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Vox Media, which owns Eater, the Verge, Recode, Curbed, and other editorial networks, has had a busy 2019 thus far. In June, its editorial staff walked out over unionized contract negotiations (the largest digital media walk-out in history) and were rewarded with a new contract. In September, the New York Times announced Vox’s purchase of New York Media, which owns New York magazine, Grub Street, and other ancillaries, in an all-stock deal. And Eater, specifically, has been investing in events and television programming. Resources appear to be flowing freely in the Vox Media universe—but as of the end of next week, those resources will no longer be flowing to Denver.
Local freelancers for Eater Denver were informed via email that Eater is scaling back its Mile High City content, apart from occasional map updates. Eater is not pulling out of any other U.S. markets. As this story was coming together, a conversation on Twitter announced the closing of Curbed Seattle and Curbed NOLA. So, although Vox is making editorial changes nationwide, its decision to entirely omit Denver from the country’s culinary conversation is disappointing.
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Eater Editor-in-chief Amanda Kludt shared this statement: “While we are committed to providing great service and recommendations to our readers in Denver and will continue to update select maps and guides throughout the year, we are indeed pulling back on day-to-day news coverage of the restaurant scene. We are prioritizing investment in other cities where we’ve seen strong growth, including Portland and Seattle, experimenting in new areas (launching in 2020), and focusing on national initiatives, including travel coverage and events.”
We at 5280, obviously, see incredible potential in our local dining scene. “I don’t think that a decision made by people who don’t even really understand the context of what’s going on in Denver is necessarily an indictment of what we’re doing here food-wise,” says longtime Denver restaurant consultant John Imbergamo. “The reason for that is because we’ve gotten validation in many other ways: through James Beard Foundation awards, recognition from Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure, and lots of other national publications—including Eater—that have named Denver a top city in terms of culinary destinations. It’s puzzling to me that they’d choose [to leave] just Denver.”
Since former editor Andra Zeppelin’s departure in 2017, Eater Denver has been led by Josie Sexton (now at the Denver Post) and, most recently, Paul Albani-Burgio, who took on the part-time role in August. There was a two-month gap between Zeppelin and Sexton, and a six-month gap between Sexton’s departure and Albani-Burgio’s start. Is part of Eater’s decision to stop covering Denver’s culinary news related to its difficulty in finding writers to lead the site? Was Eater Denver not performing as well as sister sites in Seattle and Portland due to leadership changes, a lack of interest from local readers, or a bit of both?
We may never know the precise reason for Eater’s decision to leave the Mile High City. Regardless, Zeppelin worries that Eater is making a short-sighted business choice. “Diners and the Denver restaurant industry will suffer the most because of this decision,” she says. “They—the chefs, the owners, and the readers who seek dining-out advice—deserve the kind of coverage that Eater has been committed to in many cities around the country. Eater’s brand, which I remain a big fan of, also suffers from this move. Lacking depth and breadth of coverage in a city as dynamic as Denver is not something to aspire to. Hopefully, someday it will turn back around.”