Highlights from First #FutureFoodWriting Live Twitter Chat

By Thursday, April 26, 2012 Permalink

by Melissa Bedinger

For those reeling from the ‘virtual whiplash’ of following so many threads, or for those who were unable to attend, here are a few excerpts and key points from panelists and participants of The Rambling Epicure’s first live Twitter chat on the future of food writing. Very special thanks to our panelists: Amanda HesserJohn BirdsallCorie BrownDianne JacobMonica BhideGloria Nicol, and Wilson Dizard III.

 

ON THE FUTURE OF FOOD WRITING

@MichaelDChing: RT @BillDaley: @writes4food Indeed. But the future won’t be like the past. Keep mind, options open! #futurefoodwriting April 20, 2012, 6:04 pm

@mbhide: There is a future.. but I see myself more as a business person than a writer. I have to do diff things to make a living #futurefoodwriting April 20, 2012, 6:04 pm

@John_Birdsall: @mbhide I think food writers always had to be business people, though. #futurefoodwriting April 20, 2012, 6:05 pm

@mbhide: @writes4food I wrote about creative rebirth http://t.co/sQfT5GQ4 #futurefoodwriting April 20, 2012, 6:08 pm

@PeteDulin: @wotsforteatoday – True. Research, dig up new angles, build rep for quality. #futurefoodwriting Distinguish from what exists already. April 20, 2012, 7:36 pm

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Food Writing Tips: Aristotle on Writing

By Thursday, April 26, 2012 Permalink

by Jonell Galloway

Since the April 20, 2012, #futurefoodwriting live Twitter chat was such a success, I’ve decided to start posting writing tips from time to time. I’m thrilled so many people are interested in improving their writing.

The first quote is not about food writing in particular, but about writing in general. It applies to food or blog writing, or to any other kind of writing. One could say the same about the second quote: always seek to make your writing better. Check it and check it again. If you’re still not sure, have someone else you trust read it. Making excellence a habit, of course, relates to whatever we do in life, not just writing.

To write well, express yourself like the common people, but think like a wise man.Aristotle

Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.–Aristotle

Bust of Aristotle. Marble, Roman copy after a ...

Bust of Aristotle. Marble, Roman copy after a Greek bronze original by Lysippos from 330 B.C.; the alabaster mantle is a modern addition.

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Prepping for #futurefoodwriting live chat April 20 at 2 p.m. EST / 8 p.m. Paris time

By Friday, April 20, 2012 Permalink

For those of you who haven’t participated in live chats, here are a few basic guidelines. It’s much simpler than you might think.

If you use Tweet Chat (it can be used online without downloading), you can create columns or “streams”, as they call them by clicking on the +Add Stream button at the top left of the screen. You can then create a stream for #futurefoodwriting and @RamblingEpicure (and your Twitter handle). Any questions or replies meant for you should also come in to your own Twitter stream through the addition of your Twitter handle. You can also follow the hashtag on Tweet Chat by simply typing in the hashtag. You can set the time delay, the minimum being 5 seconds.

To summarize, if you seriously want to take part in the conversation, it is wise to have both windows open at the same time so that you won’t miss anything. There will be a lot of participants, and there are a lot of panelists, so it might be lively and fast.

To ask or reply to a question, simply send a Tweet, as usual, but make sure to include:

  1. The #futurefoodwriting hashtag so everyone who is participating in the chat can see it.
  2. Include the Twitter handle of the person to whom you are addressing the question, or of the person to whom you are replying.

For example, if you want to ask here @ZesterDaily a question, it should look like this:

@ZesterDaily Is funded food reporting the only way of maintaining investigative food journalism in the future? #futurefoodwriting

As a panelist, if you’re answering a question from @JonellGalloway, from your own Twitter address, your Twitter reply should look like this:

@JonellGalloway I believe funded food reporting is only one way of dealing with the problem. #futurefoodwriting

Another important point is that you should prepare your questions ahead of time to ensure that they contain no more than 140 characters. You also risk losing track of the conversation if you haven’t done this ahead of time.

