publishing full-length formal reviews of new restaurants, but that has softened into a general rule of thumb that we’ve broken countless times in order to keep readers informed about new restaurants.
I decided that the right thing to do was to take McCann’s review down and send another anonymous reviewer in a couple months. It was a decision I made independent of advertising considerations; if we allowed sales to dictate editorial decisions, we wouldn’t have published a negative review of that advertiser’s business in the first place. I was trying to be fair. But if fairness was the goal, we’d have to remove all other reviews of restaurants that we’ve published within a restaurant’s first three months. Which is why the review is back up on our website with a note that says:
This is a review of a restaurant that just opened. We’ll probably send a reviewer back after it’s been open a while, as things often change in a new restaurant’s first months.
We’ll put that on all reviews of brand-new restaurants from now on.