This morning's news that restaurant critic Roger Porter was let go from the Oregonian has sparked a tizzy of online outrage (just as with Karen Brooks before him), particularly at the paper of record's attempted shift toward more accessible eateries catering to "ordinary people," as Porter put it in his lengthy missive. Oregonian A&E editor DeAnn Welker, who dismissed Porter last week, responded to Porter's allegations and Eater's questions via e-mail:
What prompted the Dining section's change in focus to more accessible restaurants?
DW: There has long been a feeling, inside the paper and among readers, that our coverage has been slightly more high-end and Portland-centric than the way the average newspaper reader eats. That said, the economy has inevitably affected our coverage, and Dining is no exception. People are spending less money on everything now, including eating out, and we want to honor that. We have been doing this for a long time, of course -- with coverage of food carts, cheap eats, and more -- but we want to expand on that a little.
So how will this be reflected in the paper's coverage of new Portland restaurants? Will there be fewer reviews in general, or will proportion of reviews between city restaurants and suburban restaurants shift? Just trying to get a feel of what Oregonian readers will notice in the pages...
DW: Most readers won't notice much change in our coverage. We'll still cover openings, we'll still review the new high-end places, Portland establishments, and the restaurant trends that put Portland on the national map. We will also focus more on the suburbs than we have in the past. This doesn't mean our entire coverage will shift in that direction, but since a large number of our readers live in the suburbs, we don't want to ignore them, nor do we want to focus on just the very highest-end places in those areas. Instead, we want to give suburban readers everyday dining options in their area.
Most of our readers (who have commented thus far) seem concerned at the idea of covering suburban chains, or places that the majority of people already know about. Is it true that chains are on the menu?
DW: We are not going to shift our coverage so much that our focus is on suburban chains. Our emphasis will remain on local establishments. The "Home-grown chains" list in Diner this year is a brief, but good, example of our coverage.