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Gourmet vs. Golf World

October 24, 2009 Leave a comment

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Gourmet Magazine‘s final issue appeared last week. Condé Nast Publications announced earlier this month that it was closing Gourmet and three of its other magazines:

Gourmet magazine, which has celebrated cooking and travel in its lavish pages since 1941, will cease publication with the November issue, its owner, Condé Nast, announced on Monday.

Gourmet was to food what Vogue is to fashion, a magazine with a rich history and a perch high in the publishing firmament. Under the stewardship of Ruth Reichl, one of the star editors at Condé Nast, Gourmet poured money into sumptuous photography, test kitchens and exotic travel pieces, resulting in a beautifully produced magazine that lived, and sold, the high life.

In parallel with Gourmet’s closing, Deborah Solomon interviewed editor Ruth Reichl in the Sunday NYT Magazine’s weekly “Questions for … ” feature last weekend. After asking Reichl how she learned from Condé Nast owner S.I. Newhouse about losing her job, Solomon follows up with

Did you ask him why Condé Nast was shuttering Gourmet while keeping afloat some 18 other magazines, including Bon Appétit and such giants of intellectual life as Golf World and Golf Digest?

Talk about gratuitous insults! Ms Solomon, have you ever even opened up a copy of Golf World? What possible basis do you have for suggesting, if I’m reading your tone correctly, that Golf World is not a giant of intellectual life? How dare you?

I have subscribed to Golf World for some twenty years, ever since Jessica was selling magazine subscriptions as part of a 6th grade fund drive. I consider it essential reading. What magazine qualifies as being a giant of intellectual life anyway? The New Yorker? NY Review of Books? The Atlantic? Harper’s? I subscribe to all of them. And if I were to cut back on subscriptions, some of them would go before Golf World does. More specifically, inasmuch as we were Gourmet subscribers as well, I never noticed that Gourmet had greater intellectual content than Golf World.

For the record, Golf World has some of the finest golf writers in the country. It is the one place where you can read about all the weekly tournament activity in the world — not just the PGA tour, but also the women, the European tour, college golf, and so on. One might wish for even more coverage of non-PGA golf, but at least it’s there. And one of the great pleasures of reading Golf World is that the writers assume you know something about the subject. Readers are treated as part of an educated community of golf fans. Is it the New Yorker? No. The quality of the prose sometimes dips below the New Yorker’s (or my) standards. But it’s a first-rate magazine.

One last note. The November issue of Gourmet — the final one — showed up last week in its usual annoying plastic wrap, with a sheet inserted having our address and an ad. The ad was for Gourmet, offering gift subscriptions at a discounted rate. The discount wasn’t steep enough though. The cost for the issues to come was a positive number.

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Categories: Food, Golf, Journalism