Ruth Reichl & I—Cancelled! Along with Gourmet…

I’m just in the weeds and feeling super-depressed right now, but I wanted to get this blog post up to let people know that Ruth Reichl has cancelled her upcoming book tour, so our event on Saturday at the Twin Cities Book Festival is off.

I’m not so much depressed about the event being cancelled, though that does bum me out, but the closing of Gourmet! So awful. I was hoping to get some organized thoughts on paper about this, but organized thought doesn’t seem to be in the cards for me this week, so here are my main thoughts:

Why did Gourmet close?

  • The fact that, in the age of the Internet, information wants to be free—in terms of people not paying for it—but it also wants to be expensive—in terms of salaries, healthcare, and all that stuff being more costly than ever—just makes enterprises like Gourmet obsolete.
  • Ink, paper, and postage cost so much that 980,000 elite food-interested subscribers are essentially meaningless.
  • It’s the age of television, and the age of personality, and the future is all and only about people like Rachel Ray, Martha Stewart, and Oprah, who are able to be popular in both.
  • Big words and long paragraphs are out.

What have we lost?

  • The sky. As a food writer, it’s hard to overestimate the significance of Gourmet. It was the place you’d get to write when you were real. I’ll never forget the excitement of doing my first Gourmet piece: I was still a kid living on crackers and riding a $5 bike; it was a piece commissioned at 400 words that I spent ten hours reporting and eventually ran at about 40 words (typical); but I was so thrilled, the moment was so full of promise, I felt like I had arrived, I was ordained, I was called, I was blessed from on high… That was Gourmet.
  • The future. All my future dreams of food writing always involved me being big and smart and important enough that Gourmet would want more of me.
  • The farthest vision. Every food writer and photographer in the country looked to Gourmet for evidence of what the best minds were thinking, and how they were doing it. It’s like all grad schools have been closed, leaving only the colleges.

Am I being overdramatic and hysterical? Probably. I’m writing this in the heat of emotion, but wanted to get this up so that no one shows up on Saturday and gets frustrated. But I also didn’t want to turn this into blogging about Gourmet week, so wanted to dump it into one post. I’m just heartbroken. The sky has fallen; not in the Chicken Little sense, but in the sense that the highest you can go is now lower. And yes, of course I’m part of the problem; the magazine I edit, the 350,000 circulation Real Food, is free in most markets, and certainly undercuts the price people are willing to pay for Gourmet. And no, I don’t know what to do with that.

Guess I won’t be seeing you Saturday…