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Focus on with features and news writer Nadia Alkahzrajie

‘Enthusiastic’ and ‘proactive’ reviewers and PRs are the ingredients that help make such a tasty website, according to its features and news writer Nadia Alkahzrajie. Find out more about the restaurant reviews site here, in today’s Focus interview…

About the publication:

Who reads it and how many of them are there?
Where’s Good to Eat? receives around 50,000 hits per month from around 20,000 users. The site provides the public with a database of over 100,000 eating venues to reference and review. In addition, our news stories cover topical issues and trends related to eating out. Our readership is mainly 25-55 year olds who regularly dine out as part of their social and working lifestyles, and who are interested in the quality of the food and service they receive.

What subjects do you cover? What stories are you most interested in covering?
Past stories have ranged from the trend for pop-up restaurants and dinner clubs to sustainable restaurant practice. We also conduct exclusive interviews with influential industry figures such as Vivek Singh of The Cinnamon Club.

We are interested in stories that reflect the zeitgeist but we also attempt to look a little deeper, so that food is often seen in a wider social context.

What makes you different from the other outlets in your sector?
We never compromise the content of reviews. Comments and reviews are provided by members of the public and the only vetting they receive before being published is for spelling or inappropriate language. This makes us an extremely reliable resource. Another difference is that we don’t use a rating system, which we believe can be misrepresentative and of limited value.

Do you use freelance contributions, and if so, are they for any particular section/type of work?
We are a relatively small team so we prefer the direct approach when it comes to how freelancers can fit in with us. Whether it’s writing or marketing ideas, our regular contributors are invariably people who have started out using the site and the system. We are always looking for people to write reviews for us or represent us in a number of ways, and people who enter regular comments on the site will be quickly picked up on our radar. Entering a few comments about venues you have visited helps us to judge how enthusiastic and proactive you are when it comes to eating out, as well as how informed and effective you are when communicating your opinions concisely.

About you and freelance journalists:

Do you like freelance journalists to get in touch with you directly to pitch ideas? And if so,how?
Writers and reviewers need to be interested in the whole experience of dining out rather than just the food; we use a different set of criteria to judge a meal that we pay for to one that we cook. We look for comments and reviews that are informative, fair and interesting to read. Strong or subjective opinions are fine, as long as they are substantiated.

About PRs:

Do you work closely with PRs (e.g. for supplements, round tables, events) or do you keep them at arm’s length?
PR’s are invaluable. They are our primary contact for restaurants and often help with generating ideas for content. Enterprising PR’s have been quick to recognise that a review site doesn’t have to be the opposition; it can be a great opportunity for promotion and feedback. We offer restaurants free space for offers/updates and the right to reply to public comments.

The best PR’s to work with are those who look at the site content and judge the material they send us accordingly. We are not an elitist group of restaurant critics offering endorsements and it’s unlikely that we would write a news feature on any single restaurant, nor will we adjust public reviews to accommodate advertising, so PR’s need to bear this in mind.

All our contact details are available on the website. Deadlines for the Offers/ Updates sections are flexible, while content for news and features will usually need to be submitted by Monday.

About you:

Describe a typical day at work: What are you editorial duties/responsibilities at the outlet?
Typically, I’ll go through all the news feeds to identify trends, issues and breaking news that is relevant to the site. We try to focus on the UK, but often trends start out elsewhere, such as the states or Europe, so it’s a case of predicting what will catch on in Britain too.

At some point I’ll have one of several weekly editorial conversations/meetings regarding content to bounce ideas around with the rest of the team.

Once we’ve decided on the features for our news page, I’ll set about researching via the internet. I use response source to request specific information from PR’s and they’ll supply me with images, facts and figures, and arrange interviews with clients.

I also request content for our ‘Offers’ section, and for ‘Updates’ which covers any other events taking place in the restaurant world.

What interests you most about your job?
Why certain trends are happening and what this can tell us about the way we live. Our fundamental relationship to food; our social rituals and our preoccupations are interconnected. I love finding those connections and working things out though writing about them.

Where have you worked previously, and how did you end up in your current position?
I’m a semi-contracted contributor to Where’s Good to Eat? I’ve also worked as a freelance writer, copywriter and ghost-writer for various UK marketing agencies and companies. I have a traditional literary background, but to work as any kind of freelance writer you have to be flexible regarding both your title and your subject matter. I started working for Where’s Good to Eat? through writing comments and reviews on the website, then one day they asked me to attend a meeting and subsequently offered me a job!

Do you Twitter? Why, why not?
Yes, I tweet on behalf of Where’s Good to Eat? It helps to drive traffic to the site when new content goes up. The idea of tweeting about myself is bizarre.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Preserve your innocence. For a long time I thought that being innocent meant being ignorant or in denial. Now I think it means allowing for possibilities.

If you could time travel what time would you go to?
I’d toss a coin; heads is a lucky dip and tails I’d just leave it.

[img|jpg|Nadia Alkahzrajie]