To tell the truth

I was excited to pick up your paper (March 12) with the cover title “No More Secrets.” I thought, “Well, golly, they’ve finally stepped out and gotten some journalistic integrity!” Sadly, this was not the case.

The article publishes government papers that have been released to the public that might generate some interest from local readers. The secrets I’m interested in, however, are your own, Mountain Xpress.

You purport that you are some sort of indie paper—somehow different, honest or even hip. The truth is, you are just like our local Gannett affiliate. Money is the game, just the same as the [Asheville] Citizen-Times.

Your food reviewer Hanna Rachel Raskin knows that. She bowed to the pressure of your advertisers, to the hoodlums at the AIR [Asheville Independent Restaurant Association]. I haven’t seen a bad review in months, and we all know there is plenty of bad food in this town. …

Some indie paper. Sell-outs.

— Halley Thompson
Asheville

Managing editor Jon Elliston responds: For the record, Xpress is “somehow different”—we put a premium on honesty, and sometimes we are “even hip.” And while we are an independent business that needs to pay its employees, money is not our only, or even our predominant, game. The paper’s core mission has always been to help cultivate an informed, open dialogue about local matters of every stripe, including our area’s vibrant food scene.

Furthermore, neither Raskin nor any of our other food writers has bowed to pressure from advertisers or the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association. Life is full of pressures, including your letter. Of course our newspaper’s management listens to advertisers, among all the voices of the community we serve—but our editorial decision-making process remains independent-minded, and aims to serve and respect our readers first and foremost.

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The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

16 thoughts on “To tell the truth

  1. Rob Close

    yeah, perhaps halley needed more evidence…without it, this letter is empty whining.

  2. Laura

    For as “hip” as the X-press claims to be, even the Asheville Citizen Times manages a letters-to-the-editor page and online forum FOR READERS– not for the editors to get up on a defensive soapbox. You’ve got an entire publication wherein you can exercise your right to free speech and press, why criticize or censor writers like Halley in the letters section? It merely indicates that you don’t honor the first amendment as one would presume an “indie” paper would.

  3. Jon Elliston

    To clarify, Thompson did include some other allegations in her letter, but we chose not to include them because we don’t allow our letters pages to be used to knock local businesses and other local publications when we aren’t able to corroborate the allegations.

    We do allow readers to use the space to critique Xpress. And Laura, the reason we responded in this case was not out of defensiveness, but to clarify for our readers how we do things in the food section. What’s more, when someone accuses the paper of beling a sell-out, we feel it’s important that we address the allegation, not ignore it.

    Jon Elliston
    Managing Editor

  4. Halley

    I don’t even know where to start with you guys. This will be the third posting I’ve made in defense of my letter, and probably the third that the moderators will not approve.
    If it’s integrity you’re trying to prove, you’re doing a piss-poor job of it. The last one said “Jon Elliston doth protest too much” and once again, after reading his last comment, I’d like to reiterate the point.
    You were too lazy to investigate my allegations, so you’ve cut them out. Fair enough, but you’ve misrepresented me by printing my letter without them.
    As for your remark about me knocking local businesses, it only goes to prove my message further. I specifically named a restaurant (which I won’t rename, because obviously, then, I would once again be censored) which the XPress gave great press to, and which I was horribly disappointed with after spending money there. This is not the first time I’ve gone terribly wrong following an XPress review.
    I realize that in this town, “knocking” a LOCAL anything is blasphemy, but the fact remains, it is a business. A business selling terrible food, at that. Is the XPress, then, just an outlet for businesses? Should local readers know that the reviews aren’t in their interest as patrons, but in the interest of LOCAL(insert heavenly choir of hippies) business?
    If you feel so threatened by my comments that you cut my letter, print a mauled version without my approval and continually delete repeated attempts to respond to your remarks (which I’m sure are your full, unadulterated thoughts on the matter)then why did you print it in the first place?
    Graciously yours,
    Halley Thompson

  5. Nick Thompson

    In order for the letter to make sense, however, those examples are needed. Without them, the original letter is rendered irrelevant and your response is entirely disingenuous. Joe, the your position seems to come from your reluctance to criticize businesses – which is, indeed, the function of an independent newspaper and fundamental to maintaining any facade of journalistic integrity.

