Can one journalist serve as editor of a newspaper and its anonymous restaurant critic?
Ries, who writes about restaurants and dining as the food critic for Creative Loafing in Sarasota and Tampa, has just been named editor of the Sarasota edition, replacing Cooper Levey-Baker, hired to lead the new news and politics website the Florida Independent.
And in a blog post announcing the change, Ries says he is going to try to maintain his anonymity and keep writing restaurant reviews. "My position as editor will have me out in the community more, which will likely result in the erosion of the anonymity I have cultivated for the past six years — something I used to think was necessary for a restaurant critic," Ries writes. "Soon, there will be plenty of pictures online that restaurants could use to identify me, if they want to go to the bother...I won’t make it easy for them — I’ll continue to make reservations under another name, use an alias credit card, and shave my legs to match the summer dresses I plan on wearing as a disguise."
(This comes as the St. Petersburg Times announces that former copy editor Jim Webster will take over for food critic Laura Reiley, who is taking a one-year leave of absence. Longtime editor Tom Scherberger will also help out with restaurant coverage for our new Things to Do website, the Weekend section and the Tampa Bay Dining Out blog. You know you're making an impact when they have to hire two people to replace you.)
Ries' decision comes as many folks have been debating the usefulness of anonymity for restaurant critics, anyway. Since our new food writers Scherberger and Webster have not had their pictures regularly featured in the paper, they may be able to dine aonymously.
But other critics have told me that many restaurants figure out who the local critic is and keep an eye out, anyway. and in the age of Facebook and Twitpic, it may be tough for a critic to shield his or her identity from an industry determined to learn it.
It will be interesting to see how Ries handles being the top editorial voice for the newspaper while also trying to keep a low profile as a food critic.
Also interesting to see how we manage food coverage with two new faces at the helm. Tampa bay area foodies, get ready for some changes...
(NOTE: The original version of this post misspelled Brian Ries' last name. Many apologies.)