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The New York Times dumps its popular Facebook cooking group despite 77,000-member following

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In just two years from its start, the New York Times’ food section had fostered a robust online community of cooking enthusiasts around its Facebook group, amassing a following of 77,000 members who talked about all things cooking, baking, roasting and more.

And on Tuesday, the Times dumped the Facebook group.

In a surprise message to members, the editors of New York Times Cooking noted that while the Facebook group “offered each other recipes and tips” and “supported each other in hard times,” it was time to hand this group over to its members. The message went on to say that they would be looking for 10 to 20 members to moderate the group … before it removes all of its Times-associated branding.

“We’ll be reaching out to those interested within the coming weeks,” the message reads in part. “Then we will be stepping back as administrators of the group, removing its official affiliation with The New York Times, changing the name and handing it over to members to make it about all things cooking and food.”

Nieman Lab has the entirety of the New York Times’ message here.


The New York Times did not mention the reasoning behind leaving the Facebook group, but in a Twitter thread posted by journalist Erin Biba, there were finally some hints as to why. New York Times media columnist Ben Smith reached out to food editor Sam Sifton about the group, and reported that while there was no “precipitating crisis,” they realized that the group was “a lot of people who want to post pictures of their dogs next to their soufflé” and “not a place where were going to March (sic) people toward NYT cooking.” Sifton told Smith that Times employees were being paid to to moderate comments on the Facebook group “rather than working for the Times.”

The reactions to the original message — and subsequently the reasoning that later came out on Twitter — were sour. Biba herself disagreed with Sifton’s views, writing, “If they had been properly running the group they could have easily driven eyeballs to their site. To say ‘this was never gonna work out for us’ when they frankly never actually tried to make it work is hilarious.” Biba claimed that there were just four moderators from the Times monitoring the Facebook page “during their off hours,” while working full time for the news site.

The group was at one point called the “happy corner of the internet,” but eventually even that corner couldn’t avoid having issues amongst its 77,000 members. The group ran into some issues in late October 2020, when politics began to creep into posts, despite a “no politics” rule — “There are many places to express your political views; this is not one of them,” the rules read — and a controversial post favoring a political candidate was deleted by moderators, BuzzFeed News reported.

Group members then began pointedly sharing food photos centered around encouraging people to vote, with the word “vote” inscribed on bread, charcuterie plates and more.

That wasn’t the only issue that cropped up, however. Members also told BuzzFeed News that there were instances of “racist behavior” in group posts, usually centering around non-white cultures. A post around the use of MSG blew up to hundreds of comments, as did another on Chinese garlic. Member May Low told Buzzfeed News that the latter post displayed racism and “microaggressions against food that’s not white-centered.”

“Most of the people there are white-presenting,” Low said. “To them anything that’s foreign or quote-unquote ‘ethnic,’ they kind of yuck it.”

Other instances of infighting arose around the holidays, as well. As members posted photos of gatherings, and it appeared as though attendees were unmasked and not physically distanced, “judgement ensues,” Nieman Lab reported.

One member told Nieman Lab that the reason the New York Times dropped the group was not because of subscription reasons, but something else: “Some claim it is [money], that NYT didn’t get enough new subscriptions, but I believe moderators got exhausted and disgusted.”



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