In the continuing flush of their best talent, the Oregonian has now terminated their freelance agreement with Michael Zusman. I’m just going to post his email below, which has some interesting accusations.
Received a terse e-mail from DeAnn Welker this afternoon advising that I would no longer be freelancing at The Oregonian. After five-plus years, it was an unclassy way to deliver the news. I’m sorry to say that I am not terribly surprised, given my dealings with Ms. Welker since she was elevated from a clerk position to A&E editor after my good friend and editor Karen Brooks was unceremoniously dumped by the paper.
I can’t ascribe a definite cause-and-effect relationship, but the timing may well relate to a recent incident during which DeAnn told me that if I did not pump up an ambivalent review I had submitted, she was going to kill the review. I told her that would be dishonest and a disservice to readers, and could not do so. She killed the review. That was about two weeks ago.
A few years ago, we had a super team of restaurant writers/reviewers at The Oregonian with Roger Porter, Christina Melander, Karen and me anchoring the coverage. We nailed most of the breaking news, wrote insightful (if not always flattering) reviews, and provided abundant original, thoughtful reporting about Portland’s restaurant world. Now all of us are gone.
I’ll leave it to others to judge how the changing of the guard has affected the quality of The Oregonian’s restaurant coverage.
Personally, I am confident I can now get as much credible information from other sources as I can from the daily. Which is to say, in my opinion, that it’s now pretty darn tough to find deep, insightful, knowledgeably edited restaurant writing in Portland. Very sad in a city as food-obsessed as my beloved hometown.
To Food Dude, thank you as always for giving me my very first work as a food writer. To all of you, I hope you will continually strive to provide Portlanders the quality restaurant coverage we want and deserve.
garden girl says
The O is pathetic. The latest Diner was a joke. Just as the rest of the country (especially the NYTimes) continues to drool over the food culture in PDX, the O drops the ball. Thank goodness for Food Dude, Eater, Portland Monthly, etc…
The Oregonian is becoming a joke. Their recent watering down of FoodDay is an abomination. Pretty soon I won’t have ANY reason to renew my subscription.
Food Dude says
Tim Lehman says
For some time now the “O” has been dropping a free paper on my business doorstep. But with the continued and dramatic diminishing of quality of the rag, I wonder if it is even worth my time to walk out the door to pick up the freebie.
I’m with JDG…we pick our Freebie up, only for the plastic bag.
culinary kitten says
And that’s one final sock in the gut. Sad, sad and sad.
culinary kitten says
But hey… a very classy and well-deserved shout out to Food Dude. :)
Food Dude says
I miss the FoodDay that ceased to be delivered to our house about a year ago. The plastic bag it came in always came in handy when it came time to walk the dog.
Greg A says
“given my dealings with Ms. Welker since she was elevated from a clerk position to A&E editor after my good friend and editor Karen Brooks was unceremoniously dumped by the paper.”
Michael, could the fact you so clearly had disdain for your boss have played some roll in your discharge? Just a guy asking a question…..
Honestly, I kinda know DeeAnn (through correspondence from a different writing job she used to have) and she’s always been very sweet, friendly and unpretentious. So not to bag on Zusman, but yeah if you run around letting your new boss know you find them unworthy, I very much doubt they’ll be particularly well disposed towards you. His email itself (other than a nice shout out to Food Dude) has a very pissy, unprofessional quality to it.
Then again, after 5 years, he was fired by email. I would have been a lot more “pissy” and “unprofessional”. It’s worth noting this is the same method Welker used in firing Porter. Perhaps if trends continue at the Oregonian, they’ll just tweet firings in the future.
I largely agree with Mike’s sentiments, though this particular statement is rather self serving and very much overstated, IMHO. Frankly, I don’t really think that the O’s restaurant coverage was ever all that great, even with Karen at the helm:
That said, letting Mike go really is just a further indication that the O has finally found it’s niche as a liner for bird cages. That’s about it.
Food Dude says
It does seem to be following a national trend though.
The esteemed Mr. Zusman undeniably knows a lot about food, but based on some of the comments he’s made in various online fora over the years, may be rather prickly to work with. I wonder if that played a role in his departure.
And then, there’s always karma from his day job (Multnomah Country Circuit Court Judge Pro Tem) to think about.
OOOOOOOO, no you didn’t! snapcracklepop. Ka-Pow!!! Score Dan-1,000,000 vs. Judge Zusman-0
or, possibly vastly overestimating his own value.
…And then, there’s always karma…
I see a profound lack of understanding of the meaning of “karma”.
While there are many interpretations, I am comfortable with:
“Each karma, or action, generates a vibration, a distinct oscillation of force, a vasana, or subliminal inclination that continues to vibrate in the mind. These vasanas are magnetic conglomerates of subconscious impressions. Like attracts like. Acts of love attract loving acts, malice attracts malice.“
so you are hinting at malice (karma) in the reviews or judgeship? Not to get off track but the sentiment was the undignified way people are treating one another these days. Since when was it ok to fire someone by email? Such a poor reflection on Ms. Welker is general. Trickle down The O seems to condone/promote mediocrity in general………sigh 0 for The O
1 for The Mercury!
WW has the spiked review online today.
I think that Zusman is full of it. I’ve been on the unfortunate side of having to observe his poor & condescending attitude when he ‘dines’ at a restaurant – he’s finally been put in his rightful place. I’m not a big fan of the Oregonian, but on this one, they’ve nailed it.