L.A. Observed drops a bombshell this morning, verifying its earlier speculation that Pulitzer Prize–winning restaurant critic Jonathan Gold is leaving his post at the L.A. Weekly to take a position with the L.A. Times. Gold was spotted shaking hands in the headquarters of the Times building last week, and today the blog details a desperate attempt by the Village Voice Media to retain their most famous asset, "dangling money the chain had not previously shown itself willing to commit." But the deal has apparently been signed, sealed, and delivered, even leading The Village Voice’s Robert Sietsema to confirm the news this morning, paving Gold’s exit from the weekly alt-tabloid where he’s said to be "probably the last marquee name."
Gold, who has all but defined eating in L.A. through his exploration of the sprawling city’s scattered diamonds in the rough, has previously contributed his ground-breaking "Counter Intelligence" to the Times from 1990 to 1996, shortly before taking the reins as restaurant critic for Gourmet.
The return of Gold is no doubt a colossal coup for the Times, which has seen its food section steadily thin in the past decades in the face of continual budget cuts and the paper’s axing of numerous staff writers and editors. Gold currently pens three columns each week for the Weekly, so his output could be lessened if his focus at the Times is one weekly review. It remains to be seen whether the critic will have any rights to take his weekly columns "Ask Mr. Gold" and "First Bite" with him to his new position, or what the move means for the Times’ current critic, S. Irene Virbila.
Recently, the L.A. Times cut in half the number of reviews that longtime critic S. Irene Virbila is contributing, supplementing her off-weeks with "The Find," a column that sees various contributors detail the exact kind of restaurants Gold is famous for uncovering himself. If Virbila sees no further reduction in her own duties, Gold could easily slip into these off weeks, driving untold numbers of readers to the struggling paper with his own biweekly reviews.
The hardest party hit by all of this will obviously be L.A. Weekly, which has a well-regarded food blog, Squid Ink, detailing the metropolis in Gold-styled glory. Nonetheless, it will still find itself with a gargantuan pair of (Pulitzer Prize–winning) shoes to be filled.
Update: And now the Weekly confirms the news as well. The paper will still be publishing stories from Gold for "a few more weeks."