Like foodies everywhere, I was stunned to hear the news earlier this week that Gourmet magazine would cease publication with the November issue. Print media has taken a beating for certain in these economic times but to see a powerhouse like Gourmet go down was a surprise.
Chris Kimball of Cooks Illustrated (a magazine that I subscribe to) wrote this provocative Op-ed piece in the New York times. Fans of Cooks Illustrated or America's Test Kitchen know of Chris Kimball's somewhat smug demeanor and in the Op-ed he can't resist taking a swipe at Conde Naste (who owns Gourmet) for selling off another cooking magazine that he owned in the 70s. But, he also brings up some food for thought (sorry, I couldn't resist). Cooks Illustrated accepts no advertising and is fully funded through reader subscriptions. Their associated website also limits free content. Only paid subscribers have access to all recipes and web content.
Is Gourmet's demise evidence of a societal trend moving from valuing expertise, education and good writing, in favor of a more open approach where everyone has the ability to upload content to the blogs, restaurant and recipes reviews regardless of adeptness?
One blogger responded to a comment I made on Twitter today with a link to his blog post on the subject. You can see his response here. He interpreted the Chris Kimball Op-ed somewhat differently than I did. I wasn't outraged by Chris Kimball, in fact, I think he raised some interesting and valid points. Chris Kimball's article is obviously focused only one field, food writing. The same transformation can be seen in politics, reviews of products, customer service reviews, etc.
In a digital age, should information be free? Has our wiki'd society devalued expertise or has this new egalitarian turn raised our collective knowledge?