Cat-and-Mouse Game: Alt-Paper 'Outs' Colorado Daily's Dining Critic

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By: What Else Can They Do?" Newspaper dining critics play an intense cat-and-mouse game with restaurant owners and chefs who are always trying to spot a reviewer at work. When critics in the Association of Food Journalists get together at their annual meeting, they swap tips on how to stay anonymous, according to Executive Director Carol DeMasters. "Many critics in the group will tell you they've been spotted," she says.

But what's going on in Colorado Springs, Colo., is something new on the menu for DeMasters.

The alt-weekly Colorado Springs Independent is effectively outing the restaurant critic of the daily Gazette, a veteran staffer who adopted the pseudonym "Nathaniel Glen" when he got his new beat earlier this year. When the critic was introduced to readers, the paper said he needed a fake name to stay anonymous to restaurants because his previous work on the paper made his real name too well known.

In two columns by Calendars Editor Matthew Schniper, the Independent complains the pseudonym allows the critic to be especially acerbic without being accountable to the public. The paper also hints that the Gazette rigged its hiring process: In an American Idol-style contest in which the public voted, some 50 readers in addition to the lone in-house candidate submitted sample reviews. The top three vote-getters were interviewed by the newspaper.

The Independent's second column all but named the critic, suggesting rhyming words and anagrams for readers to figure out his identity.

Gazette Entertainment Editor Warren Epstein said the outing is deeply annoying, but so far hasn't hampered "Glen" at dining spots. "They've done their silly little anagram," he says of the alt. "If his picture shows up at every kitchen in town, I guess we'll deal with it. But he really hasn't gotten the sense he's been noticed."

Epstein says he doesn't buy the Independent's explanation for ID-ing "Glen," and wonders what the real motive was. "This argument that a pseudonym makes him less accountable is just silly," he says.

The Independent did not return E&P's request for comment.

The Association of Food Journalists' guidelines for dining critics say reviewers should stay anonymous but advise against pseudonymous bylines. But the Gazette's situation sounds like a worthy exception, says executive director DeMasters: "They've been honest with the readers, and in a situation where the guy's picture is out there

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