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Friday, January 25, 2008

Too Much (False) Information

posted by on January 25 at 18:21 PM

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.

RSS icon Comments


You know The Seattle Weekly enormous penis!!!

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | January 25, 2008 7:09 PM

Did the reviewer for The Stranger actually take a baby with him? If so, that is sort of bullshit, how is he supposed to provide an objective review while trying to look after a kid?

Posted by JD | January 25, 2008 7:46 PM

Wow, all this handwringing about the integrity of a review of a fairly sketchy restaurant. In a nation of lapdog media fawning after anything that faintly smells like celebrity or power, it is so refreshing.

Like a tall cool glass of Franziskaner Weissbier.

Posted by Karlheinz Arschbomber | January 25, 2008 7:58 PM

There's still a print version of The Stranger?

Posted by catalina vel-duray | January 25, 2008 7:58 PM

The Stranger can't take two seconds of criticism without getting completely butt hurt. AMIRITE?

Cases in point: Erica, Josh, Savage, Grandy.

Posted by AMIRITE? | January 25, 2008 8:10 PM

Massive spit-take: You actually HAVE an "editorial department"?

Posted by Rev. Baw Haw Haw | January 25, 2008 8:29 PM

Encourage the owner to stop astroturfing in the review comments, too, or at least to do it well -- start by spelling "definitely" and "restaurant" correctly, and avoiding over-the-top effusive postings.

Much like jaywalking, there is skill involved, and they have none.

Posted by Troy | January 25, 2008 8:40 PM

Did y'all ever really expect The Stranger douchebags to take the high road and say: "We blew it?"

Me, either. House of frauds.

Posted by Kenny Dale Hill | January 25, 2008 8:40 PM

Well, this was handled with grace and aplomb.

Jesus H.

Posted by Wow. | January 25, 2008 8:56 PM

I find it hysterically funny that The Stranger is getting down on another paper about the quality of their fact-checking.

Posted by I am your Mother | January 25, 2008 9:00 PM

you're right we don't care. Same Seattle Weekly/Stranger articles to make the competition look bad. You both do it and it's embarrasing.

Posted by Nick Diz | January 25, 2008 9:07 PM

I'm glad the article is back. The place is a disaster.

Posted by Lisa Gin | January 25, 2008 9:09 PM

well, with no reference to truth

a friend of mine, a lady, owns a small bar and eatery on the hill

no need to pay for ads, the joint is full all the time. she buys a couple of small ads in the Stranger "for insurance" cause she is afraid of a bad review if she doesn't

go figure how that "slander" is out there

Posted by Essex | January 25, 2008 9:10 PM

10050 Cielo Drive.

Posted by Sexy Sadie | January 25, 2008 9:20 PM

Yerite, amirite.

Nothing good can happen on Thomas Street. That accursed street is evil and impossible. It's not the restaurant's fault. Milk goes off, meat spoils, wine turns to vinegar on Thomas Street.

Hey, wait a second; it's not even ten o'clock and I'm a little drunk. What the hell?

Posted by Fnarf | January 25, 2008 9:44 PM

I'm confused... the best publicity and reviews are on yelp. Who the hell reads the either weeklies for the real scoop on dining in this town?

I'll tell you, no one.

Posted by seattle98104 | January 25, 2008 9:44 PM

Chris, so much of what you write, the present case included, is completely full of shit. Yet you managed to become editor.

Please, tell us your secret.

Posted by Sean | January 25, 2008 9:45 PM

Ha! Yelp is SO boring. If people on Yelp like it, you be damn sure I don't. Bland, bland, BLAND.

Posted by yelp?!? | January 25, 2008 9:48 PM

oh lookit, a buncha first time posters coming in from the pasture.

Posted by gnossos | January 25, 2008 9:49 PM

@4. Well, Catalina, riddle me this: Why would the Weekly - no stranger to delivering way too many papers around town each week - completely skip Capitol Hill this week, yet still somehow manage to deliver to the Weekly box that someone threw over the construction fence in front of Kincora's a month ago?

Posted by Waste Watchers | January 25, 2008 10:02 PM

The Stranger and The Weakly are here for entertainment folks, not for news. Please try to keep that straight...or gay. Yeah, probably more the gay thing.

Posted by PA Native | January 25, 2008 10:03 PM

God damn, this is news?

What's next? A coronation for one of the corns in your shit?

Can we just stick a piece of Bazooka to the backside of this whole train of thought and affix the fucking thing to Jean Enerson's mental Space Needle so Belltown views can increase condo prices x30?

Posted by Fisher Pavillion | January 25, 2008 10:04 PM



Posted by Abby | January 25, 2008 10:48 PM

Does anyone honestly believe that if the situation was reversed the Stranger wouldn't have published the exact same story, probably even hyped it even more than the Weekly did?

The Weekly asks a good question, if it's against policy to review new restaurants then why has the Stranger done so with several restaurants? And if it's a matter of marking these reviews, why wasn't that done instead of pulling the entire review?

