Cook's Illustrated Editor: I Wish All Those Amateurs Out There Would Just Shut Up
from the well,-that's-nice dept
Rob Hyndman points us to an editorial in the NY Times from the founder of the famous Cook’s Illustrated magazine, Christopher Kimball, bemoaning Conde Nast’s recent decision to shut down the magazine Gourmet. Rather than talking about all sorts of mistakes made by Conde Nast in managing its magazine portfolio, he works out some way to blame people who use Twitter and Google and (gasp!) put their own recipes online and (oh no!) have their own feeble-minded opinions:
The shuttering of Gourmet reminds us that in a click-or-die advertising marketplace, one ruled by a million instant pundits, where an anonymous Twitter comment might be seen to pack more resonance and useful content than an article that reflects a lifetime of experience, experts are not created from the top down but from the bottom up. They can no longer be coronated; their voices have to be deemed essential to the lives of their customers. That leaves, I think, little room for the thoughtful, considered editorial with which Gourmet delighted its readers for almost seven decades.
To survive, those of us who believe that inexperience rarely leads to wisdom need to swim against the tide, better define our brands, prove our worth, ask to be paid for what we do, and refuse to climb aboard this ship of fools, the one where everyone has an equal voice. Google “broccoli casserole” and make the first recipe you find. I guarantee it will be disappointing. The world needs fewer opinions and more thoughtful expertise — the kind that comes from real experience, the hard-won blood-on-the-floor kind. I like my reporters, my pilots, my pundits, my doctors, my teachers and my cooking instructors to have graduated from the school of hard knocks.
The thing is, the evidence actually suggests he’s wrong. People who first become interested in such “bottom up” knowledge, often go on to seek out the “thoughtful, considered editorial.” The bottom-up system works because the ease of entry doesn’t scare people off, but it also doesn’t take long for those who find it compelling to seek out more expertise in the subject. Refusing to “climb aboard this shop of fools” is a good way to make sure that the snobs you’re hoping will come find you never even bother.
Kimball is correct that he should be better defining his brand and proving his worth — that’s what we’ve been saying all along. But you can do that without insulting the riff raff, as well. You can do that while embracing the “bottom up” process. You can do that without being a total snob that has no time for the people who actually pay your salary.