Charlie Deal, chef-owner of Chapel Hill’s Jujube, has written an open letter to the moderators of Chowhound in response to the food forum’s unexplained policy of deleting all discussion of Jujube. This practice is based on no known policy or forum rules and has been discussed extensively on this blog and CookingEatingDurham. Following the break is what Charlie sent me, expressing his frustration with Chowhound’s action and lack of explanation.
Dear Chowhound moderators:
For several months now, you’ve been deleting all posts regarding Jujube and even deleting archived threads. I’ve actually been personally contacted by more than a few people regarding the e-mail they received explaining this policy. In short, you explain that all posts will be deleted pending investigation. Well, how long do you expect this “investigation” to continue and how long to you intend to imply that someone associated with Jujube has been wrongfully hyping the restaurant?
If anyone should understand the damning effects of implication, it is someone who hosts a consumer driven message board, where marginally qualified opinions can evolve into “facts” through the credibility given the printed word. Basically, you tell enough people that you are investigating wrong doings on the part of Jujube and eventually, they’ll just assume it’s happening. For instance, this quote is taken from one of two local food blogs that have discussed the Jujube ban.
CH has strict guidelines re self-promotion by chefs or people financially associated with them. Perhaps Charlie somehow violated these rules with regard to Jujube events. I don’t know.
Fortunately these blogs are allowing discussion on the subject, thus, I’ve been given the opportunity to explain my side of things. Of course, this is something you haven’t allowed even on the feedback or site talk boards. Why will you not permit discussion of your policies even in the section of your website seemingly devoted to that? What are you so afraid of?
Some time ago, I used the word censorship to describe what I felt you were doing in deleting specific posts of mine that took up for the industry as a whole (never, mind you, in any threads about any restaurant that I was associated with). You bristled at my use of that word, saying it implied agenda. Well, how do you explain refusing to explain why you have banned all discussion about a restaurant to the extent that you immediately delete the questions from your feedback board? How is this not agenda driven censorship?
I noticed another interesting thing when I recently went to the Site Talk board. A post praising the mods for their job well done has been locked from further comments. The only reason I can see for having done this is that you’d like to avoid having others who don’t share this same glowing endorsement of the mods bring up instances where the mods over-reached. How again is this not agenda driven censorship?
The best we have been able to come up with regarding this situation is the bit in your Posting Etiquette section that tells people who are friends of a restaurant owner not to post about it. Assuming that is the basis, this bit from the same blog referenced above is worth noting:
If that’s really their standard, then (a) Jujube is screwed, because Charlie’s so nice & approachable that just about anybody who eats there more than 3x is going to be on speaking terms with him. And (b) when are they going to start deleting Watts Grocery posts, if that’s their standard? Several folks we know have posted to Chowhound & mentioned meeting Amy, or having their names remembered by the FOH manager, etc . . .
If you actually did investigate the issue, as you claim you are doing, you might have found that nearly every “friend of Jujube” is a friend because of Jujube and that I almost never see these people except when they come to Jujube. So, once somebody comes in a few times and we get on good terms, they’re not allowed to saying nice about the place?
The good news for me is that Chowhound has developed quite the reputation for this type of behavior so many are more inclined to give me the benefit of the doubt then they are you. As illustrated here:
Here’s what they might say if you were to have a post deleted, and they were to send you one of their occasional “we deleted your post” emails:
“Sorry about this, but we’d like to explain why your posting was deleted. We are not currently accepting postings about Jujube, because we’ve seen a slew of suspicious postings about it. Your posting wasn’t suspicious at ALL, but the problem is this: if we let good posters like you post about it, it could open the door for more shenanigans. We’re not sure who’s responsible, but for the time being, we think it prudent to take this one place “off our table,” so to speak.”
I read/refresh Chowhound pretty obsessively, and I haven’t ever, in my recollection, noticed a “slew” of suspicious postings about Jujube. I even see the occasional post that winds up getting deleted a few moments later, so I feel like if there’d been a “slew” of suspicious posts, I would’ve noticed at least some of them, but I haven’t seen anything.
Reports about good meals, yes. Hard to avoid those, since Jujube is a great restaurant. But nothing that smelled fishy.
The bad news is that others might not be as diligent as this person. Some random person enjoys a meal at Jujube, discovers chowhound, decides to write about it, gets the above e-mail, does not have the context a regular poster might have, and assumes that I’m up to some sleazy self-promotion tactics.
So, I suggest you do the investigation you claim to be doing. What it will turn up is that this “slew of suspicious postings” have been made by people who regularly post (or at least did until they were turned off by your policies) on a number of Chowhound boards. These were not people who appeared out of nowhere, said something great about Jujube, and then vanished as quickly.
Either that, or quit implying that you are conducting this investigation.
Attached urls of referenced blogs
Photo of Charlie Deal courtesy of Pop The Cap North Carolina