Jones wins for collection of restaurant reviews
Anticipation and a little excitement hung in the air at the Katie Awards Gala last Saturday at the Hyatt Regency Dallas hotel.
Dallas Voice writer Arnold Wayne Jones said he conversed with his professional neighbors, avoiding the thought of whether he would win or lose.
The Katie Awards are awarded each year to outstanding journalists throughout the Southwest region, and Dallas Voice made its debut in the competition this year, the 48th annual Katie Awards, with a series of Jones’s restaurant reviews. With restaurant reviews considered difficult to get recognition for, Jones said he debated which category would be most appropriate for his dining criticisms.
“That becomes the question, what is restaurant writing? Is it arts criticism, is it something else, is it just reporting?” he said.
Since there was only one arts category, Jones decided to enter the pieces under the Specialty Feature Reporting heading. The journalism gods must have thought this was good, because that night, Jones became the first Dallas Voice staff writer to enter the Katie Awards, receive a nomination and win.
“It’s really gratifying. It’s nice to be the only one in something. I honestly didn’t expect to win,” Jones said.
“I’m very happy for Arnold,” said publisher Robert Moore. “I speak for the whole staff when I say we’re very proud of his accomplishment.”
Jones said that Julie Lyons, editor-in-chief at the Dallas Observer, told him that she had submitted restaurant reviews in various categories, with no luck. Jones said that several people he had talked to could not remember restaurant writing ever winning an award – making him a first winner twice over.
“It makes the 20 pounds I’ve put on since starting that job feel vindicated,” he said.
Jones had been practicing commercial litigation in Dallas when he began writing in 1994. Particularly interested in cultural journalism, Jones bounced back and forth between the Dallas Observer and the entertainment magazine The Met, since bought out by the Observer.
“For three-and-a-half years, I had at least one story a week in a local paper, ” he said, “on top of my legal practice.”
As an editor for his school papers in college and law school and a playwright in high school, Jones had the passion necessary to develop a career in writing. His grandfather was the founding editor of Airman Magazine for the U.S. Air Force and his grandmother has written several genealogy books, so writing runs in his blood.
After getting a bit burnt out on the weekly grind, Jones took a break from 2000 through 2001 from writing for papers. He wrote two books: “The Envelope, Please,” a trivia book on the Academy Awards, and “Yoga Fights Flab.” Immediately after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he got gravely sick from pneumonia. He spent the time in bed reflecting on his life, and decided it was time for a change.
A friend had gone to school with Daniel Kusner, the Voice’s lifestyles editor, and recommended the job to Jones as a perfect opportunity. He started the position in December 2001.
“During that time, I kind of settled in to a beat – what I call the fattening beat anything where I sit on my fanny for long stretches of time, writing about travel, theatre, restaurants and movies sometimes,” he laughed.
Jones revealed some of his favorite restaurants, reviews of two of which were part of his award-winning package. His final five were: Stephan Pyles, Taverna Restaurant, Caf? Toulouse, Fuse and Bijoux.
In Jones’s case, the leisure paid off. Jones insists, though, “I’ve never agreed with the old adage that everybody’s a critic. I do agree that everyone has an opinion. But a critic has to have certain skills, and you have to develop those skills over time to become reliable.”
Moore agrees that cultural journalism takes talent and style. He said, “Music, dining and the arts are what gives richness, texture and spirit to our lives. A writer who can put that kind of richness into words should certainly be recognized.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, November 24, 2006.
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