Posted by mrobvious | January 25, 2008 10:54 PM


Posted by superyeadon | January 25, 2008 11:12 PM

The douchebags at The Stranger would be tapdancing on the neck of any paper in town that pulled the kind of shit Frizzy's trying to explain away with his pathetic post.

Fucking hypocrites.

Posted by Kenny Dale Hill | January 25, 2008 11:14 PM

Well, well, Mr. Frizzle. Welcome to the world of Big Boy Newspapering - the same one Josh Feet has been trying to break into for years. How's that accountability taste? The responsibility, the sense of "fairness" - how's that going down? Slicker than deer guts hanging on a doorknob, one can only hope. You like to fling your feces toward the mainstream press like a rhesus on ritalin, but it didn't take long for you to kiss 'n' kowtow on this one. Romenesko's a BEE-YOTCH, eh?

Posted by Welcome to the Big Kid's Table | January 25, 2008 11:30 PM

Who are all you people, and what are you doing here?

Posted by Abby | January 25, 2008 11:35 PM

I guess I don't get it. What exactly about this explanation is unsatisfactory?

Also, why is posting an explanation to an accusation of wrongdoing a symptom of someone who takes criticism poorly?

Posted by Chris in Tampa | January 26, 2008 1:18 AM

Who the fuck puts deer guts on a doorknob?

Posted by PdxRitchie | January 26, 2008 4:11 AM

Who the fuck puts deer guts on doorknobs?

Posted by PdxRitchie | January 26, 2008 4:15 AM

Who in the right mind reads the stranger restaurant reviews?
My lord, these are children with attitude who run this piece of shit, I would not trust them to provide reviews of sex clubs, which would be more in line with their expertise.

Posted by slogWorthy | January 26, 2008 6:19 AM

Or in other words - after that long non-denial denial - you've changed your policy...think you kiddies owe the Weekly a thankyuh.

Posted by HereComeTheMarines | January 26, 2008 7:18 AM


You admit that your advertising department fucked up, your printer fucked up, and your editorial department fucked up. And now you're getting all defensive about Seattle Weekly taking the same mirth in your messes that you've always taken in theirs.

You're right, Christopher--most of us don't care about your objections. We do care about the decline in your newspaper's quality over the past year or so, Maybe it's finally time to take The Stranger off my bookmarks page, and bid all of you adios for good.

Posted by Boomer in NYC | January 26, 2008 8:15 AM

32: Granted, The Stranger practically begs people to hate them, but they've had brilliant food writing for years. Min Liao, Bethany Clement, Angela Garbes--all great, all totally different...

Posted by EaterReader | January 26, 2008 9:00 AM

Given all the energy the Stranger puts into picking on the Weekly (and everybody else), it's bizarre how hysterical you kids get when someone gives it back to you. So you got caught sucking off an advertiser--hey, every newspaper does it. Christopher's wimpy excuse-making doesn't add anything.

Posted by J.R. | January 26, 2008 9:44 AM

Yep, Chinese control of American financial assets, the future scope of mass transit, national presidential campaigns, the increasing pressures of growth in our city - subjects too boring to compel the average lurker to post.

But, mention a negative review of a lousy restaurant that was published a tad early - now THAT'S a subject worthy of posting your first (and most likely LAST) sphincter-opening snark.

You people are either the sorriest lot of whiners to ever waste bandwidth, or else, it is now an inarguable fact that staffers at The Weekly really do have nothing better to do with their time.

Posted by COMTE | January 26, 2008 9:46 AM


Your appeal to ethics argument is confounded by the Stranger's editorial staff publishing fake stories under unauthorized names (Elizabeth Vasquez...probably a few of your interim public editor columns, etc.).

You can't have it both ways. You aren't the Seattle Times, yet you aren't the Onion. So existing somewhere in the middle means you can't exactly claim to be both.


Posted by Lake | January 26, 2008 9:54 AM

I too am concerned about the deer guts on the doorknob. Unwell, untreated people worry me.

Posted by Anonymous | January 26, 2008 10:31 AM

Going to eat at the joint the Stranger is having such AGONY about - will report back.

Only a fool would believe all this stuff at the Stranger is not a direct order from owners and editors.

Their themes are like a script from a D movie.

What happened to the love affair with Licata? Remember just how many times they wrote the Monorail story over many years?

Stirring the bees nest which is Gay Pride, over and over complete with name calling?

High level shock and kick and frothing in all directions is their stock and trade, even if they have to create it....

Posted by Adam Kelper | January 26, 2008 10:33 AM

Goodness! This is nastier than Hillary Clinton's campaign!

Posted by Michigan Matt | January 26, 2008 10:35 AM

I love celebrity feuds: de Haviland/Fontaine, Lewis/Martin, Clooney/Fabio, the Stranger/the Weekly...

you guys should have an old fashioned slap fight staged at Re-Bar and donate the proceeds to charity.

Posted by michael strangeways | January 26, 2008 11:12 AM

@37: Good point, COMTE. If Seattle Weekly writers have the free time to post on Slog under fake names, they should post on their own blog under fake names, too. That way, every item won't end with (0).

