Food-o-File

Making sure 'Food-o-File' better serves you

Back in the pre-Internet, pre-Food Network days when I first started this job, no one in our much smaller local food community concerned themselves with press releases or hiring publicists for promotion. Fast-forward to today, and my e-mail box is clogged with more than 100 story pitches a week. The national pitches are almost all useless, because we don't focus on seasonal cooking stories with name-brand product placements/celebrity chef tips/recipes developed by marketing firms. The regional story ideas are often travel-related, as in, "Write about the fun, food, and entertainment here in Branson/Shreveport/Las Vegas," but our rare travel stories need a definite local hook. Local submissions cover everything from restaurant opening announcements and review invitations to event listings, news items for this column, and feature story ideas. In response to this deluge of correspondence, I'd like to share some insights that might make it easier for local restaurateurs, chefs, and food artisans to submit information to this Food section, whether they have a publicist or not. Periodically, I find it ­helpful to remind people of the following:

1) Restaurant reviews, Critics Picks for the annual Restaurant Poll (coming next week), or "Best of Austin" awards cannot be arranged by invitation or appointment and will not be done in response to offers of free meals. They cannot be arranged by advertising representatives or publicists. No legitimate restaurant reviewer from this paper will call in advance to announce their intention to review a restaurant or ask that specific items be prepared for free. Just send us a press kit or e-mail announcement about the opening of the restaurant, and we'll consider it.

2) This is a weekly newspaper, and we have print deadlines. The deadline for submitting potential news items to this column or the "Event Menu" listings is Friday morning. Infor­ma­tion that arrives after that, especially Monday-Wednesday for the same week, will not make the paper. Also, our restaurant listing suggestions for holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Mother's Day run a full week before the holiday in question to give readers an opportunity to make reservations, so plan accordingly.

3) I'm an inconsistent blogger but will endeavor to do better.

4) I do not drink, so I cannot attend your wine/beer/distiller dinner, bottle signing, or desk-side liquor tasting under any circumstance. I will gladly forward your invitation to a writer who can drink and could possibly cover your event or product, but "no" from me means "no."

5) Event listings are most likely to be used when they arrive in a timely manner and contain the basic details about who, what, when, where, why, and how much. We won't have room for elaborate menus, wine lists, or personal bios and would prefer not to invest time on a treasure hunt for the necessary basic info.

6) We'll gladly consider product samples that are submitted with contact information and product descriptions, plus info about pricing and where our readers can buy them. We cannot promise coverage.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Food-o-File, Best of Austin, Restaurant Poll, food reviews

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