Friday, July 12, 2013

Classy Endings

The last ten years have been a disgusting decade for journalism. From the press' collusion with Bush/Cheney to stir support for the Iraq war, to ignoring stories like the Texas legislature filibuster, to getting stuff wrong (from the Supreme Court's Affordable Care Act decision to Trevon Martin to Newtown to the Boston Marathon bombing), plus an overall disinclination to really dig or challenge, we've devolved to the days of Yellow Journalism...only the press back then was actually good at yellow journalism.

And print journalism has performed no better than broadcast. Newspapers have been doing a horrible, lazy job for years now (note: there are still superlative reporters out there doing brilliant work, just as you can find shimmering counterexamples amid any overall decline; I'm speaking here in broad generality).

One might point out that print journalism is dying, so the degeneration's to be expected. But it's not. Newspapers are dying economically, but that has no direct effect on quality. As print reporters have seen the writing on the wall, they've faced a choice: 1. rise, en masse, and do such a superlative job that their profession's demise would be seen as the tragedy it truly is, or 2. collapse haplessly into irrelevancy. Most chose collapse. I can't tell you how many times in the past few years I've picked up a newspaper and grimaced to see besieged reporters and editors doing so little to prove their worthiness.

Having observed restaurants for a long time, I've seen countless failures. And the normal way of things is for failing places to nonchalantly repel customers. Blazing with disgust over the lack of business, staffers and even management irrationally take frustrations out on diners, treating those who do show up with indifference or even outright hostility. The cooking falls off, too. And that's that.

Only once did I see a place push full-throttle to the bitter end. As I wrote in my report for Slate of the final night at wonderful Bo restaurant:
...the place never caught on, though it wasn't for lack of effort by Maria, her intensely loyal cadre of fans, and New York's food writers, whose rave reviews plastered Bo's walls and windows. Sometimes when I'd drop by, Maria would tell me I was her first customer in days. It was heartbreaking, but, amazingly, she never slackened. On the contrary: As the situation grew more and more desperate (the waitress, unable to live on 15 percent of nothing, went back to Korea months ago, leaving Maria no choice but to wait and bus tables herself), she responded by determinedly making everything even better. Nearly every meal I'd eaten at Bo was superior to the preceding one. She was daring the world to eat elsewhere; creating food that might, via the sheer magnetic pull of its almost diabolical goodness, lure customers off the streets. Yet only a trickle of business was ever conjured up.

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