After a false start, Eater DC officially launched in the nation’s capital last week, joining the growing mob of local blogs, Web sites and dead-tree media companies competing for food news and gossip. The local editor is Amy McKeever, a Springfield native who has written for a number of publications, including National Geographic Traveler and Fodor’s guidebooks. Amy took time out of her schedule to answer our e-mail questions, both serious and frivolous.
AWCE: Why did Eater decide to launch in the D.C. market?
Amy McKeever: D.C. is a pretty terrific culinary city. This was a long time coming, in my opinion. And I know the executive team has wanted to come to D.C. for a while, too. We’re part of a broad national expansion of Curbed Network sites, with what I’m told are another dozen cities coming later this year.
AWCE: How will Eater differentiate from the Feast, which was launched last year by NBC Local Media and Eater founder Ben Leventhal?
AM: Eater’s strength has always been its really strong editorial voice. While I like The Feast’s feed-based approach, the only posts you’ll find in the Eater editorial flow are posts we’ve written ourselves. I think that gives the site a much clearer personality. And, of course, we’ll fight them fiercely for hot scoops.
AWCE: How many local items will you post a day, rather than repostings of national items?
AM: The vast majority of content on the site is going to be local. Probably at first it’ll be something like a half a dozen local items a day. And that number will only grow as readers start sending in tips about restaurant happenings in their neighborhoods.
AWCE: Do you have any local staff to help you, whether full-time or freelancers? Do you work from home?
AM: I do work from home, and I wish I had a cleaner kitchen to show for it. Right now it’s just me working on the site, but once things settle down we’ll be adding contributors and a roving photographer.
AWCE: What kind of mix of items do you plan to publish for Eater DC?
AM: Well, of course we’re going to be covering restaurant openings, closings and chef news just as the other Eater sites do. But I’m hoping to highlight the great international food scene we’ve got here thanks to our sizable expat community. And the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign will be on our radar, too. We’re definitely going to be the most political site in the Eaterverse.
AWCE: What kind of ethical policies does Eater have in place? Can you, for instance, accept free meals from a source whom you may write about? If you accept free food, do you reveal that fact in the copy?
AM: We’re all about transparency. We’ll only accept free meals at friends & family restaurant openings, and yes, we’ll disclose it. Eater built its national audience by building trust with readers, and I don’t want to compromise that in D.C.
AWCE: Will you continue Eater’s campaign to unmask food critics? What are your thoughts on that subject?
AM: That’s not something I’m necessarily going to chase after here in D.C., but I will say that I think Eater has sparked an important conversation in the food world. How anonymous are critics anyway? Is anonymity crucial to a fair review? I’m not so sure that it is. And when the Facebook generation grows into these jobs, it’s game over for anonymity anyway. Things change. We’ve got to deal with it.
AWCE: Do you have to run by all your ideas past a national Eater editor?
AM: Nope. The other local editors and I all have a lot of freedom in deciding what to cover and how to cover it. The philosophy is that we know our cities best anyway.
AWCE: Tell us a little about your background and why you decided to become Eater DC’s editor?
AM: I grew up in Northern Virginia and came right back to the area after four years of attending Syracuse basketball games to cover foreign policy and the 2008 presidential election for a Japanese newspaper. But on the side, I dabbled in travel and food writing for Fodor’s guidebooks, National Geographic Traveler and other blogs. I pretty quickly realized I wanted to take that full time instead. Making the move to Eater was a no-brainer. I’ve been reading them a long time, and I just feel lucky to be part of the team. And I’m totally in love with D.C. I’m honored to cover it.
AWCE: And, finally, don’t Eater readers ever get tired of hearing about Anthony Bourdain?
AM: I don’t think it’s just Eater readers who are into Bourdain. I mean, the man’s got more than a million fans on Facebook and his show is in its seventh season. Bourdain is only a fraction of Eater’s coverage, but when he makes news I’m not going to ignore it just because we’ve written about him before. Besides, give us a little credit here: We Eater readers also enjoy hearing about Eric Ripert and Gordon Ramsay.