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John Birdsall of CHOW to be panelist on The Future of Food Writing Twitter chat

By Thursday, April 19, 2012 Permalink

John Birdsall has just confirmed that he will be on board as a panelist tomorrow, Friday, April 20, 2012, for our Future of Food Writing live Twitter chat, at 2 p.m. EST / 8 p.m. Paris time @RamblingEpicure #futurefoodwriting.

Birdsall is Senior Editor for the online magazine CHOW.

If you have questions prepared for him, please tweet them on @RamblingEpicure to @John_Birdsall with the hashtag #futurefoodwriting during the live chat to indicate that your question is for him.

Birdsall wrote the amazing rebuttal to Amanda Hesser’s article “Advice for Future Food Writers” on Food 52.

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One Reader’s Response: Melissa Bedinger on the Future of Food Writing

By Thursday, April 19, 2012 Permalink

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.

by documentary

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.

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Wilson Dizard III: More reading for Friday, April 20, Twitter chat @Ramblingepicure #futurefoodwriting

By Thursday, April 19, 2012 Permalink

I wanted to share #futurefoodwriting panelist and veteran journalist Wilson Dizard III‘s thoughts about the state of food writing. Dizard is author of our “Quelling Quitchen Qualamities” column. It should serve as food for thought for your questions at tomorrow’s Twitter chat.

He says:

Disclosure of Financial Backing – Conflicts of Interest

I think that, somewhere there has to be disclosure of potential conflicts of interest.

Here in D.C. we are in a bit of a special environment because we are beset by PR flacks from all over the world who would just love to get press passes and represent the house organs (magazines) of their trade associations as bona fide media outlets.

With all the money sloshing back and forth over issues like health care reform, etc., the only way to keep those vile flacks in check is to draw a bright line: members of the Periodical Press Gallery (the basic D.C. press pass) are required to receive all of their income only from bona fide news organizations rather than lobbies or trade associations.

So, I do understand that reporters elsewhere do have less rigid prohibitions on accepting baksheesh from the industries they cover.

So: if those people can’t live without that money…then…at the very least, they should disclose those financial links.

Because otherwise, how would you know if Monsanto wasn’t paying your editor’s mortgage, if you were a food writer?

Especially in the Slow Food field, I would think that disclosure, at the very least, is a step in the right direction.

That’s available now, to reporters who join organizations like the SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists).

The Place of PR in Food Writing and Ethical Journalism

Ever since the beginning of commercial public relations by food companies, those companies have used recipes to promote use of their own products as ingredients.

So: by this means, countless recipes entered the global hivemind of food knowledge, uncopyrighted.

To some degree, this was a good development, insofar as packaged food is and was healthful.

But: insofar as manufacturer-sponsored cookbooks and recipes infiltrated high school and university home economics programs in the 1940s, 1950s and later (and they are coming back again, sometimes under a different moniker), they promoted practices and consumption not wholly in the consumers’ interests.

For example: the Chicago meatpacking industry relentlessly promoted its effectiveness in “using everything but the squeal” as it promoted canned pork products and lard. But: abuses in that industry prompted the Pure Food and Drug Act.

After that law was passed (largely because of Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle and similar exposes by muckrakers), the food and pharmaceutical attorneys started working steadily and successfully to tame the FDA.

One of the great meatpacking industry successes, politically, was to shift regulation of slaughterhouses to the Agriculture Department. Abattoirs in the U.S. today are, in many cases, absolutely disgusting. Poor slaughterhouse regulation actually is responsible for multiple consumer deaths annually, because of the spread of pathogens like salmonella, etc, through those filthy slaughterhouses. Meanwhile, working conditions are so horrible that many of them have greater than 100 percent employee turnover annually — even when they rely on labor contractors to provide illegal immigrants as their labor force.

The decline, if not the actual suppression, of food safety, health and cooking education in the U.S. at the hands of budget-cutters in state legislatures has left food education in the hands of the supermarket and packaged food industries. So: would you trust Wal-Mart to teach your kids how to eat? The mind recoils, and the gorge rises.

If the Slow Food movement, and the writers who promote it, can pick some targets of opportunity among the unhealthy practices promoted by the packaged food industries, then they’ll gain my respect. What if they targeted the soft drink vending machines in schools?

