How ‘Eat This!’ is changing the industry

By Michael McCarrick
Online Reporter Project

It’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” meets Doylestown.

The Bucks County Courier Times and its sister newspapers in the Philadelphia suburbs have turned the Food Network concept of a foodie scouring the globe for tasty treats into a popular online feature, “Eat This! With Chuck Thomas.”

In the weekly video bite, the former Courier Times photo editor travels to local restaurants he considers hidden gems.

The show succeeds by introducing the community to establishments beyond the same old national chains and helps the talented owners and chefs of smaller restaurants get the recognition they deserve.

Among the places he’s featured: Liberty Hall Pizza in Lambertville, New Jersey, Van Earl’s Cakes in Wilmington, Delaware, and the Brickwall Tavern and Dining Room in Asbury Park, New Jersey.

“Eat This!” represents a major step in the evolution of news reporting.

Before the social media era, these kinds of story would appear in print as a weekly column with hardly any visuals or personality. As videos, they’re informative and entertaining, and proof the newspaper industry can catch up with changing times.

“This came about from a discussion from our news meeting and talk about what kind of content to make us relevant,” said Pat Walker, executive editor of the newspaper’s parent company. “People were talking about what we watched and most people said that they watched food shows.”

What makes the story of “Eat This!” even more remarkable is that the newspaper didn’t hire an entertainment writer or a food critic to do the show. They found someone in the newsroom with a passion for food and a great sense of humor.

The show struggled at first to find viewers. Now it’s thriving.

“It’s four years now in the making and it took a lot to refine it,” Walker said. “Initially we had to go and mine places who were willing to let us come. Now people are calling asking us to come.”

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Video, by the numbers

$10,000: Approximate amount Calkins Media spent to equip 125 reporters at Bucks County Courier Times, The Intelligencer in Doylestown and the Burlington County Times in Willingboro, N.J., with iPhones, other technology to shoot their own videos.

$100: Amount paid to freelancer for weekly one-minute video cooking segment.

2,000: Number of views per week for “Eat This!” restaurant videosby Chuck Thomas of Calkins Media.

12: Number of staff members devoted to video at Calkins Media’s three suburban Philadelphia newspapers.

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Every episode of “Eat This!” is archived online.

Chuck Thomas can be reached at: cthomas@calkins.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ChuckEatsThis and give him suggestions for places to visit on the next “Eat This!”

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