I’m not sure if what I’m feeling is shock or dismay, but Google has agreed to become the new proud owner of Zagat, that old warhorse of dining guides that shepherded us all through the 80s and 90s with comprehensible ratings and purse-sized books. Everyone from the New York Times to Huffington Post is covering the financial and social implications of such a merger; the deal will be discussed to death, for certain. But I’m interested in what this is going to do to the ever-corroding ethics of restaurant reviewing. Google touts the acquisition as a way to expand its local offerings. So, soon, I imagine, we will start seeing local want ads for “reviewers” popping up on MediaBistro and the like, calling all aspiring foodies to apply. I’ll bet a fiver that “no experience necessary” will show up in the want ad somewhere, as well as the phrase “must love food.”
Tim and Nina Zagat actually cared about the ethics of the review. They built an empire from how much they care. A generation trusted them. With so many new correspondents out there, I’m curious how Google plans to enforce ethics and curb bias.