For once, don’t blame Rachael Deen

And now we come to the end. Gourmet. I don’t hold a grudge because I only ever managed to sell two teeny pieces, one that was rewritten within a word of its death and another that never ran. Food magazines R not me, obviously. I have no interest in dancing on the shallow grave; any magazine that dies hurts the whole hurting business these days. But I was sort of amazed that no one ever mentioned the title on Twitter until it got whacked, and then suddenly no one could talk of anything else. It says it all that the devoted reader quoted in the NYTimes was so devastated that she was actually going to cook from it for the first time (reminds me of a sin eater). Nearly a million subscribers are not to be underestimated, but no magazine can live by readers alone. Which has been one of my big beefs for years. No one gives a frying fuck about the reader anymore. It’s all about pandering to the advertisers. Campbell’s apparently rules. At the same time, could you imagine the hysteria if Condé Nast had chosen to throw Bon Appétit off the bus in this Bushwhacked economy? The shrieks of elitism would have been more deafening than the gnashing of clueless teeth.

But mostly I am just gobsmacked that so many acres of type have been generated yet so few commentators seem to even realize the online extension of Gourmet was not Epicurious but .com. Everyone blames the internets, but apparently no one ever checks the internets. Story after rant after essay was published all over the series of tubes, and only a couple noted that the magazine had an online presence so strong readers like me let their print subscriptions lapse. NPR actually broadcast an elegy (predictably dull) by someone who said her son gets all his food information online. Well, why the hell wasn’t he reading Barry Estabrook and Francis Lam and Bill Sertl and all the others generating seriously good copy on a regular basis after Ruth seized the reins? The site could have been a contender, a natural extension of the brand from print to cyberspace without any sermonizing by Mr. Cook’s, who really should have been op-eding on how he said the hell with GE Profile kitchens and went straight to readers, rather than trashing the usual e-suspects. Now it’s just fading away.

Two other thoughts: Eater’s offer to run commissioned but unpublished Gourmet pieces for a hundred bucks was crude but at least laid bare how grim things are in the eat-and-type business. That wouldn’t even buy a lede just a week ago, and today contributors would bend over to get that online — a pittance is the new fee. And I did not manage to sell this take anywhere, but all the craziness was really deja vu all over again for me. Exactly 25 years ago, Cuisine magazine was whacked, after exactly a year of the smartest issues under the editorship of Carey Winfrey. I keep all 12 in a binder in my office and drag them out periodically not just in homage but, I’ll admit it, for ideas. Cook’s came back from the dead. Why not Cuisine?

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