New York Times senior editor shares industry insight with students

Click here for an interview with Sam Sifton KENNESAW, Ga. (March 12, 2014) - What’s the best…

Georgia (Mar 12, 2014)Click here for an interview with Sam Sifton

KENNESAW, Ga. (March 12, 2014) - What’s the best restaurant in New York City? According to former New York Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton, it’s a New American and French restaurant located on the fourth floor of the Time Warner Center in Manhattan.

Sifton was on the Kennesaw State University campus March 11, as part of the American Democracy Project.

“Per Se is the best restaurant I have ever eaten at,” he told a group of Kennesaw State communication students. “It’s like perfect. This is not a place where you say, ‘Dude, let’s go get some burritos.’ It’s a full four-hour experience.”

Sifton, now a senior editor at The Times, told the would-be reporters and communication professionals whether reviewing a restaurant or covering the crisis in Crimea, journalism is about providing reader service.

“Reader services have been central to what newspapers have always done,” he said. “You can call paying a food critic frivolous, but I call it awesome. I also saw it as an opportunity to use food as a bigger lens on the culture.”

Sifton captivated his audience with tales of his undercover exploits as a food critic, which involved using a fake name, fake credit cards, a plain black T-shirt and a gold chain – but no burner phones.

“I dined anonymously,” he said. “I’d go back to a restaurant three or four times to find out the narrative of the place; why are people there; what are they eating?”

At least one of assistant professor of communication Carolyn Carlson’s students was inspired by the lecture.

“I love the idea of being a food critic,” she said. “I love food and writing, and being able to tie the two together is awesome!”

With newspapers across the country still struggling to compete in the age of digital media, Sifton has hung up his plain black T-shirt and gold chain to take the lead on a new project The Times is developing. It’s a cooking and food application aimed at capturing a niche market willing to pay a smaller subscription price for access to specialized content.

“What The New York Times does better than anyone else is going to the place where the bad thing happened and telling people what it looked like; what it smelled like; and what people there are saying; and that costs a lot of money,” he said. “This cooking thing is another way to generate money for reporters across the globe.”

Kennesaw State is one of the founding institutions of the American Democracy Project. Now at more than 240 campuses, ADP strives to prepare students to be informed, engaged citizens who are active participants in democratic decision-making. At KSU, ADP plans and implements the annual Constitution Week festivities, Pathways to Peace lecture series, and a variety of events, activities and advocacy opportunities. ADP also sponsors The New York Times readership program for the university. University College serves as ADP's home on campus.

--Jennifer Hafer




NYT reporter.jpg


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit