Friday, May 11, 2007

It's more than just sushi journalism

I don't get the implicit ridicule that Howard Kurtz shows for a newspaper investigation into a widespread restaurant practice of selling sushi labelled as expensive snapper when it's actually tilapia (UPDATE: originally I wrote "snapper" at the end of the sentence; I meant to write "tilapia").

First, even if it had no broader implications, this is the kind of gumshoe work that journalism ought to do. If writing restaurant reviews is legitimate journalism, why can't they write about whether the food is what it's claimed to be?

Second, an economic point: "And most sushi fish in the United States comes from just a handful of suppliers." The absence of real competition promotes fraud.

Third, a religious point: much of the sushi fish distribution in the US is controlled by the Unification Church, a controversial religion with questionable tactics on conversion and political strategies. Their involvement takes the controversy to a whole new level.

Finally, an environmental point: snapper is overfished, while tilapia is a far more environmental choice. While it's appropriate to substitute for snapper, it's more appropriate to openly show that tilapia is an adequate substitute.

No reason for ridicule here that I can see.

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