    I don’t wish to criticize your attempts to maintain your appearance as an independent newspaper; however, I wish that you would maintain your position, at least online, as a neutral forum.

  6. chall gray

    I know this is a weird concept: but I’ve been to some restaurants–even downtown ones–and had it be really good, and then gone back, and it wasn’t as good.

    Or–even crazier, I’ve gone to restaurants that my friends thought were great, and I thought they really sucked.

    Perhaps it’s just a matter of taste.

  7. Rob Close

    So I can write in a letter bashing any politician or event or viewpoint…but if i criticize my experience with a restaurant, it gets censored? that does seem messed up.

  8. Rob Close

    on the other hand – Raskin seems willing enough to write bad reviews (Fiore’s got trashed), but why focus on the negative when that gets twice as much hate mail? and she certainly mentions the minor negatives frequently. I just wish I knew how safe each of these restaurants were to eat at as a vegetarian (lard in the beans? fish oil in the soup?, etc)

  9. fall go boom

    If anything, Jon is restrained in his comments. This issue comes up time and time again, and Xpress clarifies itself over and over — no unsubstantiated rumors/bad-mouthing local businesses in the letters section. Jon is about as diplomatic and even-handed as they come. Hip too, and good looking.

  10. Halley

    The fact of the matter is, none of it is unsubstantiated. And the XPress knows this.
    Obviously, there is a certain amount of he said she said involved, and when the XPress wants to deny something, they are the ones with the venue to deny it.
    If you care to take the time to find out, the proof is in the pudding, as it were.

  11. travelah

    Halley …. you just need a good dinner and everything will be all right.

  12. southern B

    Asheville is made of restaurants, coffee shops, bars, banks, and churches give me a break!

  13. “I realize that in this town, “knocking” a LOCAL anything is blasphemy, but the fact remains, it is a business.”

    If you think about it, if print space or bandwidth is given to people complaining about businesses, it will become a free for all.

    There is one restaurant that we got horrible continuous service from, so we haven’t been back in almost nine years. However, I would never talk bad about them on an open forum.

    First impressions are everything, but I always give businesses a second or third chance before making a final judgment on them. Why? Not everyone is on their A-game, especially if they have just opened up. Try them again and then decide if the place is good or not.

    As a small business owner, the odds are stacked against us. We are destined by average to fail. We could be cheaper than our national competitors, advertise heavily, have great service and be the nicest people in the world… yet we know that 50% of Asheville’s population will not give us the time of day. Fortunately, the other 50% is fiercely supportive of small business, but people need to realize that we all can’t be 100% satisfactory 100% of the time. A small business is as human as those that are running it.

  14. Halley

    My fiancee and I also operate a small business, and it’s my hope that people are able to be perfectly honest about their experiences with us.
    That’s why dining reviews are an important part of the restaurant world. They provide constructive criticism and allow businesses to get an honest opinion.
    That’s all I’m asking for here, an honest, informed opinion.

  15. “My fiancee and I also operate a small business, and it’s my hope that people are able to be perfectly honest about their experiences with us.”

    I appreciate feedback too… we have made many changes due to the customer talking DIRECTLY to us. Perhaps if you talked to the owner or manager after the meal instead of publicly talking about them? A lot of restaurants have websites and email addresses, so it shouldn’t be hard to contact them.

    In defense of Hanna, she has written some reviews that I’ve been surprised got printed. She is critical. I eat at a lot of restaurants, especially new ones, and to be honest all the food is at least good, if not great or excellent. Most issues that I have is with service. We are lucky to have such a high caliber in a smaller town.

  16. Halley

    An open forum for criticism is not a bad thing. I don’t know why some people are so bothered by the idea. Of course I give my feedback directly to the business owner, but when I have a bad experience, I also share it with other potential guests. Ultimately, it’s their choice whether they want to spend their money in said business, and being informed never hurt.
    Another thing–having opinions out there in cyberspace only helps local businesses that consistently do a good job. It allows consumers (just like consumer ratings on Amazon) to choose where to spend their money. They’re going to spend it, and when they go out to eat, they’re going to spend it in town. We’re not losing any commerce here, and the places with good reputations are able to grow their customer base.
    I’m not some evil plotting jerk who wants to ruin local businesses. I simply think that an honest opinion never hurt anyone.

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