Tuesday, August 5, 2008

How you get so big, eating food of this kind?

The Sacramento News & Review:

I can’t say I read it for the articles.

I tend to pick up the weekly in search of events and occasionally read what the writers are saying about local music. Cosmo Garvin usually has some interesting thoughts on local politics.

But, I’m not here to blog about an overall assessment of SN&R. I’ll try to focus on three things:

Burritos. Cover girls. Rushed production.

The July 31, 2008 cover of SN&R featured two color-coordinated twins with burritos in hand. The brunette in the center smiles into the camera while holding the single-bite burrito.

The other brunette stares across her shoulder at her twin while holding her untarnished burrito. The visual intends to give off the impression that, just maybe, one burrito is better than the other, and that one of these women has found the Holy Grail. Go within the pages young traveler, er, reader.

These aren’t any ol’ cover girls; they’re bloggers Sarah and Rachel Campbell of TwinSoup.com. If you’re hip and connected to the midtown scene, you might know who they are, and you might think that you can trust that these bloggers might lead you to the best in local burritos.

(Side: The self-described “semi-retired scenester ‘it’ girls” write short posts about weekend events, boutiques, trendy wares and, sometimes, a note about something on the horizon. From the perspective a new reader, TwinSoup.com seems to be more like a bulletin board than an in-depth blog. The posts could use more detail and criticism.)

There has been a buzz surrounding these women and their blog. In same week that they appeared on the cover of SN&R, Sarah announced on July 29 that the blog would be a central part of the Fashion & Style section at News10.net. The two bloggers, she wrote, would also appear as guests on the locally-produced Sacramento & Co. Curiously, no mention was made of their cover appearance; no image of the cover posted onto the blog.

Back to the article, I’m pulled within the issue because of the cover and the headline:

“Burrito envy: Who’s got the BEST BURRITO in Sacramento — and how bad do you want it?”

The burrito piece is not what it seems. I expected a “top 10” presentation as seen in “best of” issues. Not so. The best is not within. The article provides no sidebar ranking burritos. No locations are provided in accompaniment of the 16 restaurants sprinkled throughout the article. The two-page, almost 1,900-word piece is a sea of text.

Sure, there’s a picture of a large burrito with a text-wrap above the beginning of the story. A couple of pull quotes loosen up the text. And, oh, three drop caps are used.

(Though I do like that the text wraps around the burrito. I hope that’s intentional. Burrito. Wrap. I shouldn't have to explain myself.)

Here’s what’s great. The TwinSoup bloggers didn’t write the piece. Freelance food critic Kate Washington didn’t write it either. The pictured burrito, from Azul Mexican Food and Tequila Bar at 1050 20th St., doesn’t come from one of the named restaurants. Something tells me the photographer was sent across the street on deadline to come up with some cover art.

The presentation seems like a rush job, and does a disservice to the writer. The other extended piece, "The 10 most awesomely bad moments of the Bush presidency", is also a list. It's tough showcase to an issue when neither feature has art that develops its own story and acts as more than something nice next to text. When all else fails, throw some pretty girls on the front. Sex sells.

Ben Russell, in what appears to be his first full-length article for SN&R, writes a story about his personal journey to find the best burrito in Sacramento. The beginning is colored with too much detail about the supposed history of the Mexican, or Texan, dish. Russell takes too long to get to what I want to know: what are the good burritos and where can they be found? In the end, I’m not too sure. He provides sufficient detail about the burritos throughout, yet he fails make a determination. “Some are good,” “there are some middling burritos” and "there are a few really bad burritos” is a pretty insufficient conclusion. I do like what he says about the burritos he has tried. It's just, isn't this supposed to be the search for the best?

Who is at fault?

  • The presentation is misleading and certain elements could have been added to spotlight some places. There's no sidebars nor restaurant locations.
  • Regardless of the presentation, the article is too long. The first 600 words tell too much history. The reader can be drawn in with less. I imagine many readers didn't continue reading past the first few paragraphs.
  • The best history, of any, would have been the history of local burritos. What local restaurants have been around the longest and what charges have the owners seen in what is offered and what is asked for by consumers?
  • The editors could have trimmed down the last 300 words. The author claims to have not had a great burrito. Then, tells the reader his definition of his ideal, great burrito at the end. It seems to be a mistake to say what you’ve been looking for after 1,300 words. We’re talking about burritos. Get to it.

I suppose the same could be the same for this blog. I’ve written about half as much text critical of a story about burritos. Enough said.

By the way: Juan In a Millions makes one hell of a super burrito.


CODY K said...

Speaking of too long . . .

Haha. But how can you criticize them when they have (somewhat) hot girls on the cover with (somewhat) phallic objects?? Pure genius.

fft said...

oh miller, if you only knew what really happened ...