A “Bad” Review: Writing (Well, Editing) Gone Awry

Horrified. Embarrassed. Upset.

That’s how I felt when I opened my copy of the current (September 2008) issue of Sound magazine and turned to the monthly “Dish-Off” article I author.

Dish-Off pits three restaurants in competition, a la Iron Chef, based on a common theme (typically, a theme ingredient). I love writing this piece, and appreciate Sound’s support of the concept. Restaurant chefs and owners that participate appreciate the chance to do something fun and different, and to gain exposure as a result.

The September issue’s theme ingredient was berries and cherries. Matt’s in the Market, 35th Street Bistro, and Canlis agreed to participate—all fine restaurants, and all making a fine showing, with 35th Street Bistro just edging out the others in winning this particular competition. I had the tough task, always a challenge, of writing up the results in about 1,000 words or less.

Which brings me to the upsetting news.

Unfortunately, Sound edited from a draft (about 1,600 words) that I mistaken emailed them approaching midnight on deadline day. I was tired, and sending the wrong version was my fault. I caught the error and promptly sent the final copy (about 1,000 words) when I woke up the next morning—before 8 am, and before anyone would start the editing process. But Sound says they never received the correction. Surprisingly, given my eight previous, polished submissions, whoever edited didn’t note the draft quality, despite clear indications (for example, uncharacteristic question marks next to word choices and the 60% overage of words) it wasn’t the finished piece. Bizarrely, the Canlis write-up was cut dramatically, with positive praise for the appetizers, salads and entrees inexplicably omitted. The result: After introductory remarks about the superb service, the Canlis paragraph (the other restaurants got two or three paragraphs) jumped to a description of the desserts, include accurate comment that some raspberry powder “brought me home to the days of licking Kool Aid powder.” Inaccurately, though, the editor added a closing sentence stating “But I wasn’t quite looking for a reminder of youth.”

Ugh.

Sadly, this statement comes off as a crass diss of Canlis, distorting my actual experience of the restaurant. Hence, my horror and embarrassment. My deepest apologies go out to Canlis, which is nothing but a classy restaurant—an “institution,” as I mentioned in my write-up. In fact, apologies go out to all three restaurants, which generously participated and failed to get the full-quality review they deserved.

I am aware that reviews are powerful. Mistakes like this can be damaging—not just to the restaurants, but to the reviewer (me!) as well. I fear that an incident like this can ruin my reputation as a credible writer. Similarly, I believe the magazine’s reputation and credibility can’t help but suffer as well.

My first concern is for the restaurants involved. My editor has notified me that he takes full responsibility for the sloppy outcome of this article. It’s impossible to recall the publication, but he assures me that he’ll write a correction in the upcoming issue, and direct readers to see the actual article on the Sound website. Meanwhile, to more immediately help with the healing of writing editing gone awry, I’ve posted the intended write-up here on my website.

4 Responses to “A “Bad” Review: Writing (Well, Editing) Gone Awry”

  1. September 16, 2008 at 11:51 am #

    Ugh, how frustrating. I’m glad they are correcting as best possible.

    BTW, I ate at Canlis last year and was amazed at the quality of the vegetarian entree choice. People might think of them as just an “institution” pumping out steaks and great service – but actually my dinner was like something right out of Art Culinaire, both in presentation and flavor.

  2. admin
    September 16, 2008 at 12:03 pm #

    Oh, I can see that. The grill station garners a lot of attention at Canlis, but I’m always impressed with their salads and vegetables. And even at crowded community events, Canlis always manages some of the most tasty food and intriguing presentations.

  3. September 22, 2008 at 11:35 am #

    I recognize those cherries & berries from the salad and the salmon and the dessert! From the promotional lunch sponsored by the cherry board three months ago: http://www.examiner.com/x-342-Seattle-Food-Examiner~y2008m6d24-Cherry-Ssason-Has-Begun.
    Cheers, Ronald

  4. admin
    September 22, 2008 at 11:45 am #

    Yes, Ronald…Canlis’ Chef Aaron chose to send out some of those popular dishes again for this dinner competition. It was fun to experience them for a second time, and to evaluate them in comparison to what Matt’s in the Market and 35th Street Bistro prepared. Now that fall’s in the air, I’m missing those cherries!

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