Posted by J.R. | January 26, 2008 11:41 AM

The irony of a Stranger editor talking accuracy and fairness is just delicious.

Take a stand. Fire Josh Feit.

Posted by Pot? Meet kettle | January 26, 2008 12:12 PM

Bringing your baby to an intimate bistro is a fair test of its street cred. Come on, people bring dogs to bistros.

That said, I guess McCann isn't a Buddhist anymore.

Posted by WenG | January 26, 2008 12:18 PM

Regarding The Stranger's custom to wait three monts before reviewing a new joint, Christopher writes:

...(it) has softened into a general rule of thumb that weve broken countless times.


Well probably send a reviewer back after its been open a while.

How long has The Stranger been in publication now? You seriously don't have published guidelines in place for your review sections? Probably?

Come on. You guys are a lot smarter than that.

You can't be all loosey-goosey with a barely existent policy and then expect your readers to give you credibility.

At the very least, a standard policy will cover your ass when shit like this hits the fan, saving us all from another tedious backpedaling from Christopher.

Posted by kerri harrop | January 26, 2008 12:24 PM

probably A huge for a while, forts

Posted by landsteven | January 26, 2008 1:38 PM

Behind were punished magnificent pruning forts we just I was beech log. cutting off

Posted by houseyahooba | January 26, 2008 1:40 PM

(47) & (48)


Posted by J2D2 | January 26, 2008 1:47 PM

Any journalism ethics sites linking to this mess clearly haven't been regular readers of The Stranger, or else they'd understand a simple fact: THE STRANGER ISN'T JOURNALISM.

Journalists have ethics and standards. The Stranger doesn't seem to follow anything of the sort. At least, its most famous staffer and "editorial director" certainly doesn't, and shit rolls downhill.

You guys should own up to the fact that the Weekly busted you and admit that if any other paper in Seattle had done what you did, you'd be tearing them a new one. At least be honest with us.

Or, if that's too much, AT LEAST remove that "Seattle's only newspaper" from your site. Sheesh.

Posted by Dan Ravaged | January 26, 2008 2:33 PM

Re: Seattle's only newspaper that is quick to point and laugh at its peers, but huffs and puffs like a fucking child when the tables are turned.

Posted by Josh's Feet | January 26, 2008 2:59 PM

I am glad you will give then another chance. I love that place, and the owner is a sweetheart. I was very sad with the bad review you guys gave him.

So thanks for clearing things up, that my neighborhood restaurant and I don't want them to get mud slung at them for no reason.

Posted by Original Monique | January 26, 2008 3:03 PM

What may be the most surprising thing about all this is how many Stranger readers think the Stranger sucks. They see a history of this kind of nonsense and hypocrisy and seem to be calling you on it: NOT journalism is the thread that runs through their complaints. Someone better fix this. It appears the paper that likes to say go fuck yourself - just did.

Posted by JenniferG | January 26, 2008 3:09 PM

Jennifer - It depends on your expectations. The Stranger is a great source of entertainment and info on local culture, it generally fails as a consistent source of good journalism.

It's like a friend that always gets drunk at parties and tells great jokes, fun but you're not going to ask him for a cogent opinion on health care reform.

Posted by mrobvious | January 26, 2008 6:43 PM

It' blue. Check it out. It's cool. It's blue! You like blue? Snap, snap, snappity snap snap. Patappity snap. Pa snap. Patappity snap snappity snap pasnappity patappity snap. Tappity pappity pasnap snap.

Posted by 4lkaaM llorT | January 26, 2008 7:16 PM

applaud #50.

Ummm... and they are getting free ads. I would like to see the checks.

I'll call that bluff.

Oh, and its totally true you would be doing a fucking cover story on this if the Weekly had done exactly what you did.

Posted by Lil J. | January 26, 2008 9:23 PM

@53 "What may be the most surprising thing about all this is how many Stranger readers think the Stranger sucks."

Umm no, what is surprising is the number of first-time/unknown posters that jumped in to make comments about how the Stranger sucks.

Well, actually, not that surprising. As 25 noted: astroturf.

Posted by gnossos | January 26, 2008 9:54 PM

And you know they are first-time/unknown posters because...? Are you a Stranger writer/editor posting anonymously (the deception continues), and does the paper secretly keep tabs on who writes what and when? Do tell.

Posted by MadMax | January 27, 2008 11:07 AM

Aw Max, a lot of us don't have much else to do (this is my third post on this thread, by the way), so Slog is like a little community where everyone at least recognizes everyone else's handle. And we all see an unprecedented number of unfamiliar screen names on this thread. Tell Mark Fefer to stop the madness.

Posted by J.R. | January 27, 2008 11:21 AM

I don't think that there are new people posting. I change my handle a lot, but thats because there are no sign ins on your site so you can feel free to change your handle whenever you want based on what you are writing.

But, I doubt the Weekly is on here its the weekend and shouldn't both papers be taking the days off?

Posted by Lil J | January 27, 2008 2:59 PM

This is giving me a headache..

Posted by J2D2 | January 27, 2008 4:07 PM

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