Saturday, September 16, 2006

Tell Me No Secrets; Tell Me No Lies

I got word from a well-placed source that Kay West's meddling with the East End real estate/restaurant market in "Eastern Time/Circle the Wagon" is based on unsubstantiated untruths. West speculates:
Within the industry, it has been no secret that Red Wagon chef/owner Meg Giuffrida, who had a baby shortly after opening the time-consuming restaurant, wants to gear back and re-focus on catering.
My source tells me that this unsecret is news to Ms. Giuffrida (the gear-back-to-catering part; not the baby part). I am also told that Kay West did not attempt to go to Ms. Giuffrida as the source of any of the information about the possible sale of Red Wagon, even though Ms. West claimed that she got "no response to inquiries about the [Craigslist] posting or the future of Red Wagon" in her opportunistic little Scene piece.

The information that Red Wagon was on the market was told to me some time ago with the request to keep the news on the down low. I respected that request. Kay West obviously does not feel the need to respect the sensitivities of potential real estate deals, but instead prefers to fiddle with rumor and innuendo that can tamper with the offers potential buyers might make. It also smells like someone connected with a potential deal might be throwing Ms. West a bone to shake a potential sale out.

This is probably just the business of journalism to Kay West and Scene editors, but her piece looks like it belongs more appropriately in that annoying little recurrence called "The Fabricator," rather than under the auspices of solid journalism.

09/20/2006, 2:55 p.m. Update: liz garrigan comments below that she spoke with Meg Guiffrida recently as part of the fact-checking behind the story.


  1. I don't know anything about Meg Giuffrida's intentions after selling the place, but the Kay West story was dated September 14, 2006. It was old news to me, as the owners of the Red Wagon had placed a very public advertisement on craiglist over a week earler, on September 5th:

    I'm not an expert on journalism, but once the owners run an ad for the place, that seems like fair game for a story.

  2. What does not seem to be fair game is Kay West's speculation that Meg Guiffrida was gearing back to re-focus on catering, a point which West does not follow up on in spite of the fact that she insinuated that she made inquiries. I am told that those inquiries were not made to Ms. Guiffrida, who reportedly is not re-focusing on catering at all. If West's inquiries were not thorough with respect to some aspects of the story, I would hazard that her inquiries on other aspects are not thorough either. Ms. West seemed to be writing more like an amateur blogger reading Craigslist and less like a professional journalist chasing down the story. And how did this speculation about rumors get by the Scene editors?

  3. Come on Mike, your stuff is usually so much better than this.

    The place was for sale on Craigslist. That is hardly on the down low. And for the sake of argument, let's say that she got the back-to-catering reason wrong.It is quite a stretch to extend that to unnamed sources and a nefarious backroom deal involving Ms. West getting a kickback on a real estate deal which she manipulated by using her powerful position as a journalist to taint the value of the business. It's a one paragraph blurb in a restaurant news and notes column in the Scene. Nobody sells a business because they're making too much money and they're too happy. I don't see how somoeone writing that the owner wants to "re-focus to catering" could possibly affect any deal. That's ridiculous. Did you attempt to contact Ms. West for a response before implying that she was engaging in this activity?

  4. Kickback? Where did I say kickback?

    I know that West gave you a good review, Knuck, but that won't sway me. I stand by my point that if one is going to be a professional journalist and write like a professional journalist--even going so far as saying that one left inquiries that one did not actually leave with the chef/co-owner who is the very subject in question--then one should be judged by those professional standards. Those standards do not include funnelling rumors heard from the "industry." Hell, the Mothership could have blogged rumors and posts to Craigslist. The difference is, readers lend a lot more credence to what Kay West says as a journalist than they would to the Mothership as such. And that is precisely what I mean by meddling without substantiating.

    No kickbacks.

  5. Kay West says she tried to contact the owners through the Craigslist ad. You say that your sources say that she didn't. She's reporting her firsthand experience, and you are reporting unsubstantiated anonymous hearsay. To my eyes, she's the one with more credence here.

  6. It also smells like someone connected with a potential deal might be throwing Ms. West a bone to shake a potential sale out.

    I read that as a kickback. You may have meant something else.

    The fact that Kay West gave my place a good review is irrelevant. I like the way you call people on their crap, but I just don't see it here.

    It is just such a stretch that the three words "re-focus on catering" could be part of an underhanded real estate fixing plot. It is obviously rumor, she says so up front -- "It's no secret in the industry" is the same as "rumour has it".

    As far as the inquiry, she says "At press time, there was no response to inquiries about the posting or the future of Red Wagon." She didn't say she inquired with the chef/owner. She didn't say who she inquired to. Maybe it was Rick Bolsom. Maybe it was the real estate agent. Who knows?

  7. You've got to call them as you see them. You've got to trust whom you will.

    But so must I. Until I am told reliably that Kay West did in fact try and contact Meg Giuffrida, I will continue to question Ms. West's claim that she followed this story up by attempting to verify industry rumors with the principal subject.

  8. I read that as a kickback. You may have meant something else.

    I didn't mean to suggest that Kay West was profitting from the sale. My own personal opinion about what happened (which has nothing to do with what anyone has told me) is that someone besides West with an interest in this deal is trying to shake out a sale on their own terms. I don't have evidence of that. I'm just saying that's what it smells like.

    As for Kay West, I think she ran too quickly with this story instead of giving it more time and follow-up. That helps her write her piece, but it can actually hurt some involved in the deal, especially those with whom she fails to follow up.

    BTW, I was over the top in consigning her piece to "The Fabricator." No piece should ever suffer such a fate.

  9. What a ridiculous debate. I'm Kay's editor. I knew both the Craigslist posting to be true, and I'd spoken recently with Meg, who was very open about her plans. So we published the piece after two tiers of fact-checking. What's the controversy?

  10. Here's the controversy: someone, somewhere is not telling the truth about whether Meg was consulted. The mood about the Scene article around the Red Wagon after it came out would be what I would characterize as surprise and disappointment that Meg was not contacted about it.

    Ridiculous? A lot less ridiculous than your past editorial on "the spoiled."

  11. this is so goofy...kay west has a heart for the independent restaurateur and she was probably just trying to help out the situation by giving extra exposure to something that was already public information.

  12. "Help"? Did I fail to mention the mood at Red Wagon on the heels of the piece?

    There is an old aphorism about paving a road with good intentions ...