Seattle Weekly restaurant critic Hanna Raskin's position has been eliminated. Tweeted Raskin: "I'm never good at writing endings, and this one's especially tough: My position at the Seattle Weekly's been eliminated. Thanks for reading." Raskin is another casualty of the ongoing national trend of newspapers scaling back their operations and getting rid of expensive restaurant criticism. Back in January, Seattle Weekly was acquired by Sound Publishing— a publisher of 38 titles in Washington state — from Voice Media Group.
In an email she sent to Seattle media today, she writes that she was "offered a food and drink editor position, which came with a reduced salary, smaller office and a very different set of job duties." Raskin's pay as a critic was apparently not exceptional in the first place — she was known to "occasionally work promotional events to help pay the bills." Also, her expenses would not cover alcohol, making it somewhat difficult to review places like wine bars.
The position that was offered was of "new section coordinator." It would have included doing things like "write press releases, create brochures and represent the paper at public events." Raskin wrote a post on Seattle Weekly's blog that indicates that restaurant criticism at Seattle Weekly is over:
According to editor Mark Baumgarten, "the Weekly will henceforth employ a food and drink editor who will be less focused on writing and more focused on developing and managing all of the paper's food and drink coverage." Baumgarten this morning told staffers he hasn't ruled out the possibility of running reviews in the future, but it's still unclear who might write them.
As far as Seattle restaurant criticism goes, there are now only two big-league newspaper critics: Providence Cicero at the Seattle Times and Bethany Jean Clement at the Stranger. There is also Kathryn Robinson at Seattle Met magazine and Allison Austin Scheff at Seattle Magazine.
Hanna Raskin had a short stint (eight months) as critic for the Dallas Observer. She famously lost her anonymity after she wore a name tag at a public event and schmoozed with chefs. Back in March 2011, she departed for Seattle after a "nightmarish reaction to short Texas ragweed."
Interestingly enough, just yesterday Houston Press critic Katharine Shilcutt announced that she was leaving after getting poached by Houstonia to be the features editor under food section editor Robb Walsh. (The Houston Press is owned by Voice Media Group.) That food critic/blogger position at the Houston Press was just advertised today, so who knows? Maybe Hanna Raskin will make it back to Texas, armed with antihistamines.
Update: 05/09/2013: Here's Seattle Weekly's statement on Hanna Raskin's departure.