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some thoughts on Chownews - and a suggestion

Thi N. | May 1, 200301:40 PM

I was in the middle of writing Chownews last night, when I came across a post describing the contents of last weeks' Chownews, and some posts against the whole thing. I just wanted to write in to clear up some misconceptions, and make a few suggestions.

Firstly: Chownews is a condensed summary of board talk. It does not, and was never supposed to, provide much in the way of original content. The mission statement handed down to me by Mr. Leff is: condense, condense, condense the week's happenings on the board. I'm supposed to keep my opinion out of it, except when I can't help it and I get filled with the burning need to shout out a few things. I occasionally get a few folks to contribute Top 10 lists or other things - like Sonia's beautiful little guide to Koreatown. (I am, at the moment, trying to talk Jerome into producing a guide to Eastern European food in L.A. for us.) But these are really occasional bonuses - the thing really is a summary.

THUS: I can see entirely why some folks would, on first glance, think it's a waste of money. That you could start to think that if you read all the posts every week anyway, you wouldn't need it. I understand, because I thought that myself when Jim Leff first proposed the idea to me. I thought, maybe it's useful for some people who don't read the boards regularly, but *I*, devoted and rabid reader, certainly don't need it.

This thought, I have found, is quite wrong.

Let me make a suggestion to explain:

I have found that I have a very small, very limited memory. And the going's ons, on the board, are very
great. And that very rarely do I plan a far-away meal, look it up on Chowhound, and go to it. Most of the time, when I need a meal, I discover this need when I'm cruising the 10 at top speed back from something somewhere.

Most of the time, if I see a place on Chowhound and I don't go to it within a week or two, it's completely gone from memory. The number of times I have driven in circles around East L.A., hoping for my memory to jog, and having it fail too... I can see how a Chownews can look mighty uninteresting if you've just read that whole week and it's fresh in your memory. BUT, that same issue three months down the line...

Now: I print out and keep all chownewses, three hole punch them, and keep them in a binder *in my trunk*.

Let me expand: I would estimate that, glancing over my current draft, the average Chownews, L.A. portion, is about 11 pages on Word. The one I'm working on is about that, and contains slightly over 40 restaurant recommendations. (I just counted.) I try not to repeat a restaurant unless there is seriously new information on it, for about 6 months. So: 1 year of chownews, at 52 weeks, works out to 2080 restaurant recommendations. I'd guess that only 10% of these are repitions, but let's be generous and say 20% are repititions. That leaves a little over 1600 restaurant recommendations, all annotated by me with dish recommendations based on the comments on the board, all with a neighborhood label.

The cost: $30 for a year's subscription, plus $3 for the two three-ring-notebooks. Let's say you're lazy - you could probably bribe a 6 year old with a pair of Carnation ice cream sandwiches to three hole punch them all for you and put them in the binder. That would cost $1.40. So: $34.40 for 1600 restaurant recommendations - the condensed thought, explorations, and discussions from a year on the board - each restaurant with a big tag by its name noting the region of L.A. and the exact address, in the trunk of your car.

I cannot tell you the number of times that having chownews printouts in my car has taken me to a good meal. Most recently: a good sub place in the Valley, an excellent ramen house in Little Tokyo, a good meatball soup in East L.A., and a good high-end tempura house in Torrance.

In case some of you didn't know, I write Chownews - but I was just a dude posting and reading like everybody else for years before that. I found it from a random web search for a restaurant name. I used to write down most things I wanted on a scrap of paper, put them on my desk, and lose them. Speaking as a Chowhound board reader and nothing else: the binder is better.

Secondly: it seemed that some people thought Chownews was an outside publication being sold for profit. It is not. Chownews is a product of the people behind this board, and is designed largely to cover server costs. So if it makes you feel better, you can think of Chownews as something like the soundtrack to the Civil War series that you got when you pledged to PBS. I mention this, not because I think this is the main reason to buy Chownews, but because I think this perhaps might induce a few people to try it. But if you, do, try the folder thing.


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