I can’t tell you how revolted I am by all the propaganda about child obesity, when it focuses on minority and low-income populations. It’s no comfort at all that that openly racist “blame the victim” ideology goes hand in hand with the deadly neuroses promoted by the fashion industy, namely, anorexia, bulimia, and other disorders associated with body image problems, like cutting.

Socially responsible education about food is too important to be left to the Walton family. Kraft and Altria will have America’s kids gobbling transfats while smoking Kools and drinking God knows what if it feeds their profit numbers.

Could these food writers agree to hammer out a manifesto for ethics in food writing? Or a pro bono approach to home economics so that there’s some alternative to Barbie’s Dream Kitchen in American homes?

As far as the funding from sponsors: at the end of the day, the key is disclosure.

The goal is, quite simply, just to not try to trick the readers. Which of course, the PR types are all about: hijacking a food writer’s credibility to flog their pink slime, or other product.

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Bill Daley: More reference reading for #futurefoodwriting Twitter chat on Friday, April 20, @RamblingEpicure

By Wednesday, April 18, 2012 Permalink

One of our panelists from the Chicago Tribune, Bill Daley, has just added another article to the reading list for our Twitter chat @RamblingEpicure at 2 p.m. EST on Friday, April 20, 2012, about the future of food writing, hashtag #futurefoodwriting.

Food lends itself to good writing because, as M.F.K. Fisher so famously wrote long ago, writing about food often means writing about “other, deeper needs for love and happiness.” In defense of her craft and her subject, she declared: “There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine is drunk.”

Click here to read entire article.

Bill will be on hand Friday as a panelist to answer readers’ questions about the future of food writing.

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Reference Reading for Friday’s Twitter Chat #futurefoodwriting @RamblingEpicure

By Wednesday, April 18, 2012 Permalink

For those participating in the Twitter chat @RamblingEpicure on Friday, April 20 at 2 p.m. EST and 8 p.m. Paris time, here is a reading list to get you up-to-date on what other people in the food world have been saying. We look forward to your questions and comments on Friday. See you there!

The panelists are:

Click on the panelists’ names for more information about what they do in the food writing world.

Reference reading:

Advice For Future Food Writers,” by Amanda Hesser, former New York Times food editor and writer, co-founder of @Food52

Dear Amanda Hesser: Food Writing’s Golden Age is Now,” by John Birdsall, Senior Editor of @CHOW

“FERN is Changing Food: As journalism ranks shrink, the Food & Environmental Reporting Network is funding needed food reporting,” by Corie Brown founder of @ZesterDaily

Dishing about food writing: Out of a crowded field, seven writers you should know, by Bill Daley of Chicago Tribune @billdaley

“Sofia Perez: What Constitutes Good Food Writing,” by Sofia Perez, food blogger @SofiaPerez_nyc

“5 things that Dreaming of Being a Food Writer Got Me,” by Naomi Bishop, food blogger @gastronome

“Is a Career in Food Writing Dead?” by Mollie Watson @iacp

“Is Food Writing a Dismal Way to Make a Living?” by Dianne Jacob, food writing coach @diannej

Disclosure of Financial Backing – Conflicts of Interest, The Place of PR in Food Writing and Ethical Journalism,” by Wilson Dizard III @wdizard

One Reader’s Response: Melissa Bedinger on the Future of Food Writing, by Melissa Bedinger

 

 

 

 

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Twitter Chat @RamblingEpicure Friday, April 20, on Amanda Hesser’s “Advice for Future Food Writers”

By Wednesday, April 18, 2012 Permalink

Prepare your questions for the Friday, April 20th Twitter chat @RamblingEpicure, 2 p.m. EST / 8 p.m. Paris time, hashtag #futurefoodwriting. Click here to find your time zone.

This discussion will be in response to Amanda Hesser’s “Advice for Future Food Writers” published on Food 52 on April 10, 2012.

The panelists are:

You can follow all the details on The Rambling Epicure site, including reading material to help you prepare your questions.

There is also a reading list of other rebuttals and responses on The Rambling Epicure Facebook page, all listed as comments to the original announcement, so you’ll have to scroll down the page.

We will regularly be posting more reference reading on the subject, so stay tuned.

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