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"As of last Monday, Roger Porter is no longer a restaurant critic for The Oregonian..."
That's how Eater PDX is reporting the news that The Oregonian has apparently let go its critic--a veteran food writer, formerly of Oregon Magazine and Willamette Week, who also wrote The Food Lovers Companion to Portland (along with co-author Lisa Shara Hall) and was nominated for a James Beard Award in 1998.
Oh, but wait. It gets worse. It's not enough that The Oregonian will find itself without a restaurant critic (after Porter's final piece runs on Friday), but their reasons for letting Porter go (at least according to Porter) are fucking chilling for anyone who gives even half a damn about food and dining.
This, from Porter himself, via the Eater PDX "Breaking News" post:
"As [Arts and Entertainment editor DeAnn Welker] told me in person...The Oregonian intends its restaurant coverage to be aimed at ordinary people. It will henceforth meet the needs of readers who go to the places where most of the people go [...] we had had some disagreement over the paper's forthcoming increased attention to restaurants in the suburbs and to chains, at the expense of coverage of Portland's extraordinary restaurants. She was insistent that The Oregonian would embark on a new course and this appeared to signify in part a new regime."
Regime change: It's what's for dinner.
Porter went on to clarify this new focus in The Oregonian's restaurant section as "a remarkable indifference to the great food city Portland has become," though without any new coverage to compare it to (yet), there's no saying exactly how this is going to shake out for the readers. Still, any run toward the vast (and ever-expanding) middle ground of American appetite done in willful ignorance of food's highs and lows is never going to be a good thing. Rather than pleasing the majority at the expense of elitists dining out at the high-end joints that Porter loved (which is the purported point of this re-jiggering of the section), it tends to simply alienate everybody since, frankly, there is no demographic out there who wants to read about the new lunch specials at the Olive Garden. Those interested enough in real food to be reading a newspaper food section won't care, and those eating at the Olive Garden? Yeah, they're generally not reading the newspaper's food section.
Porter described the new Oregonian food section mentality thus: "Coverage of new restaurants will continue, but in a greatly reduced fashion. In its place there will be more A & E dining articles on such subjects as how to assemble a tasty picnic."
Which, no matter how tasty that picnic might be, is really just sad.