Here is some more reading to inspire you for tomorrow’s live Twitter chat @RamblingEpicure at 2 p.m. EST, 8 p.m. Paris time, hashtag #futurefoodwriting. We look forward to you joining the conversation. For more details and more reference reading, click the related links below.
Where I grew up, we used to have grocers who relied on their suppliers, and knew about their practices in depth. With supermarket chains now dominating our supply, and the Internet at our fingertips, we have become our own grocers. In a state of (sometimes deserved) scepticism of the modern supply chain, we have taken it upon ourselves to source information about the food we choose — and everything else that we participate in or consume. Is it organic? Is it fair trade? Is it local, sustainable, traceable? Readers want to know everything, and product ‘transparency’ has migrated from the occasional call to dodgy corporations, to a granted right of the consumer.
This hunger for knowledge is no longer reserved for the trendy foodies who can afford it; it’s alive and well amongst the general public. At the same time as this rise in “food awareness”, there has been an undeniable eruption of personal food blogs, shaping change not only in the volume of food writers and readers but in what they want out of the content they read. It’s not just food writing, but journalism on the whole that is changing, marked by events like the last hard-copy edition of Gourmet in 2009, and highlighted by the media in pieces like the recent documentary on how The New York Times is learning to co-evolve with its readers.
As in every other industry, multi-faceted staff are the new standard; you can’t swing a virtual cat without hitting a PR-pro-turned-web-designer-turned-backyard-farmer (or some combination thereof). And although modern food journalists hail from equally varied backgrounds, they are now forced to compete with a sea of online food bloggers who have split personalities specializing in editing, photography, web design, networking and promotion. For those hopefuls hunting a career in food writing, the task seems almost insurmountable. Food & Environment Reporting Network last week struck a chord with many published and aspiring writers, by painting a brutally honest picture of the financial state of the industry, citing advertising dollars as a central issue. Hesser did, however, point readers in the direction of building a varied skill set that would provide a springboard for work in a new era in the food industry. With the information overflow diluting advertising funds, a career more directly engaged with food production appears to be the best way to make ends meet. By all means, write, she says — but make any other venture the main priority.