Sunday, October 10, 2010

Is the new food editor out to lunch?

Close-up of cupcake with pink frosting and spr...Image via Wikipedia

Has anyone seen a byline from Susan L. Sherill since she came on board as food editor of The Record of Woodland Park on Sept. 1 (the day her name first appeared on Page F-2 of Better Living)?

I did see a Record story on (201) magazine's Restaurant Week that carried her tag line (she was food and entertainment editor at that North Jersey Media Group publication). And she has contributed to Second Helpings, the food blog on, as well as sending out numerous Twitter tweets.

But now, it seems, one of her restaurant reviews appears in the October 2010 issue of (201), with photos by her husband, Ted Axelrod. The gushing evaluation of Taverna Mykonos in Elmwood Park doesn't give prices for food, and there isn't one critical word in it. Was she comped? The restaurant cited this review in an e-mail offering customers a 15% discount. Here is the first paragraph:

"Beautiful and bustling, the Greek island of Mykonos is one of Europe's -- if not the world's -- top tourist destinations. Its namesake restaurant in Elmwood Park already shares the first characteristic, and judging by our visits, will soon be as packed and popular as one of the island's famous nightclubs in high season."

Doesn't this completely blur the line between food journalism and advertising? Read it for yourself at the following link:
I ate at Taverna Mykonos and I can tell you the "irresistible bread" she describes was a large, awful, doughy, dark-and-light swirl -- a loaf  so bad I asked for simple Greek pita instead.

Was this review left over at (201), just as Bill Pitcher's reviews appeared after he left The Record  as food editor? Or is it possible that Publisher Stephen A. "Greedy Stevie" Borg just eliminated Pitcher's $71,000-a-year salary and combined the jobs at the magazine and the daily?

Though she hasn't had a byline yet, she is planning big things for Better Living's food coverage. Next week, according to one of her tweets, she'll mesmerize readers with a comparison of cupcake mixes.

She also is planning a column, based on a recipe from a cookbook, according to another tweet. That's going to be ground-breaking food journalism.

Pitcher was a glorified recipe editor for much of the time he was at The Record, and he would ride around, looking for restaurants that had opened or closed for Second Helpings (repeated in the A La Carte column on Fridays). He was only about 30 when he got the job in mid-2006

Most of the major food stories, plus restaurant reviews and a Sunday column, were written by Elisa Ung, hired as restaurant reviewer in 2007.

Pitcher also was skilled at pulling stories off the food wire. During Ung's maternity leave, near the end of his four years as food editor, he reviewed restaurants.

Here are three tweets in which Sherrill discusses her plans (

  1. Testing red velvet cupcake mixes today: Barefoot Contessa vs. Sprinkles vs. Duncan Hines - results in next Wed. Record!
  2. @doriegreenspan Starting column for The Record newspaper (I'm food editor) where I do a recipe from "cookbook of the week" - yours is first!
  3. @doriegreenspan Your publisher just sent me a copy of your glorious new book, "around my french table" - can't wait to jump in!


  1. She sure does seem to love all the cookbooks. I'd love it too if I got them for free. Where did Bill go?

  2. It's not all she gets for free. She tweeted about gifts from ShopRite. Bill Pitcher moved to the Adirondacks with family to take care of his father-in-law, who was seriously ill.

  3. It's interesting that Susan has a link from the Bergen Record's blog to her personal blog, which is also a vehicle for her husband's photography business. I would think there is a question of ethics here.

  4. You might have a hard time finding the word "ethics" in anybody's vocabulary at The Record or North Jersey Media Group.

    The hiring of Susan Sherill as food editor was a clear signal by Publisher Stephen A. Borg that his marketing philosophy rules in the newsroom. She apparently will continue to contribute restaurant reviews to (201) magazine, with her husband's photography, so Borg synergized The Record's food editor job.

    She came to journalism late, and apparently sees food coverage as a celebration of cokbook authors, chefs and restaurants, hardly ever uttering a word of criticism.


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