Another restaurant critic has become a casualty of the slow, agonizing death of print: Lee Klein, critic at the Miami New Times, has been laid off as the paper moves towards an emphasis on digital coverage. According to a post by New Times editor Chuck Strouse, restaurant criticism will now be written by "several writers with years of food experience." One of whom might be Klein; Strouse tells Eater "Lee is certainly welcome to work with us in the future." Former freelancer Laine Doss is stepping up to oversee the New Times' digital food coverage.
Village Voice Media, of which the New Times is part, appears to be going through yet another round of layoffs. The professional restaurant criticism industry has been beset by layoffs and buy outs over the past few years, with full time (read: expensive) critics being let go in favor of freelancers. Strouse gave the following statement to Eater on Klein's departure:
Lee is a great critic whom I have had the privilege to edit and work with for 14 years in both Miami and Fort Lauderdale. I hired him at the start. Given the extraordinary growth of our web traffic, we had to make a tough call -- and ended up hiring a staffer to oversee digital food coverage. (Eater certainly should get this.) Lee was laid off as a result. This is the kind of choice that is confronting every media outlet in the nation.
Food coverage will continue to be our highest priority, and the new folks who will be providing long form criticism will, in the medium term, gain the kind of national respect that has garnered Miami New Times writers -- exclusive of Lee -- multiple awards from the James Beard Foundation, the Association of Food Journalists, and the Society of Professional Journalists.
During Klein's tenure at the New Times, he was once accused by a restaurateur of never even eating in a restaurant he reviewed, but he also won dozens of awards for his food coverage. Delightfully, his seemingly last review is of Nemesis Urban Bistro, a restaurant that had famously banned Klein from "darken[ing] our door" after he included the restaurant in a listicle of bad restaurant names. Klein's conclusion? "If the dining experience here doesn't rise to the level of great art, it certainly is handcrafted."